Whenever you turn on the tap and set it to red, two things happen. First, your hot water tank springs into action. It either warms up the needed water, or delivers pre-heated water from a holding tank. Next, the water travels through the home’s plumbing and into the open tap.
As you can imagine, the farther away the hot water source is, the longer it takes for the water to turn hot at the end destination.
A point-of-use water heater seeks to shorten the waiting time.
Having hot water on demand is a convenience that many of us take for granted. Imagine taking a shower on a cold winter morning, and you can instantly appreciate this luxury we have on tap, pun intended.
But showers are one thing. Imagine cooking in the kitchen, and getting some egg or other foodstuff on your hand. You just need a quick 5-second spurt of hot water to wash off the gunk. Instead, you stand there for nearly half a minute with egg yolk on your hand, waiting for the water to heat up. Meanwhile, gallons of cool but perfectly clean water run down the drain.
Hot water recirculation pumps are one way to shorten the waiting time, while reducing unnecessary water wastage.
Mini split systems consist of three groups: the outdoor unit, indoor unit(s), and the conduit that connects them both. These primary parts have several mini split components working together.
1. The Outdoor Compressor / Condenser Unit
The compressor or condenser unit is located outside the home. It looks like a rectangular box with a large fan. Its purpose is to release heat from the refrigerant:
Compressor: The compressor is a device that pressurizes refrigerant gas, converting it from a hot gas into a liquid. It also pumps the liquid through refrigerant lines that run to every indoor unit in the home.
Condenser coils: The condenser coils wind through several loops that give outside air time to absorb heat from the refrigerant. After exiting the condenser, the refrigerant will be a cool liquid.
Outdoor fan: The fan blows air over the condenser coils, ensuring they cool down sufficiently.
Expansion valve: This small valve allows the high-pressure liquid refrigerant to expand immediately before entering the evaporator unit. This cools it down even more.
Some homeowners choose mini split systems with heat pumps. A heat pump works essentially the same way as an air conditioner, except it has the ability to reverse the process in cold weather. This type of ductless system can absorb warmth from outside air and use it to heat rooms in winter.
2. The Indoor Evaporator Unit
Ductless A/C systems have one compressor outside that connects to at least one evaporator unit inside. Depending on the unit, the compressor can support up to eight evaporators in different rooms, essentially creating a network to cool the entire house. Here’s how:
Evaporator coils: Cold refrigerant flows into the evaporator coils, absorbing heat automatically from the surrounding air. This causes the refrigerant to evaporate into a gas and carry room heat outside.
Blower: The circular blower is responsible for drawing in warm air and blowing cool air back into the room. It’s very quiet compared to the fans of traditional air-conditioning units.
Air filter: Cool air goes through the air filter before entering the room, capturing dirt particles, pet dander, mold spores, and other allergens. A great filter improves indoor air quality while keeping the home cool.
Evaporators are usually mounted on the wall, but you don’t have to choose that type of unit. There are floor-mounted evaporators, suspended ceiling units, concealed ceiling units, and even evaporators that work with partial ducts. Also, you can combine different styles for other rooms. This gives you the freedom to follow your design vision in any space.
3. Drain Lines, Refrigerant Tubing, and Electric Cables
There needs to be a way to transfer the hot gas from the inside to the outside compressor. That’s where the line set comes in. The line set specifically refers to the refrigerant tubing, but is often used to refer to the whole bundle which includes:
Refrigerant lines: This insulated copper tubing carries refrigerant through the system. The tubing size varies; refrigerant lines leaving the evaporator coil with hot gas are wider than the ones carrying cold refrigerant liquid.
Drain lines: Any evaporator produces water from condensation during the cooling cycle. You don’t want any moisture leaking inside the home, so drain lines dispose of it outside.
Electrical lines: Power cables from outside provide all the electricity indoor evaporator units require. That means there’s no need to rewire your home for mini splits to work correctly.
Communication lines: Electronic control cables send signals between inside and outside parts, keeping everything working smoothly. The outdoor compressor only runs when it needs to, and at the right speed to keep the home at the temperature where you want.
How big does the conduit need to be for a mini split? Usually, 3” conduit works perfectly. HVAC contractors only need to make a 3-inch hole in the outside wall to run the necessary lines (which is completely sealed after).
How Do Mini Split Components Cool the Home?
Now that you’ve seen what mini split components do individually, how do they work together? The cooling process is easy to understand when you know how heat transfer works. In every system, heat always wants to move to cooler areas. This is a fundamental principle of thermodynamics.
The hot air in your home automatically moves towards cold refrigerant liquid in the evaporator, like the way your hands lose heat when you touch ice. Outside, the compressor uses the same principle by pressurizing warm refrigerant into a liquid that is hotter than the surrounding air, releasing heat and cooling the liquid.
This whole process is possible thanks to refrigerant, a special liquid with an extremely low boiling point. Even room temperature air of 60+ degrees is enough to change it from a cool liquid to a boiling gas.
Energy efficiency: This type of system reigns supreme for energy efficiency. Compared to central air and older air conditioners, cooling costs can go down by as much as 30%. That saves you a lot of electricity and money.
Zone cooling: Mini splits allow you to regulate the temperature in different rooms independently. This is known as zone cooling. Trust us when we say it’s the air-conditioning of the future. Why waste electricity cooling the kitchen if you’re not there?
Smart thermostat options: Many mini splits have smart thermostat features that you can control from your smartphone or tablet. You don’t have to get up anymore to make rooms warmer or colder. The best part is you can personalize your settings for the bedroom for your sleeping preferences. Enjoy a great night’s sleep all night long, never feeling too cold or too hot.
Simple installation: Because there are no complex ductwork systems to install, adding a mini split to your home is relative simple. Installation is faster and costs are lower because you only need that 3” hole for conduit.
Are you ready to choose a ductless A/C for your home? Visit our ductless mini split air-conditioners page to see all the options available for the cooling system of your dreams. Look at smart mini-splits for your home’s size, output needs and budget, including high-tech models from LG, GE, Panasonic and Friedrich. Find the parts, line sets and accessories you need for high-quality installation that lasts ages.
Do you still have questions? At Total Home Supply, we’re always happy to help! Don’t hesitate to email or give us a call at 1-877-847-0050 and speak to one of our qualified representatives today.
Installing ductless mini splits requires a high level of electrical knowledge for the job to be done safely and without harm to yourself or the unit. For that reason, we do not recommend homeowners try to install the unit themselves. Unless you are an advanced DIYer with extensive experience in electrical work, we strongly advise you to hire a professional to get the job done.
But even professionals have to learn the ropes, and so if you are an electrician who simply has not undertaken a mini split installation project before, this post is for you. Here, we offer a step-by-step guide to everything you need to know about the electrical specifications for installing ductless mini splits.
NOTE: These instructions are in regards to electrical specifications only, and do not include line set installation or refrigerant set-up.
How to Wire a Mini Split System
Before we take you through the steps on wiring a mini split system, we’re going to clarify some common questions about your mini split wiring.
1. What size wire do I need for a mini split?
For most ductless mini-splits, the right wire is a 14/4 stranded conductor cable. Mini-split wires are used to connect the outdoor compressor unit with the indoor evaporator unit, delivering electricity and control signals.
A 14/4 stranded cable provides two 14-gauge conductor wires for power, one communication wire and one ground wire. The ground wire is essential for safe operation, preventing damage to the air conditioner and protecting your family, which is why going with 14/4 is always better than 14/3.
2. When do I use a 10/2 or 10/3 for mini splits?
When installing a mini-split air conditioner, it’s vital to choose cable that’s large enough to handle the current your system requires. For ample spaces and significant heating/cooling, some homeowners choose a mini-split with 36,000 BTU capacity. This type of system can require a 30-amp circuit, so you would need 10-guage wire to handle the current. Every unit will list its amp draw and the wire choice will vary based on that.
What do 10/2 and 10/3 wire numbers mean? The first number is the thickness in AWG (American wire gauge). Don’t forget that in AWG, smaller numbers mean thicker wires. So a 14-gauge wire is medium sized, 12-gauge would be a little bigger, and 10-gauge is the biggest wire you’re probably going to need for a mini-split.
The second number is the amount of connectors the wire has. A 10/2 wire has two connectors, the black and white, both hot/lead wires as well as a ground wire. On the other hand, 10/3 wires have three connectors, black, white and red plus a ground wire.
With any electrical project, be sure to check with a licensed electrician and verify the requirements of your local codes.
Now that we have that clarified, follow these steps to wire up your ductless mini split system:
Step 1 – Mini-Split Shut-Off Box:
Run a 230/208 volt or 115 volts* dedicated line from the main break box to the area where the shut-off box will be installed next to the unit.
* Voltage depends on the system. The vast majority of mini-split units are 230/208V, but some are 115V.
Step 2 – Mini-Split Wiring:
Mount the shut-off box on the outside wall and connect the wires from the break box.
To meet the code, you must have a shut-off box at the location of the unit. This makes system repairs safer and easier. Wire the two hot leads to the fused connections in the box and the ground to the provided connection. Then, reattach the faceplate and insert the on/off switch. It should be kept in the off position while you continue to work on the unit.
If you’re shopping for air conditioners, you may have heard about mini split systems and how they’re a popular choice to stay cool in the summer months. But you have probably wondered, how efficient are they and are they worth the investment.
The answer depends on several factors, such as how old your current air conditioner is, what its SEER rating is, and whether your home has ducts. If you’ve been on the fence for a while about buying a new AC, this article is perfect for you. We’ll show you everything you need to know about the pros and cons of mini splits systems, especially for energy efficiency and electricity savings.
How Do Mini Splits Compare To Central Air in Terms of Efficiency?
Central air and mini splits both have an outdoor compressor, but inside the home, things are different. With forced air systems (central air), refrigerant has to travel to an indoor unit and then cool air gets distributed through a series of ducts and vents to individual rooms. This type of AC design always uses more energy for cooling because some of the cold air heats up before it reaches its destination.
On the other hand, mini split systems don’t need any ductwork; they deliver cooling directly from the air handler to the room you’re in. If you’re looking for energy-efficient cooling for your home, choosing a mini split is one of the best decisions you can make.
Why Are Mini Splits Most Efficient?
Central air systems just can’t compete with the energy efficiency of mini splits. Why are ductless systems so effective at reducing energy consumption?
1. Advanced Technology
Home heating and cooling technology have advanced significantly in the last 5–10 years, especially where energy efficiency is concerned. Mini splits have several advances that make a huge difference in energy consumption:
Voltage converters: DC power is more energy-efficient than traditional AC electricity. With voltage converters, mini splits take advantage of this energy savings.
Mini split inverters: Older air conditioners can only turn on or off, which means running at max power to cool your home. Mini splits havevariable-speed inverter compressors that can run at lower levels, maintaining cool temps comfortably without pushing the system.
Ductless cooling: Not having ducts provides a massive boost in energy efficiency. Ducts add significantly to heating and cooling costs because of the way they let hot or cold air escape.
Thanks to these advances, mini splits can achieve optimal SEER ratings for energy efficiency. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and you’d want your ac unit to generally range from at least 16 up to 30 SEER on the high end.
With a ductless mini split, you can enjoy energy savings with 20–29 SEER or more.
Other than the energy savings of mini splits, they are also exceptionally quiet. They have an average noise level of 32 decibels on low fan speed, which is practically silent. There’s no hum of a furnace or the whooshing sound of a window air conditioner to interrupt your nap or work project.
With central air, maintaining maximum energy efficiency requires performing a lot of maintenance on ducts. Air leaks have to be sealed, ductwork cleaned, obstructions removed and insulation added to give you the most bang for your buck.
By choosing a ductless mini split, you avoid those time-consuming maintenance requirements. It is important to clean the air filter on your mini split system, of course, but it’s not complicated. Our blog article on mini split cleaning tips shows you exactly how to do it.
3. Long-Term Cost and Efficiency
Most mini split systems use a heat pump, absorbing warmth from outside the home and moving it to indoor spaces. Transferring heat this way is far more energy-efficient than generating it with a gas or electric furnace or boiler.
According to theU.S. Department of Energy, ductless mini splits can save you 30% on energy usage for heating and cooling compared to central forced air systems. That’s a lot of electricity. How much money can you save?
Let’s say you normally spend $110 a month on electricity for central air. Going with ductless heating and cooling could save you $40 a month, or almost $500 a year. Now multiply that by 15–20 years and you’re looking at a total savings of $7,500–$10,000.
When you add to this the flexibility of interior design options, it’s easy to see why many homeowners feel that mini splits are a great long-term investment. Many families upgrade to ductless AC (or a mini-split vertical air handler) even when their home already has ductwork. They want to get maximum energy efficiency, either because of cost savings or to contribute to a greener planet.
Notable Downsides to Mini splits
Not everyone is crazy about mini split systems, even with their energy efficiency benefits. If you want to get the best results, it’s important to look at all factors:
1. Optimal Planning and Installation
To get the full energy efficiency benefits you see on the package, you have to choose HVAC professionals for installation. If your home has large leaks around windows or doors, cool air may escape and drive up energy usage. Placing the mini split air handler or thermostat in the wrong place can make the system work harder than it needs to.
Another common mistake is choosing a system that is too large for your home. This can trigger short-cycling, where the HVAC unit turns on and off constantly. Too large and it wastes electricity, too small and it has trouble keeping up with hot weather.
Some people don’t like the appearance of air handlers, the indoor portion of mini split systems. They feel that it interrupts the room’s design theme. In addition to the rectangular interior unit, there needs to be a condensate hose for the moisture to drain from (this is generally directed outside).
There are several ways to minimize the impact of mini splits on your interior design, such as choosing ceiling cassettes or floor-mounted units as they are less noticeable than wall-mounted options.
Mini Split Efficiency: Key Takeaways
The bottom line is that mini splits provide optimal energy efficiency for home heating and cooling. They can be an excellent long-term investment for your family:
Saving major time and money on installation
Saving 30% on energy costs compared to forced air
Offering flexibility and energy efficiency with home zoning
Eliminating the need for ducts and duct maintenance
Taking advantage of the latest inverter compressor technology
At Total Home Supply, our team is always here and happy to help if you have questions.Contact us for more information about choosing the right cooling system or sizing a mini split for your home.