Ductless mini-split systems offer a convenient way to heat and cool one room or area of your home. There are also multi-zone mini-split systems that can provide heating and cooling to multiple areas or potentially your entire home. Still, the fact that these systems are relatively new means that most homeowners aren’t really sure how they work. At Buehler Air Conditioning, one of the most frequent questions we get is whether mini-split systems can heat and cool at the same time. In short, it depends on the specific system. The vast majority of mini-split systems cannot heat and cool at the same time, but there are some more advanced systems that can. To understand why some systems can and some can’t, it is important to look at the different types of mini-split systems and how they work.
Single vs. Multi-Zone Mini-Split Systems
The first factor in determining whether a mini-split system can heat and cool at the same time is whether it is a single-zone system or has multiple zones. All mini-split systems consist of two primary components: an air handler located inside the building and a condenser/compressor unit that sits outside. A single-zone mini-split system has only one air handler, which means it can only heat or cool one room or area. As you might expect, this type of system can only provide heating or cooling to the room at one time. All you need to do to instantly switch between the two is to use your remote and select either heat or cool mode.
Multi-zone systems sometimes referred to as multi-splits, are those that have more than one air handler. Most commonly, these systems can accommodate up to four air handlers, which means they can heat or cool four separate rooms or zones in your home. There are also more powerful systems capable of accommodating as many as eight or more zones. All multi-split systems enable you to control the temperature for each zone independently. All you have to do is use the remote to set the desired temperature for each air handler unit.
Although you can adjust the temperature for each zone independently of one another, most multi-zone systems can still only produce heating or cooling at one time. However, recently Mitsubishi and other manufacturers have begun producing multi-split systems that can heat and cool at the same time. These systems require additional parts to do this and, as such, are generally quite a bit more expensive. Nonetheless, they can definitely be worth it if you frequently find yourself in situations where you need to heat one room while cooling another.
How Ductless Mini-Splits Provide Heating and Cooling
All mini-split systems use the principle of heat transfer to provide heating and cooling. Without getting too technical, these systems take advantage of the laws of thermodynamics to capture heat out of the air in one place and transfer it to another. Energy (and heat) naturally flows from a higher temperature area to a lower temperature area known as the heat sink.
In a mini-split system, the condenser/compressor unit or “heat pump” uses refrigerant liquid to capture heat from the air. When providing cooling, the condenser transfers extremely cold refrigerant to a series of coils located inside the air handler. As the air handler runs, it draws hot air into it from the room. This air flows through the cooled refrigerant coils, and this transfers the heat from the air to the refrigerant. As a result, the air flowing out of the system is far cooler than the air flowing into it.
Throughout this process, the condenser is constantly supplying cold refrigerant to the air handler and taking the heated refrigerant back out so that the excess heat can be released outside the building. Coincidentally, this is exactly the same way that a traditional air conditioning system works. The only difference is that a mini-split system uses its own air handler, whereas central air conditioning uses your HVAC system’s air handler.
Heat pumps essentially work in the opposite way when providing heating. Instead of capturing heat from inside your house, the heat pump uses extremely cold refrigerant to capture heat from the air outside. The refrigerant then goes through a compressor, which drastically increases the temperature. This heated refrigerant is then transferred to the air handler, which draws in cold air from the room and releases heat.
Most mini-split systems can only work one way at a time. The reason is that they only have one outgoing and one incoming refrigerant line. This means that it can only supply the air handlers with heated or cooled refrigerant at one time. In order to provide heating and cooling from separate air handlers at the same time, the compressor needs to have additional refrigerant lines so that each air handler can receive either heated or cooled refrigerant as needed.
Do Mini-Splits Work Well in Florida?
Mini-split systems are just as efficient as central air conditioners at providing cooling even in Florida’s hot, humid weather. This means that they can allow you to cool certain rooms or potentially even your entire home for the same as you would pay to use central air conditioning.
Mini-split systems can really pay off when it comes to heating. Florida’s warm, tropical climate means there is really no reason to invest in central heating since you’ll only rarely ever need it. However, the fact that a mini-split system can produce heating, as well as air conditioning, means it can definitely come in handy on those rare days when your house starts to get a bit too chilly.
Although it may be hard to believe, heat pumps can still capture heat from the air even when the temperature outside gets extremely cold. However, the colder the temperature is outside, the harder the heat pump will have to work. This is because the refrigerant it produces has to be colder than the outside temperature in order for the heat transfer process to work. In most cases, a mini-split will still be able to produce at least some heat even in zero-degree weather, but they work most efficiently when the temperature stays above freezing.
This factor makes mini-split systems an ideal choice for Florida residents since the area almost never experiences freezing weather. Compared to gas furnaces or electric heating options like space heaters, mini-split systems use far less energy. As a result, a mini-split system can ensure that you have heat on those days you might need it without having to spend too much money on it.
Professional HVAC Services and Solutions
At Buehler Air Conditioning, we specialize in a wide range of heating and cooling services. We carry a range of highly efficient mini-split systems, and we also offer repairs and maintenance of all types of ductless HVAC systems. Our experienced HVAC technicians also work on all makes and models of air conditioners, furnaces, packaged systems, and standalone heat pumps. We also offer numerous solutions to improve your indoor air quality, such as duct cleaning, air scrubbers, dehumidifiers, and whole-home air filtration systems. Buehler Air Conditioning is located in Jacksonville, FL, and we also serve residents in Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine, Fleming Island, Ponte Vedra Beach, and other surrounding areas. For more information on ductless mini-split systems, or if you have any questions about our other services, give us a call today.