Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature can be expensive. A typical household’s energy bill is around $1,900 annually, and almost half of that goes to heating and cooling. To cut these costs, an increasingly popular and highly versatile system called a mini-split heat pump can be professionally installed to comfortably heat and cool your home.
Mini-split heat pumps that earn the ENERGY STAR label are independently certified to save energy, save money, and protect the climate.
What is a Mini-split Heat Pump?
Ductless heat pumps, or mini-split heat pumps, are an alternative to radiator or baseboard heating, as well as a replacement for window units for cooling. No duct work is needed.
Instead, a head unit (or multiple head units), is mounted on an interior wall or ceiling, with an accompanying unit outside. The outside unit extracts heat from the air, even when it’s cold. Refrigerant carries the heat directly to the head(s) inside, which then delivers heated air to a space. In warmer months, the system works in reverse for efficient air conditioning.
Benefts of a Mini-split Heat Pump
- Cut heating costs in half compared to conventional electric heating systems. Because they transfer rather than generate heat, ENERGY STAR certified mini-splits use up to 60% less energy than standard home electric radiators.
- Provide quiet, high-efficiency cooling. ENERGY STAR certified mini-splits use more sophisticated compressors and fans that can adjust speeds to save energy and money. They also cool directly from the unit, rather than passing through a network of fabricated ductwork. This eliminates energy losses from ductwork which can account for more than 30% of a home’s energy use for space conditioning.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A mini-split is good for your home and good for the planet. ENERGY STAR certified systems used in a whole house setting avoid more than 4,500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, on average, over the course of their lifespan compared to standard systems.
- Heating and cooling in one device. Mini-split heat pumps offer highly efficient heating and cooling in one integrated system.
- Easy, ductwork-free installation. Mini-splits use narrow refrigerant lines positioned outside your home to deliver heating and cooling instead of conventional central heating and cooling which requires bulky — and often expensive — ductwork. A small, three-inch hole in an outdoor wall is all that is needed for the refrigeration lines to connect the outdoor unit to the indoor unit.
- Custom comfort anywhere in your home. Mini-splits can maintain different customized temperatures in each room through control consoles (either wall-mounted or ceiling-inserted), remote controls, and smart phone apps.
The primary disadvantage of mini-splits is their cost. Such systems cost about $1,500 to $2,000 per ton (12,000 Btu per hour) of cooling capacity. This is about 30% more than central systems (not including ductwork) and may cost twice as much as window units of similar capacity.
The installer must also correctly size each indoor unit and judge the best location for its installation. Oversized or incorrectly located air-handlers often result in short-cycling, which wastes energy and does not provide proper temperature or humidity control. A system that is too large is also more expensive to buy and operate.
Some people may not like the appearance of the indoor part of the system. While less obtrusive than a window room air conditioner, they seldom have the built-in look of a central system. There must also be a place to drain condensate water near the outdoor unit.
Is a Mini-split Heat Pump Right for You?
Mini-splits are often used in the following situations:
- Homes with costly electric heat (e.g., baseboard, furnace, wall heaters, electric radiant) that will also benefit from cooling.
- Older homes with no existing ductwork (e.g., radiators or baseboard heat) that have never had central air conditioning before.
- Existing homes with high fuel costs.
- Additions or outbuildings (e.g., shed, barn, garage) where extending ductwork or heating/cooling capacity is difficult.
- Spaces adjacent to unconditioned spaces where ductwork would be exposed to harsher temperatures (e.g., a guest room above a garage).
- New high-efficiency homes, including ENERGY STAR certified homes.
- Older commercial buildings with no existing ductwork for air conditioning or expansions.
- Where hot or cold spots exist within homes including spaces which serve as home offices.
Mini-splits come in a variety of styles to meet the unique heating and cooling applications and customer preferences to provide efficient comfort that traditional systems cannot provide. Styles include wall mounts, floor mounts, ceiling cassettes, and ducted options that can be concealed.
Take Advantage of Incentives
Loup customers are eligible for a direct incentive of $400 to $1,200 when they install qualifying ductless mini-split systems. As an alternative to the direct incentive, customers can apply for a low-interest loan to purchase a mini-split system. Nebraska Dollar and Energy Saving Loans are offered statewide by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) and the state’s lending institutions. (New homes are eligible for the incentive, but not the loan).
To learn more about these incentives and qualifications, visit our ENERGYWISE page.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR program; energy.gov.