A homeowner sits at a desk against a wall below a mini-split's head unit near the ceiling

Do Mini-Split Heat Pumps Both Heat and Cool?

Yes! These systems can provide both heating and cooling. You do not need to purchase a separate furnace or AC with a mini-split. It does both.

In cooling mode, they run just like an air conditioner, but they can reverse the process and use refrigerant to heat them as well.

How a Mini-Split Provides Heating

Mini splits work using the refrigeration cycle. Like an air conditioner, there is an indoor unit and an outdoor unit, which are connected by copper lines so refrigerant can flow between both units.

When you turn on the mini-split to warm your home, heat exchanger coils within the pump system activate. The heat pump will take outdoor air and send it through the system.

The outdoor compressor component of a ductless mini-split
The external unit is crucial in pumping in outside air for heating.

The refrigerant within the pump system, which starts out very cold, will absorb heat and release heat energy. As this happens, the liquid refrigerant undergoes pressurization and becomes a gas.

This process causes the temperature to change as the refrigerant’s status changes—the refrigerant is now warmer.

The mini split expels that heat energy through the indoor air handler, which uses a fan to distribute it to your home.

Mini splits have advanced technology that allows some models to find heat in the outdoor air when temperatures drop to -15°F!

How a Mini-Split Provides Cooling

Here, the mini split works like a traditional AC.

The pump will take warm air from inside your home, absorb its energy and expel it outside.

Closeup on a mini-split air-handler unit
Providing cool air is a bit more complex.

For a little more detail, liquid refrigerant reaches the evaporator, and a depressurization process makes the liquid into a gas again.

The gas gets extremely cold and begins absorbing heat from within the house.

Next, the gas refrigerant is pumped to the compressor outdoors. By the time it reaches this point, its temperature has gone up significantly after handling all that hot air. At this point, the gas has turned back into a liquid.

The liquid coolant – which is still very hot at this point – reaches the condenser coils of your heat pump system.

Simultaneously, a powerful fan starts blowing air over the coils, causing the heat energy within the liquid coolant to expel.

The heat from the refrigerant goes outdoors, not indoors. So after releasing the heat energy, the refrigerant is a lot cooler.

It can then go to the evaporator for a second time, where it is released as cold air through the air handler.

Thoughts From An HVAC Professional

Yes, mini splits can both heat and cool your home. Whether a mini split is the right solution for you will depend on a variety of factors.

Mini splits are ideal for heating and cooling single rooms and small spaces. If you need to service a larger home, you will have to add multiple air handlers.

This is completely doable but installation costs could get quite high.

Luckily, mini splits have very low operation costs and are often worth it in the end.

They are integrated with their own smart technology, which reduces their electrical consumption while maintaining the indoor temperature setting.

Mini splits are popular for supplemental heating in master bedrooms, home office spaces, guest suites, garage workspaces, and homes with boiler heat (no AC), but they can be used for whole homes if considerations are made for zoning.

Do you have any other questions about mini-split heat pumps?

Well, we have answers to the most common ones, such as “Is A Mini-Split A Good Option To Heat And Cool My Attic?” and “Can You (Should You) Leave Your Mini-Split On All The Time?“.

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