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 have variable-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 the U.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.