How Do Mini-Split Systems Work?

Ductless mini-splits in Charlotte, NC

If you own a home in Charlotte, NC, you know how much of your comfort depends on your HVAC system. After all, we see long, hot summers and plenty of sub-freezing winter days. There’s also a good chance that your home uses a combination of a ducted central AC and a gas furnace. That’s the most popular HVAC combination here and elsewhere in the US. However, it’s not the only option you have. It isn’t even the most efficient option. That distinction goes to an HVAC system called a ductless mini-split heat pump. If you’ve not owned one, you may not quite understand how they differ from the HVAC systems you’re used to. Here’s everything you need to know about ductless mini-split HVAC systems to remedy that. We’ll cover what they are, their main components, and their many advantages.

What Is a Ductless Mini-Split?

A ductless mini-split HVAC is a system that combines a single outdoor unit with one or more indoor air handlers. This configuration allows a mini-split to operate without the need for in-wall ductwork. In general, there are two types of mini-splits on the market today. One is an air-conditioning-only variant. The other is a fully-featured ductless mini-split heat pump. Those offer heating and cooling, using heat pump technology to function.

The former is often used in places with preexisting heating systems. For example, an AC-only mini-split may be perfect if your home has a sunroom with preexisting baseboard heat. Heat pump mini-splits, by contrast, offer an all-in-one HVAC solution. You can heat and cool a single space, like an addition or newly finished basement, or install one to heat and cool your entire home. With a ductless mini-split, you can enjoy the comfort and convenience of a perfectly controlled indoor climate, no matter the season.

What Are the Components of a Ductless Mini-Split?

All ductless mini splits rely on two primary components. One is an outdoor unit, much like what you’d use with a conventional central AC system. The outdoor units with a mini-split don’t share a form factor with those. The average mini-split outdoor unit is about 22 inches tall, 32 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. It contains a compressor, heat exchanger, and large fan. Heat pump models also have a reversing valve that lets them operate bi-directionally.

Instead of a top-mounted fan like a central AC outdoor unit would have, mini-splits feature a vertically-mounted one. This makes it possible to install a mini-split outdoor unit in tight spaces. You can even use mounting brackets to attach one to an exterior wall of your home. This also makes mini-splits an excellent fit for condos and apartments, too.

Larger mini-splits may use about twice as tall outdoor units as a standard unit, guaranteeing enough capacity to serve larger spaces. However, they still function in the same way as their smaller cousins.

The other main component of a ductless mini-split is an indoor air handler. An air handler contains a thermostat, a blower fan, an air filter, and a control system. It’s just like the indoor unit of a ducted HVAC, except smaller. This is because mini-split air handlers are typically wall-mounted. They also serve smaller spaces, like a single room or open space. There are also mini-split indoor air handlers meant for recessed ceiling installation. Others look like low-wall mounted radiators. However, high-wall-mounted models are the most-used variety.

Mini-splits connect the two types of units using a small bundle of refrigerant lines and power cables. The electrical power to each indoor air handler comes directly from the outdoor unit. This makes installing a mini-split relatively simple and requires little space or modifications to your home.

What Are the Advantages of a Ductless Mini-Split?

Ductless mini-splits come with a variety of advantages compared to conventional ducted HVAC. Some of the most important advantages include the following:

High Energy Efficiency

One of the most significant advantages of ductless mini-splits is their high energy efficiency. That begins with the fact that they don’t rely on ductwork. Ducted systems waste up to 30% of their energy via ductwork losses. Ductwork energy losses give mini-splits a natural efficiency advantage. Also, many mini-splits use electronically commutated fan motors and variable-speed compressors. Variable-speed compressors allow them to run at reduced speeds during low demand. You can also turn off individual mini-split air handlers when you don’t need them. By choosing a ductless mini-split, you’re making a responsible choice for the environment and your energy bills.

Mini-split heat pumps also offer extraordinary energy efficiency in heating mode. Given the right conditions, some can operate up to 400% efficiently compared to forced air units. That’s over four times the efficiency of the average gas furnace. The secret is that mini-split heat pumps don’t consume fuel to generate heat. Instead, they collect already-existing heat energy from the outdoor air. As a result, a mini-split heat pump can save you up to 60% on your wintertime heating costs.

Ease of Installation

Ductless mini-splits are also easier to install than conventional HVAC systems. Installing them requires mounting brackets to mount the necessary air handlers. Then, the HVAC installer only needs to drill a small hole in your wall near each air handler. The rest of the work involves connecting the refrigerant lines and power cables. There’s no need for modifications to gas lines or worrying about your home’s ductwork.

Zoned Operation

Ductless mini-split systems also offer zoned operation by default. A zoned system means you can control the temperature setting of each air handler individually, leading to superior comfort throughout your home. It also eliminates the hot and cold spots that ducted systems often create. A mini-split gives you as much hot or cold air as you require in each room.

Superior Indoor Air Quality

Another advantage of ductless mini-splits is that they’ll improve the indoor air quality in your home. Since each indoor air handler has an air filter, they capture more dust and dirt. The air filters are washable, so you don’t need to purchase new ones periodically. Ductless mini-splits are also great in homes with pets. They won’t spread pet dander and hair from one room to another, which can help those with allergies. And with a mini-split, you’ll never need to worry about having your home’s ducts cleaned again. With a ductless mini-split, you can breathe easily, knowing your home’s air is clean and healthy.

Your Trusted Ductless Mini-Split Experts

If you want a ductless mini-split for your Charlotte home, Integrity Heating & Cooling can help. We’ve served residents for over 35 years, offering quality HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance services. Our HVAC technicians are NATE-certified and qualified to work on all HVAC equipment makes and models. Plus, we’re Better Business Bureau-accredited with an A+ rating. Our customers love us, too, so we have so many positive reviews. We even offer financing options on approved credit to help you pay for the new mini-split you want. So, for the latest quality ductless mini-split HVAC systems in Charlotte, call Integrity Heating & Cooling today!