As an HVAC consumer in the Fox Valley region, you’re certainly familiar with the seasons’ call for home heating in winter, AC in summer and one or the other during certain times of spring and fall.
Standard furnaces and air conditioners are made to achieve universal ambient temperatures according to your settings for your house. In other words, they push the cooled or heated air through your spaces until they reach the right level throughout.
In some cases, a central system might have problems attaining the right temperatures in a room or two. This will cause the system to continue working. In other instances, you might have warm or cool spots in the house. In yet others, you may find yourself spending more time in some rooms than in others that don’t really need as much heating and cooling.
Should you happen upon any of these scenarios, a mini-split system can be the solution you’re seeking.
What Are Mini-Split Systems?
Mini-splits – also referred to as ductless heat pumps – are home heating and cooling solutions that can be installed in individual rooms without ductwork. They let you maintain the temperatures you like without having to run your central air throughout the house.
To cool a room (e.g. in late spring and summer), mini-splits use thin copper tubing to pump refrigerant from an outdoor compressor into an indoor air-handling unit that distributes the air to the rooms in which they’re included.
To warm a room (e.g. in late fall and winter), similar to how a refrigerator operates, the ductless mini-split transfers heat from a cool space (outdoors) to a warm space (indoors), which makes the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer.
Why Mini-Split Systems?
Mini-splits are highly efficient because they transfer heat into or out of your house without generating it. Most central heat sources require a power draw – mini-splits do not. Even when backup heat is needed from the furnace, as can happen during extreme cold in winter, the mini-split helps reduce the furnace’s efforts and need for energy.
Mini-split systems also let you manage temperatures in specific rooms depending on the season. For example, if heat lingers into late summer and early fall, and you spend a lot of time in only three rooms, you can set their temps as you like them without having to use money and power to cool less-occupied rooms (e.g., guest, storage, basement).
Similarly, if a typical Illinois winter is pressing in on your home, and you and others in the house occupy certain rooms much more than others, you can maintain warmth in those rooms without having to pay extra to the utility company to heat others.
Mini-Split Systems: Your Own Custom Zoning
If your home wasn’t built with a zoned HVAC system, it may at times leave you with rooms that are too hot in summer or too cold in winter. In summer, you might have to crank up the central AC to cool a hot upstairs. All the while, the downstairs turns into an oven.
Conversely, in winter, you might be comfortable downstairs but the thermostat is directing too much hot air upstairs.
With a ductless mini-split heat pump, you can zone your temperatures without having to modify or retrofit your central forced air by floor level. This allows you to establish temperature balance while eliminating any hot or cold spots.
Such versatility can really benefit add-on rooms and converted spaces that would otherwise call for a new plenum, a new zone controller, new damper and motor controls, separate supply and return trunks, and separate branch and return ducts. That’s a lot of extra work, material and ultimately cost.
Mini-Split Systems: Extra Perks
Beyond their greater command of temperature locations and settings, ductless mini-splits offer notable advantages such as:
better use of money and energy. Standard ducts can lose up to 30% of their efficiency because of leaks and heat loss. In addition to not needing ducts, some mini-split systems can provide up to 2.5X more efficiency than standard HVAC equipment. That can reduce utility bills – as well as your carbon footprint – without reducing your comfort.
better air quality. If not cleaned periodically, ducts can introduce dust, dirt and other impurities into the house, where they further circulate with your central systems. Because they are ductless, mini-splits support rather than compromise air quality.
little noise. Ductless heat pumps are quiet. When heating or cooling a room, they make much less sound than a similarly sized window unit or a central system. They also lack the noise of a cycling compressor. This whisper-quiet operation can often be welcome in rooms such as bedrooms and home offices.
installment versatility. Mini-splits are easy to install wherever you determine they will fit the best with the least intrusion, such as on a wall, the floor or the ceiling.
app-based management. Many mini-split systems use WiFi and smart thermostats with an app that lets you control your settings whether from the family room or far away.
Mini-Split Systems: Dehumidification
Relative humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air compared with how much the air can hold at the current temperature. For example, a relative humidity of 75% means the air is holding 75% of its moisture capacity at the present temperature.
Cold air can’t hold as much vapor as warm air can. As temperatures fall, with no change of vapor in the air, humidity will rise. As temperatures rise, with no difference in air vapor, humidity will fall.
Humidity changes from summer to fall and winter because the cooler air can’t hold as much water vapor as warm air can. As a result, humidity goes up as temperatures go down.
While many people can achieve comfort with an indoor relative humidity of 30% to 60%, the optimal range is 45% to 55%. Many ductless heat pumps can support the desired humidity in a room by adjusting the temperature to create condensation that it then removes and forces out through a drain pipe.
Mini-Split Systems: Tax Credits & Rebates
As we continue moving toward clean and sustainable energy sources, more incentives are appearing to encourage them. In addition to lower energy usage and bills, you could gain extra money back when you install a ductless heat pump.
For example, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 offers homeowners federal tax credits of up to $3,200 each year to help lower the cost of energy-efficient home upgrades by up to 30%. Ductless heat pumps are included among the qualifying upgrades.
Commonwealth Edison also offers discounts and rebates for energy conservation. You can view the many available tax credits, discounts and rebates at the ENERGY STAR rebate finder.
Mini-Split Systems: Contact Air Dynamics Today
At Air Dynamics, we strive to provide you with more ways to enjoy greater comfort and air quality while saving energy and extra money. To find out more about how ductless mini-splits could be an asset for your home, just us a call at (630) 731-1550!