Frequently Asked Questions

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One of the main differences between ductless mini splits and central heating and cooling systems is ductwork. Ductless heat pumps require no ducts, which often count for 30% of energy loss in a home. The lack of ductwork also makes them a scalable heating and cooling solution for your home. That is, you can buy and install as needed for your home’s rooms without having to also pay for added ductwork.

The lack of ducts is not the only thing that makes mini split systems more efficient. Because of their set-up, with an outdoor compressor and one or multiple indoor units that deliver air, they offer a higher level of room-to-room temperature customization.

Think of it this way: when you turn on a faucet in your home, you expect only that faucet to turn on and not for every faucet throughout your home. That’s how a mini split system works, only delivering air to the room that requests or requires it.

The United States Department of Energy states that a ductless mini split reduces electricity usage for heating by 50% when compared to typical furnaces and baseboard heaters. That means that you’re helping the planet by using less energy, but you’re also helping your wallet by spending less on your monthly electricity bills.

When looking at energy-efficient appliances, you’ll likely see two different scores: SEER and HSPF. SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio, measures the efficiency of a system when it’s cooling. In the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country, the federal minimum standard is 13 SEER. The higher the rating, the more efficient your mini split system is when cooling. To be certified by Energy Star as an exceptionally efficient system, the ductless heat pump must have a rating of at least 15 SEER.

HSPF, or heating seasonal performance factor, measures heating efficiency. It’s federally mandated that all heating units have an HSPF rating of at least 7.7. However, to maximize efficiency, you should look for one with a rating of 8.5 HSPF, which is the minimum required to be Energy Star-certified.  Most utility programs in the Pacific Northwest require a minimum efficiency rating of 9.0 HSPF.

If you’re looking to ensure your new mini split system runs at its highest efficiency, you can take additional steps to help keep utility bills low:

  1. Adding insulation in walls and attic
    Caulking your windows
  2. Installing a heat pump water heater
    Using programmable thermostats
    Weatherstripping your doors

Many homes do not have ducts and adding ducts is expensive and often impractical. Residential duct systems are also hard to get right. Not getting the ducts right results in big energy efficiency penalties (up to ~30%). Poorly designed and installed duct systems can also result in issues related to air flow, comfort, noise, and indoor air quality. Ducts should be cleaned, but rarely are.

One of the main benefits of mini splits is that they don’t require heavy maintenance like ducted systems. However, they still require some level of maintenance to keep them working at high efficiency.  Perhaps most importantly, air filters on the indoor units should be checked monthly. If needed, they should be cleaned or replaced.

Further, ensure the outdoor unit is kept clear of ice, snow, and other debris. When doing this, also check coils on the unit. If they are dirty, they’ll require cleaning. While you’re looking at the outdoor unit, prune any shrubs or branches within 18 inches of the unit. This will make it easier to service the unit, as well as help support airflow.

At least once a year, you should have your mini split inspected by a trained technician. They can help make sure the unit runs as it should.

When buying a mini split system, you’ll need to consider where you want to mount the indoor and outdoor units. The vast majority of outdoor units are ground-mounted. This simple installation process helps the outdoor unit stay level while still allowing plenty of room for airflow.

Some outdoor units are bracketed to an outdoor wall, a technique more common outside the United States. The main benefits of a wall-mounted outdoor unit are that it helps the unit stay level while still providing room to drain and for air to flow. If you have a sloped or narrow yard, this type of mounting may be the best way to go.  However, sound issues with vibration and / or harmonics are more common in installations that utilize bracket mounting, and it is not recommended for bedrooms.

For indoor units, the options are the same, but the preferences are reversed. Most people prefer wall-mounted indoor units due to the lower cost and increased efficiency and power.

However floor-mounted options work well for attics or rooms with lots of windows, or other applications without available wall space.

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