When searching for a heating and cooling system for your home, it’s critical to choose one that balances efficiency, functionality and finances. That’s why many property owners use mini-splits to heat and cool their home.
Mini-splits—often known as ductless mini-splits—provide several advantages that make them an attractive option for both homes and businesses. They're very energy efficient, reducing energy consumption and saving on utility bills, because they eliminate the energy losses associated with the ductwork found in traditional HVAC systems. They also allow users to tailor the temperature in each room, enhancing overall comfort while conserving energy.
If you’re contemplating mini-split installation in Houston, it’s necessary to first research if these devices are the right solution for your living situation. Here, we’ll examine how mini-splits stack up against other heating and cooling devices and appliances.
What a Mini-Split Is and How It Works
A mini-split, or ductless mini-split, is a heating and cooling mechanism that does not use ductwork. It's a popular choice in homes that don't have existing air ducts and for homes with rooms that aren’t served well by the residence's existing HVAC system.
A mini-split system has two major components: an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling component. The two are attached by a conduit containing the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing and a condensate drain.
Here's how it works: the outdoor compressor distributes the refrigerant necessary for heat exchange within the coils and the air handler. The in-house unit brings in air from the room, cools or heats it over the coils and pushes the conditioned air back into the room.
Mini-Split vs. Central Air
Mini-splits provide targeted cooling in particular rooms or zones of your home. They are known for energy efficiency because they only provide hot or cold air for the areas you choose. However, they might not blend seamlessly into every room because of their wall-mounted indoor units.
Conversely, a central air system uniformly cools your entire home, producing consistent comfort levels throughout. Its ductwork is out of sight, preserving the aesthetics of your home. On the other hand, it will likely not be as energy efficient as a mini-split, especially in bigger homes or residences where certain rooms may not need continuous conditioning.
Mini-Split vs. Window AC/Window Unit
Mini-splits are typically more energy efficient and quieter than a window air conditioning unit and are capable of cooling multiple rooms. This is why mini-splits are a convenient choice for many homeowners. They also use a type of refrigerant that is more environmentally safe, reducing their environmental impact. These systems can even add value to your home due to their reliable nature and superior cooling capabilities. However, they come with a higher initial investment.
On the other hand, window air conditioners are less expensive to purchase. They might be a good fit for homes that are not able to accommodate a central AC system or for homeowners with budget constraints. Even with these advantages, window units can consume up to 40% more energy than ductless mini-split systems and are often noisier.
Mini-Split vs. Portable AC
The answer to what is better, a ductless mini-split or a portable air conditioning unit, is dependent on your priorities. If your main considerations are energy efficiency and ability to quickly cool a room, a mini-split is heads and shoulders better than a portable AC unit. However, if funding is a key concern, a portable AC is less expensive.
Mini-Split vs. Gas Furnace
The choice between a mini-split system and a gas furnace depends on a variety of factors such as the climate in your city, home size, energy efficiency desires and how much you plan on spending.
A mini-split system typically is more energy efficient than a gas furnace. It can heat and cool defined areas in your home, providing custom climate control in targeted rooms. Mini-splits also are for the most part quieter and have a higher up-front cost, but their operating costs are usually smaller due to their greater energy efficiency.
On the other hand, a gas furnace can be a highly effective heating solution, particularly in colder climates where mini-split heat pumps may not be able to maintain comfort levels in the bitter cold. Even though they are less energy efficient than mini-splits, gas furnaces ordinarily cost less. Having said that, their operating costs can be greater, especially if natural gas prices rise.
Mini-Split vs. Heat Pump
Mini-splits and heat pumps operate using the concept of heat transfer. They are both energy efficient, but a heat pump's duct system can cause more energy usage. This difference aside, the choice between a mini-split and a heat pump often is based on on individual needs and circumstances.
For instance, if you reside in a warmer climate and primarily need cooling, a mini-split system might be a better choice. However, if you need both heating and cooling and already have ductwork in place, a heat pump may be a more efficient option.
Mini-Split vs. Space Heater
When it comes to heating and cooling a home, mini-splits and space heaters each have merits. However, for all around efficiency, versatility, comfort and safety, mini-splits come out on top. Mini-splits have superior energy efficiency due to the fact they deliver conditioned air right to different zones and can serve several rooms at once.
Space heaters are much less expensive to buy but are typically reserved for heating a confined area or an individual room. They also can be less energy efficient. As opposed to mini-splits, space heaters do not deliver cooling. The greatest drawback for space heaters is the danger of fire. Experts say some 1,700 fires each year involve space heaters.