What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages of Mini Splits?

If you’re in the market for a new HVAC system, you’ve probably heard about mini split systems. Mini splits are ductless heating and cooling systems that offer many advantages over traditional systems like furnaces and central air conditioning. They offer better comfort, more customization, and lower utility bills. 

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As great as that all sounds, however, they’re not perfect for every home or situation. And while my experience with homeowners is that the advantages outweigh the drawbacks, it’s important to also know the potential disadvantages of a ductless system.

As a product manager at HVAC distributor Peirce Phelps, I’ve spent over 12 years working with cutting-edge HVAC solutions like mini splits and the contractors who install them. 

In this article, I hope to highlight the benefits of going ductless while also making sure you understand the trade-offs. We’ll take a quick look at how they work, go through the pros and cons, and look at some ways to help you make a decision. 

After that, it’s best to schedule a free consultation with one of our local dealers. Our network of certified contractors have excellent reputations for their work in towns across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. 

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How Mini Splits Work

Before we dive into the advantages and disadvantages of mini splits, let’s first understand how they work.

Heat Transfer

Mini split systems use a heat transfer process to move heat from one location to another. The system’s outdoor unit absorbs heat from one area and moves it to another. In that way, it’s similar to how central AC works. But it’s much different from burning fossil fuels like oil or natural gas to create heat. 

Heat Pump

In a mini split system, the heat pump moves heat between the indoor and outdoor units to provide heating or cooling to the home. In the winter, there’s enough ambient heat to compress and use for home heating. 

Air Handlers

Mini split air handlers are installed in individual rooms or zones to provide personalized comfort. The indoor air handlers are connected to the outdoor unit through a refrigerant line and require no ductwork. Each one has a thermostat you can use to set the temperature in each room individually. 

Linesets

Linesets connect the indoor and outdoor units. They consist of two copper tubes that carry refrigerant and an electrical cable that powers the indoor unit. The lines also have a condensate drain to remove moisture in the air during the summer. 

Advantages of Mini Split Systems

Ductless mini split systems have major advantages over baseboard heat, windows ACs, and traditional central systems like forced-air furnaces and central air. 

Here are some of the “pros” of mini split heating and cooling:  

Easy Installation

Unlike traditional air conditioning systems that require ducts to move air through the house, a mini split air conditioner is ductless. This means that it can be installed in individual rooms without extensive remodeling. 

You also get as much air coming into rooms on the second or third floor as you do on the first. That doesn’t happen with a traditional HVAC system that loses pressure along the way.  

Better Efficiency

Since mini split systems do not rely on ducts to transport air throughout a space, there is no energy loss from overcompensating to heat or cool every part of the house. They also use inverter technology to change speeds instead of stopping and starting repeatedly to address temperature fluctuations. 

Those features cut save energy, which save you money on your energy bills. 

Built-In Zone Control

You can control the temperature individually in each room or zone. It’s especially useful for homes with a third floor that never gets the proper heating or cooling. Or a room on the second floor (or anywhere else) that’s always too hot or cold. It also lets you set different rooms to different temperatures. 

Good for Additions and Renovations

If you add a new room to your home or business or renovate an existing space, mini split systems offer a simple and cost-effective solution. Because they are ductless, installing new ducts or modifying existing ones is unnecessary. That saves time and money and gives you more freedom to design the layout as you want it. 

Disadvantages of Mini Split Systems 

As great as these systems are, they aren’t perfect. Here are some of the “cons” of mini splits that often concern homeowners.  

Installation Cost

The greatest disadvantage of mini splits for most people is the upfront installation cost. They cost up to three times more than a furnace and central air installation. The flip side to that is that they’re so energy efficient that you’ll make up the cost difference in a few years with lower bills. But it’s still a lot to budget at once. 

Appearance

Although mini split systems are designed to be sleek and discreet, some homeowners may not appreciate the look of the indoor units mounted on the walls. This can be especially true for those who prefer a traditional home aesthetic. 

Maintenance 

Like any HVAC system, mini split systems require maintenance. While they are generally low-maintenance, they do require regular cleaning and filter changes to maintain optimal performance. 

Instead of replacing disposable filters, you’ll need to clean out the reusable screens in the air handlers every month. They also need spring and fall tune-ups like a forced-air system. And I recommend a yearly deep cleaning to remove moisture and dirt buildup that can lead to mold or performance problems. 

Are Mini Split Systems Worth the Investment?

Despite these drawbacks, mini splits are often still worth the investment for many homeowners today. The eco-friendly, energy-efficient comfort outweighs the disadvantages. Here are some ways to think about whether it’s the right choice for you. 

Cost vs. Benefit Analysis

Do you feel like you’re always paying too much for heating? I hear that more and more now as natural gas prices keep rising. Or, have you always felt like your home was never comfortable enough – there’s always a room that’s too hot or too cold? 

In these cases, the benefits outweigh the upfront cost of a mini split system. 

Consideration of Individual Needs

Another factor to consider is individual needs. For example, if you want a heating system or an air conditioner for only certain rooms in the house, a mini split system is more efficient and cost-effective than space heaters and window ACs. Alternatively, if you don’t have a large home or are generally happy with your current heating and cooling, you may not see the benefit of an upgrade.

Comparison with Other HVAC Systems

Mini splits offer the best of both worlds: You get the room-by-room customization of baseboard heaters and portable ACs, but the strength of a forced-air system. And ductless costs less to run than both those options.

FAQs

I hope this article helps you decide whether to invest in a mini split. I’ll run through some summaries and other frequently-asked questions below. And, if you’re curious about how ductless would look or work in your home, contact one of our contractors for a free consultation. 

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Do mini splits need annual maintenance?

Yes, ductless mini splits need annual maintenance to operate at their best. Regular maintenance prolongs the system’s life, reduces breakdowns, and keeps it running efficiently. Tune-ups in the fall and spring are recommended for heating and cooling. Most warranties require annual service from a certified HVAC tech to remain valid.

Do mini splits work better than central air? 

Mini-splits perform better than central air and cost less to run. Mini splits use up to 30% less energy. They also offer individual temperature control in each room, eliminating hot and cold spots. However, central air is better for indoor air quality as it circulates throughout the house.

Can mini splits heat a whole house? 

A ductless mini-split can heat a whole house with multi-zone setup. Multiple units can be connected to provide equal comfort throughout the home. They’re also efficient for heating and cooling, and can be used as a home’s primary heat source in mid-Atlantic states. 

Can a mini split cause a fire?

It’s possibly for a mini split to catch fire, but this rarely happens. Enough dust, dirt and debris buildup in the system can obstruct airflow. This can “choke” the unit, causing a malfunction and creating a fire hazard. Regular cleaning and maintenance prevents this issue.

Ready to learn more? Use our dealer locator to find a reliable, certified mini split installer in Cherry Hill, PA or anywhere in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Delaware.