A wooden container tiny home up against a wall that uses a mini-split system for HVAC

Mini-splits are an efficient and eco-friendly way to heat and cool your home.

These ductless systems are particularly well-suited for use in smaller structures, such as mobile or “tiny homes,” where ducting installation is impractical.

Their compact form has even made them a popular choice for RV owners.

Let’s take a look at how these systems work for different applications.

Are Mini-Splits Good for Mobile and Tiny Homes?

Mini-splits can provide both heating and cooling in a single system. This makes them ideal for situations where space is an issue. They don’t require ducting, which also cuts down on the space they take up.

These systems are ideal for climate control in single rooms and small spaces. While they can certainly work for larger homes, they need to apply zoning to meet the heat and cooling load. 

Small homes and spaces are often the perfect application for mini split systems.

What Is a Ductless Mini-Split HVAC System?

A mini-split is a type of heat pump that offers both heating and cooling. They are comprised of an outdoor and an indoor unit (which is where the term “split” comes from).

The outdoor unit is called the condenser and functions similarly to a traditional AC unit.

The indoor unit, called the “air handler,” head, or evaporator, is typically installed high on an internal wall and sends the conditioned air into the living space. Multiple heads can be connected to a single condenser if you need to heat or cool several spaces.

Their lack of ductwork makes them easy to install and suitable for tight spaces. While the indoor air handlers do take up some wall space, they don’t utilize a duct system. 

They mount to the wall and connect to the outdoor unit via two copper lines.

While they can be mounted on interior walls, exterior walls are a better choice for small spaces because the copper lines can go straight outside without taking up any wall space.

The external component of a ductless mini-split
You can see the more modern and efficient mini-split HVAC system on the right side, as compared with the old clunkier bigger style on the left.

How Does a Mini-Split Work? 

These systems heat and cool using the refrigeration cycle.

Essentially, what they do is transfer heat from one area to another. The refrigerant absorbs the heat, pumps it through the system and expels it.

In cooling mode, it absorbs heat from inside your home and transfers it outside. The refrigerant in the lines provides cooling to the air handler as it removes indoor heat and a small fan distributes the cool air into the room.

In heating mode, it works in reverse. The system finds heat in the ambient air outside (even in subzero temperatures!) and transfers it inside to provide warm air.

Heat transfer is more energy efficient than creating heat, making mini splits incredibly eco-friendly. This also means they have low operation costs, despite being a fully electric system.

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

Why Are Mini-Splits the Best HVAC Choice for Mobile Homes, Tiny Homes, and RVs?

The thing that mobile homes, tiny homes, and RVs all have in common is that they are short on space.

The interior sleeping area of an RV

The average traditional home size in the U.S. is 2,491 square feet, and these smaller homes are a lot smaller—easily less than half the size.

In fact, an 80-square-foot tiny home is less than a third of the floor area of the average stick-built home in the U.S.

A smaller home does have the advantage of having less space to heat and cool, which keeps costs low and reduces the home’s carbon footprint, but it also presents some challenges.

Mini-Splits Provide Both Heating and Cooling

Most HVAC systems in small homes need both a heater and a separate AC unit. Mini splits do both on a single system and are significantly more efficient than all other forms of electric heat.

It should be noted that not all mini splits are rated for low-temperature heating. If you live in a climate with harsh winters, make sure to get a model with an operating range that suits your needs.

Mini splits can heat at temperatures down to -15°F if you have the correct unit.

Low Noise Level

Mini split air handlers are known for being nearly silent while operating. The fans in these units are able to distribute warm and cool air at the same noise level as a whisper.

The outdoor condenser fan is a little louder but should not be a concern unless it is mounted on the wall outside your bedroom.

No Ductwork Required

With space at a premium in a mobile home, tiny house, or RV, you won’t want any of that space to be sacrificed for ductwork installation.

Mini-splits do not require ducting and are therefore an ideal way to heat and cool your RV, tiny home, or mobile home without taking up too much space.

High Efficiency

Mini-splits are one of the most highly efficient HVAC choices available. Even if you’re not as concerned about the environment, high efficiency will be sure to bring down operating costs, saving you money in the long run.

We have an article that goes into more detail on the cost of ductless mini-splits to help you decide if one is suitable for your home. Check it out here.

Easy Installation and Maintenance

The easy installation process for mini-splits makes them an attractive option for fitting into any home.

Often, installation can be done very easily with minimal disruption if you need to retrofit it.

For maintenance, you need to clean the filters in the air handler every six weeks by rinsing them in the sink.

A technician adjusts the indoor component of a mini-split

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for an HVAC solution to work in a small space, your best option is likely a mini split if your building can accommodate the air handler and condenser.

For tiny homes and mobile homes, you may only need one air handler to heat and cool the entire space.

For help with sizing, hire an HVAC contractor. Mini splits are incredibly efficient but they must be sized correctly to fit the space for their technology to work correctly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *