When most homeowners think about heating or cooling their homes, they automatically think about central HVAC systems. To be fair, the overwhelming majority of homes have these. However, they’re not the only option.
Ductless mini-split systems are another way to heat or cool a particular area or room in your home. You can even find multi-zone options among mini-split systems that offer heating and cooling to more than one room or even your whole home. Yet, these systems are relatively recent innovations, so there are many questions about them. One common question is whether or not a mini-split system can handle heating and cooling at the same time.
Concurrent Heating and Cooling
The short answer is usually no, but there are a few exceptions. Nearly all mini-split systems are incapable of heating and cooling both at the same time. However, a handful of the more advanced systems can actually do this. Mitsubishi and a few other manufacturers have started rolling out mini-split systems capable of handling heating and cooling simultaneously.
Such systems cost more because of the extra parts, but they might be worth a look if you ever have one room that needs to get warmer while another room needs to be cooled down–for example, if you have a lot of computer or medical equipment in one room that requires a cooler temperature. While you can set independent zone temperatures with a multi-zone system, the broad majority of mini-split systems can only produce heat or cool at one time or another.
How Does a Mini-split System Work?
A mini-split system is a ductless form of heating and cooling as compared to central air conditioners that need air ducts throughout a home. Rather than use a network of ducts to move conditioned air throughout an entire home, a mini-split system cools or heats one room at a time. This means that homeowners can enjoy higher levels of temperature control, energy efficiency, and comfort.
Mini-splits are a lot like heat pumps in their operation. Both technologies offer electric cooling. A refrigerant draws heat out from inside a home and sends it outside. Reversing valves let the system run in the other direction in the winter by pulling heat from outdoor air into your home.
Heat pumps and mini-splits have one serious distinction. A heat pump needs ductwork, but a mini-split system does not. Instead, a mini-split’s indoor unit has an air handler built right into it. This is often installed on the ceiling or wall in the part of the home that you want to heat or cool. The indoor unit is joined to the outdoor condensing unit using a small wall conduit that houses a condensate drain line, wiring, and copper tubes.
You can have a system of more than one indoor unit linked together to an individual outdoor condensing unit. That would let you heat or cool your entire home. Such a layout also makes it possible to zone your home. That gives you control over where, when, and how much specific rooms are heated or cooled.
When Are Mini-splits Used?
Mini-splits are usually safer than space heaters and more efficient than individual AC window units. Both are common heating and cooling options in spaces where extending ductwork might not be physically practical or economical. Multi-family homes that have small apartments attached to them are common situations where a mini-split system might make sense. New renovations or additions are another. Finishing a garage, attic, or basement might mean you need more heating or cooling without expanding ductwork.
Why Would You Need Heating and Cooling at the Same Time?
If you’re used to the idea of central HVAC systems, then you’re probably used to expecting a consistent temperature throughout your home in every single room. However, that doesn’t happen sometimes. In order to achieve consistent temperature throughout your home, you might need cooling in some rooms while you heat others at the same time.
Too much sunlight exposure is a common issue that heats some rooms faster than the rest of the home. This is particularly prevalent in rooms with windows facing south or west. The greenhouse effect can happen in a room just as much as it does in your car on a summer day. Heat gets in but can’t get out, so the temperature in there just keeps rising. Curtains, draperies, and blinds can blunt some of this, but the right multi-zone mini-split can give you temperature control over a single room.
If you have central AC, some rooms are going to be further from the core unit than the rest of the home. This might mean they get less heating or cooling than the other rooms. Aging, dirty, or unsealed ductwork can compound this issue. Rooms at the end of the ductwork line might need some extra help with temperature control. Multi-level homes are particularly prone to this, too.
Has the number of people living in your home gone up over time? Whether more people have moved in or you’ve just expanded your family, more people means more need for heating and cooling.
In addition to correcting temperature imbalances, some households actually prefer to have some rooms colder while others are warmer. For instance, you might want to keep bedrooms a little cooler so that everyone sleeps better, but you want the living room, kitchens, and bathrooms to stay warm enough to be comfortable for anyone using them. Also, you might want to keep things a little warmer or cooler in some rooms no one regularly uses to save on your power bill.
Is a Mini-split Right for Your Home?
Whether you want something on top of your central HVAC or to totally replace it, a mini-split system can handle the heating and cooling of an individual room or your entire home. If your home doesn’t currently have any ductwork, you can skip the installation by using a mini-split to avoid the costs involved with such intrusive work. A mini-split’s outdoor unit only needs a 3-inch hole in the wall.
Mini-splits often provide better energy efficiency and air quality than conventional HVAC systems because they don’t lose conditioned air in the ductwork. Zone control is also possible when each unit comes with its own thermostat. This is why mini-splits are great for new additions to your home, heating and cooling trouble spots, and any buildings that have an unconventional layout.
Mini-splits do cost more than a central HVAC system, however, if you’re doing the whole home. Some homeowners also don’t like how they have to look at indoor units in every room on the wall or ceiling. Minis-splits also require maintenance in terms of cleaning reusable filters on a monthly basis. System performance in extreme temperatures can also become less efficient.
Let Us Install Your Mini-split System
Whether you’re doing new construction or renovations or just need something extra in one part of your home, a mini-split system is a wonderful option to consider for your indoor climate needs. If you live in Jacksonville, FL, or the surrounding areas, then contact us at Buehler Air Conditioning to see what we can do for you. We handle the heating, cooling, and air quality needs for many area homes already, and we also provide duct cleaning, replacement, and sealing services too. Count on us for anything from smart Wi-Fi thermostats to HVAC zoning and everything in between. Call us today to schedule an appointment.