A mini-split compressor unit outside a home in wintery conditions

If you’re in the market for a new heating and cooling system, the chances are you’ve come across mini-split heat pumps. These systems are becoming increasingly popular, with some vouching for them as a more efficient alternative to traditional HVAC. 

Many homeowners know that mini-splits in cooling mode are more efficient than traditional AC systems, but it’s lesser-known if this efficiency also translates to heating homes. 

So, how effective are these systems at heating homes?

This article will briefly explain the pros and cons of mini-splits in heating mode. Read on for more information on these units and insights into when it makes the most sense to use them.

Are Mini-Splits Effective in Heating Mode?

Mini-splits are suitable for heating homes. They are more energy-efficient than traditional HVAC systems, use less electricity to operate, and are versatile. For example, mini-splits can heat rooms or areas in a home individually, which is great if a family member is sensitive to temperature changes.

Advantages of Using Mini-Splits for Heating

As the weather gets colder, you may consider different ways to heat your home. If you’re looking for an efficient and environmentally-friendly option, you may be mulling a mini-split.

To understand if a mini-split suits your home, let’s examine their pros.

High Energy Efficiency

One of the primary reasons to choose a mini-split is that they are more energy-efficient than other HVAC systems. According to the US Department of Energy, mini-splits are up to 50% more efficient than traditional heating.

That’s because they don’t generate heat. Instead, they move it from one place to another.

An illustrated diagram of how a ductless mini-split system functions

The higher energy efficiency is especially beneficial in the winter. Most mini-splits extract heat from the outdoors, even when it’s freezing outside, and use it to heat your home.

In contrast, traditional furnaces generate heat through combustion, which is much less efficient since some of the heat is lost in the process.

Mini-Splits Offer Zoning Capabilities

Another advantage of mini-splits is that they offer zoning capabilities. As this study points out, you can heat or cool specific rooms or areas in your home rather than the entire space.

The zoning capability is superb if someone in your family is sensitive to temperature changes. You can set a mini-split to maintain a comfortable temperature in their room without having to heat or cool the entire house.

Quiet and Discreet Operation

If you’re looking for a discreet heating system that won’t make much noise, mini-splits are an excellent option. Most units are small and can be mounted on the wall or ceiling.

Besides, the negligible noise is usually confined to the room where the unit is located.

Quick and Easy Installation

Another significant advantage of mini-splits is that they’re relatively easy to install. Most systems come with all the necessary materials and instructions.

If you’re handy, you may be able to install the system yourself. Otherwise, you can hire a professional to do it for you. The installation process is usually quick and straightforward, so it won’t take long before you can start using your mini-splits.

A homeowner installing a wall-mounted mini-split air handler below the ceiling

Cost-Effectiveness

Mini-splits are also cost-effective. They use less electricity than traditional HVAC systems and can last for many years with proper care and maintenance.

Not only that, but mini-splits can help you save money on your energy bills. Since they are more energy-efficient, you’ll see lower monthly utility costs.

You Can Control Mini-Splits Remotely

Nowadays, homeowners can control almost everything remotely, and ductless heat pumps are no exception. Many models come with a remote control that allows you to adjust the temperature, fan speed, and other settings from anywhere in the room.

A homeowners points a remote control at the air handler unit of her mini-split system

Some units even have smartphone apps that let you control them from your phone or tablet. That’s a great feature if you forget to adjust the temperature before leaving home for the day.

Eco-Friendliness

As mentioned, mini-splits are more energy-efficient than other HVAC systems. That means they use less electricity and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to heat your home, mini-splits are a good option. Because these systems are ductless, they are not liable to suffer the same heat and cold loss that ducted systems experience. 

This feature makes them not only better for the environment but also can help you save money on your energy bills.

Consistent Heating and Cooling

One of the most critical features of an HVAC system is its ability to provide consistent heating and cooling. After all, what’s the point of having an HVAC system if it can’t maintain a comfortable temperature in your home?

Fortunately, mini-splits excel in this area. They are designed to provide consistent heating and cooling, so you can always count on them to keep your home comfortable.

Here’s a YouTube video you should watch for more insights into the pros and cons of mini-splits:

Screenshot of a video by Rise outlining the pros and cons of mini-splits
Courtesy of Rise

Disadvantages of Using Mini-Splits for Heating

While mini-splits have many benefits, such as being energy-efficient and eco-friendly, they also have drawbacks. If you’re considering using a heat pump mini split for heating your home, it’s equally important to weigh their cons before deciding.

Some of the disadvantages of mini-splits in heating mode include:

Expensive Installation

Although mini-splits are cost-effective in the long run, they can be expensive to install. This drawback is because the cost of the unit itself is relatively high, and you also have to pay for installation.

If you’re not skilled in HVAC installation, you’ll have to hire a professional, adding to the cost. Despite this, mini-splits are still a good investment because of their long lifespan and energy-saving features.

Don’t Work Well in Extreme Temperatures

While mini-splits are great for moderate climates, they don’t work well in extreme heat or cold. A traditional HVAC system may be a better option if you live in very hot or cold weather.

That’s because mini-splits don’t work as efficiently in extreme temperatures. They can still heat and cool your home, but that may take longer and use more energy.

Regular Maintenance is Required

Like any other HVAC system, mini-splits require regular maintenance to stay in good condition. That includes regularly cleaning the filters, coils, and other parts of the unit.

Closeup on a mini-split compressor with a homeowner cleaning it by spraying water into the grille.

If you don’t maintain your system, it may not work as efficiently and could break down sooner. Fortunately, mini-splits are relatively easy to maintain, and you can often do it yourself.

Some Find Them Visually Unappealing

While most people find mini-splits unobtrusive, some consider them visually unappealing. As this report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development highlights, some would prefer to have their units receding into the background.

However, this is a matter of personal preference, and you may not even notice the indoor unit once it’s installed. If you’re concerned about the appearance of your system, talk to your HVAC professional about ways to make it less visible.

When To Use a Mini-Split for Heating

Having looked at the pros and cons of mini-split systems, you may wonder when they are the best choice for heating your home. After all, if they’re expensive and require regular maintenance, are they worth it?

Here are some scenarios when we’d recommend using a mini-split over other heating options:

When You Want To Save on Energy Costs

Ductless heat pumps are a good choice if you’re looking for a way to save on your energy bills. They are much more energy-efficient than traditional HVAC systems, so you’ll see lower monthly energy bills.

Additionally, the unit’s initial cost may be offset by the money you save each month. So, if you’re looking for a long-term investment, consider these systems a good option.

When You Live in a Moderate Climate

As mentioned, mini-splits don’t work well in extreme climates. However, they excel in moderate temperatures.

A ductless heat pump is an excellent choice if you live in an area with mild winters and summers. Not only will it keep your home comfortable all year long, but it will do so without using a lot of energy.

When You Want an Eco-Friendly Heating Option

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to heat your home, mini-splits are a stellar choice. They don’t emit greenhouse gasses, so they won’t contribute to climate change.

Additionally, they’re very efficient, so they won’t waste much energy. These ductless systems are an excellent option if you want to reduce your carbon footprint.

When You Need Heating for a Specific Area

Mini-splits are an ideal choice if you only need to heat a specific area of your home. Unlike central heating systems, they allow you to target a particular zone.

A mini-split air handler in the corner of a room just below the ceiling with a vent installed

That means you can heat the area you’re using without wasting energy on the rest of your home. This can be a great way to save on your energy bills if you have a large house.

When You Have Limited Space

Another reason to choose a ductless heat pump is if you have limited space. Unlike traditional HVAC systems, they don’t require a lot of room for installation.

They’ll still keep your space comfortable without taking up a lot of area.

When You Don’t Have Access to Natural Gas

Another situation to choose this heat pump type is if you don’t have access to natural gas. Many homes in the US are heated with natural gas, but not all.

If you don’t have natural gas lines in your area, you’ll need to use an alternative heating option. And, if you’re looking for an energy-efficient solution, mini-splits take the cake.

Determining What Size Heat Pump You Need

The size of the mini-split you need for heating is the square footage of the area multiplied by 25. So, for example, if you have a 1,000-square-foot (92.903 square meters) space, you would need a 25,000 BTU unit.

The following table shows the recommended BTUs for various square footage.

Room SizeBTUs Needed
100 sq feet (9.2903 sq meters)2500 BTUs
500 sq feet (46.4512 sq meters)12500 BTUs
1000 sq feet (92.903 sq meters)25000 BTUs
1200 sq feet (111.4836 sq meters)30,000 BTUs
2400 sq feet (222.9673 sq meters)60,000 BTUs

The type of climate you live in will also impact the size you need. In mild temperatures, you can get away with a smaller unit. But in colder climates, you’ll need a larger one.

Pro Tip: If you’re unsure about the unit size you need, you can always consult an HVAC contractor. They can help you choose a suitable model for your home and climate.

How Effective Are Mini-Splits for Heating?

Ductless heat pumps are very effective for heating. They’re much more efficient than traditional HVAC systems, saving you money on your energy bills.

Plus, they’re very versatile. You can use them to heat a specific area or your entire home. And, if you live in a moderate climate, they’ll keep you comfortable all year.

Can a Mini-Split Heat an Entire House?

A mini-split can heat a whole house. For example, a 30,000 BTU unit can heat a 1,200-square-foot (111.48 square meters) space. So, if you have a two-story, 2,400-square-foot (185.806 square meters) home, you would need two units—one for each floor.

If you’re unsure about the amount of units you need, you can always consult an HVAC contractor. They can help you choose the correct amount for your home and climate.

How Long Do Mini-Splits Last?

Heat pump mini splits last between 10-15 years. These systems are very durable and require little maintenance. However, your unit may not last as long if you live in a colder climate.

If you don’t keep up with routine maintenance, your system will degrade faster. So, it’s essential to have it serviced every year by a qualified HVAC contractor.

Conclusion

If you are looking for an energy-efficient way to heat your home, consider using a mini-split. While they have some cons, such as being expensive to install and requiring regular maintenance, their pros for heating outweigh the cons.

When used in the right situations, ductless heat pumps can be an effective and efficient way to heat your home. For example, if you need to heat a specific area or have a limited heating budget.

Sources

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