Heat Pumps: Pros, Cons, and FAQs of Mini-Splits


Hey guys, this week we’re talking all about ductless mini-split heat pumps. What are these things? Everybody seems to have them. So what’s the big deal? Apparently they save you a bunch of money.

So we’re going to dive into that. Before we get into the video guys quick question for you. I’m really curious to know what your experiences have been with ductless mini splits. Maybe you’re in the market for one or maybe you had a good or bad experience with it.

I would love to know all about it.

Please comment in the box below. So do these things have an impact on the environment? And do they affect the health of the occupants of the home? These are the things we’re interested in this week with our pros and cons of mini split heat pumps. Let’s check it out.

So without getting too technical mini-split heat pumps really have three components. One on the inside of the house one on the outside of the house and then a control. The unit on the outside is really easy to spot. It’s kind of a square box with a large fan and in the back of that van is a heating coil. So the fan is capturing air from the outside environment transferring it to the heat coil and then that gets transferred to a refrigerant.

Now the refrigerant is what’s going to help make that warm air into cold air and that cold air into warm air. So that gets transferred into the inside of the home where it gets dissipated throughout a cassette just like this one and that air that’s on the inside of the home gets spread over this refrigerant into the house. Now, the really cool thing about mini-split heat pumps is that they can be reversed. So if you live in a warm climate, you can use these as an air conditioner and if you’re in a cold climate you can use this as heating source. What’s even cooler Is that a lot of these units and now be paired with hydronic heating systems.

So if you’ve got in-floor heat in your house you can actually use a heat pump now to be the heat source for that hydronic system. Now just a quick note on the install of these units. Now you might be going on YouTube right now or scouring the web and really trying to figure this out for yourself and trying to do a DIY job.

Now..

This is a type of job that I do not recommend you doing by yourself. It’s not for the faint of heart. So I even for myself I’m not a contractor but I do consider myself somewhat handy. This is not something I would do myself. Keep in mind you have to have a licensed electrician on hand to wire the unit and the components themselves are a bit more complex and some of the work that’s needed to do this right really necessitates a professional’s touch.

So you want to make sure that you find an installer or supplier that really knows their stuff. All right. So the big question that we get tied to mini-split heat pumps is “should I get a mini split heat pump for my home and will it help me save money?” Typically the answer is yes it will, how much really depends on several factors. Always go for efficiency first and what I mean by that is when you’re about to install any sort of heating and cooling mechanical system into the house you want to make sure that your home is as efficient as possible by way of thick insulation and air sealing.

So these are the things that are going to help with your mechanical system in the long run. So having a home that is more efficient that reduces that heating and cooling load is paramount. Like this is what you should be focused on before investing in any sort of heating or cooling system. Now the size of the system. Typically you can look at this with the number of BTUs that are included in the unit.

And so your installer’s supplier should go through that with you. This is something that requires some years of experience and research and also education in order to really figure out. It’s not black or white. You can kind of eyeball it sometimes and say “you might need a 15000 BTU unit or you might need an 18000 BTU unit in the space”.

But the best thing you can do is really rely on your installer that you trust to make the best recommendation for you.

And the other thing, too, is the floor plan of your house has a huge impact on whether or not a mini-split is going to be successful in your home. For example, our main floor is completely open so it makes things really really easy for air to get everywhere it needs to go. Now our second story is a completely different story because it’s just rooms on rooms on rooms up there. And so if you’re trying to install a mini split that forced air we’d have to install multiple of these units these, these cassettes, for us to have a really worthwhile system. So this is an instance where having a ducted system might play better for you or for your home.

So the next big factor is what type of heating or cooling system are you replacing? What type of heating or cooling system are you weighing it against? As an example, if you have baseboards in your house.

Well as a comparison heat pumps or mini-split heat pumps are probably about just over 300% more efficient at producing heat than a baseboard heater would be. If you’re comparing it against something like an oil furnace or a gas furnace you can expect 57% to 81% change in efficiency or boost in efficiency.

So it really depends on the type of system that you’re using and whether or not you’re using it as a primary heat source or supplementary heat source. So in the case of electric baseboard heat or an oil furnace or a gas furnace these are all instances where it’s almost a no-brainer that bringing a heat pump is going to save you some money because those those systems are a little bit antiquated and you know, they do take up a lot of resources in order to generate heat. And lastly probably the most important factor in deciding whether or not this thing’s going to save you money.

Mini split heat pumps are not all built the same. Now there’s a ton of manufacturers out there.

Very reputable company is making great products. Definitely some better than others. But what I’ve seen in the past is there are specific indicators that you should look for when buying these units that will really tell you what you can expect as far as performance goes. There are lots of great suppliers out there companies like LG, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Kerr, you know, all these companies are making great products and some of them are rated better than others. Unfortunately, there’s not a really easy way for a consumer to figure out which unit is better than others aside from looking at some specific indicators and those indicators are the SEER rating and the the HSPF rating.

And one website that I found super helpful (like you need this website in order to make a decision kind of thing) is aahrinet.org and essentially this is the place to go to really find out how your unit’s going to perform. All you really need is a model number bring up to the website and punch it in and I’ll give you the information that you need. Things like those HSPF and Seer ratings that we talked about. Things like what temperature you can expect the the unit to start losing its efficiency because as you know, the colder the climate the harder these units have to work.

So it’s really important that you offer unit that can perform well at low temperatures, especially if you’re in a Northern climate. If you’ve taken all these things into consideration then what type of value can you get out of this how much money can you actually save? That’s still a really great question.

It’s a little bit ambiguous answer that. I’ve seen cases where folks have saved half of their power bill has gone away.

I’ve seen a quarter gone. My personal experience in the home that we’re currently in is we ended up insulating our basement, our attic and doing a bunch of air sealing and at the same time installing a mini split heat pump. Now the last two months I’ve looked at our power bill and funny enough for the first month so in November of 2018, we used about four times the amount of energy that we did in November of 2019 and the same thing sort of happened in December where we used about just just over three times the amount of energy that we used in December 2019.

So those are great results. The insulation and air sealing helped tremendously.

And so there again lies the importance of focusing on efficiency before switching over your mechanical heating and cooling system. All right. So onto a question that probably not a lot of you have asked is “what is the impact on the environment from using these types of systems?” And also, “is there an impact to the health of the occupants living therein?” So this is important to us because it’s kind of built into the DNA of our company and we always look for products and materials that benefit a homeowner’s health, wealth, and the environment.

So with saving money we definitely got the the “wealth” part out of the way but what about the health of the occupants? So there’s this refrigerant that’s used in these types of units and that’s really the only kind of red flag that we saw. Now the great news is there’s been tremendous advances on the use of these refrigerants and the switching over to newer, less toxic refrigerants. So in the event of a leak occupants are not threatened or are not in a in a situation where they’re exposed to those chemicals. So same goes on the environmental side.

So in the production of these units they’re typically made out of metal and some sort of plastic. And again, the big red flag is the refrigerant. So traditionally they used a refrigerant called R22, which is completely being phased out and I believed as of January 1st the EPA banned it in the U.S. And so that can no longer bring it be manufactured with these types of units and most units have switched over to r410a as a refrigerant.

So it is still something you want to check when you are shopping around for these units. But if you were really gung-ho like me on health and safety you want to look at for an R32 refrigerant which is kind of the leading edge refrigerant which will eventually be the next phase after r410a. And so this is one thing with with refrigerants that they’re constantly improving the formulation of those refrigerant so that they’re less and less toxic to the the homeowners if ever there was a leak. And at the same time they’re also offering more performance measures for the units themselves. So something that, at the end of the day, the other big thing with these units when it comes to the environment is if you’re currently on oil or natural gas making the change to ductless mini-split, you’re making a tremendous help on the environment.

That’s provided your electricity comes from good sources, hopefully renewable sources like hydro or wind or solar.

So all things to keep in mind. And so I think from an environmental perspective it somewhat checks the box. There is not a big, big threat. The one thing I want to mention was on the payback side.

So typically these units cost between $3,000 to $5,000. Now before you go and pull the trigger on any one of these units, you’ll really want to do some rough calculations. around pay back. So you can probably ballpark some of the savings that you’ll get. Even if you conservatively say “I’ll save 25% off of my power bill by switching over to a mini split”.

Just by using that figure you’d be able to figure out pretty quickly how long it’ll take you to actually pay that unit back.

One thing to keep in mind with these units is that they do have a life span. After 12 or 15 years you’ll probably want to look to either replacing the unit or having a major service done to the unit to keep it going. So, I think that’s another consideration is that these these machines aren’t obsolete – their mechanical like anything else. They do need some regular maintenance.

Typically also you want to note the manufacturer warranty that comes with your unit. Some are definitely better than others. I typically try to opt for something that’s 10 years or above. All right, so that’s our video for today guys, and thank you so much for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe and also check out buildwithrise.

com. If you want more information just like this, more information, more resources on how to have a more sustainable home, buildwithrise.com is the place for you.

Thanks again for joining our community and we’ll catch you on the next one..

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