Busting Myths About Ductless Mini Splits
Jul 01, 2019
Ductless mini splits, or ductless heat pumps, have become increasingly present in Pacific Northwest homes. And since word-of-mouth is the most common way for homeowners to learn about going ductless, it’s no surprise that some incorrect assumptions about ductless heat pumps persist.
Let’s address some of these misconceptions, focusing on homes with electric resistance heating (such as baseboards and wall heaters) and a single ductless heat pump indoor head installed in the home’s main living area.
Ductless heat pumps sound nice, but they don’t work in cold climates.
Ductless heat pumps have come a long way since the earlier days of the technology.
While the mass-market heat pumps of even just 10 years ago struggled at the coldest temperatures, demand for this technology has been growing in colder climates like Canada and Scandinavia and the technology has matured to serve these climates.
Today, every major manufacturer (along with some of the smaller ones, too) offers “extended capacity,” or cold-climate, ductless heat pumps. In fact, cold-climate ductless systems are able to provide at least 85% of their heating “oomph” at temperatures as cold as 5° F, making them the go-to for many HVAC contractors who work in colder areas — typically east of the Cascades. In some colder climates and high elevations, contractors exclusively stock and sell cold-climate ductless heat pumps.
I’ll never get used to that box on the wall!
Ever since ductless heat pumps were first introduced in the U.S., American homeowners have expressed misgivings about getting used to living with “that box on the wall.”
But homebuyers today are putting an ever-greater value on cooling. A home without ductwork or central air can tout the benefits of the ductless heat pump’s cooling capacity over a similar home with no installed cooling.
Ductless systems also now come in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations, so homeowners can find a model that fits more elegantly with their home’s style.And once homeowners are living with their ductless system around 95% report being satisfied or highly satisfied. As it turns out, considerations like low energy bills and comfort outweigh aesthetic concerns when it comes to heating and cooling solutions. With jurisdictions now adopting home energy scores as a part of the home sale process, ductless heat pumps may be of increasing value to future homeowners.
The noise will drive me crazy.
Up until the last decade, most large, central heat pumps and air conditioners were indeed loud. Both the outdoor unit (the compressor) and the air moving through the system fan produced noticeable noise. The phenomenon was so bad, many jurisdictions even adopted noise ordinances aimed at heat pumps.Ductless heat pumps, however, benefit from smaller size and more advanced compressor technologies. This means much quieter outdoor units and indoor units that are nearly inaudible at low speed — and still quieter than a box fan on high speed or most window AC units.
It will take too long to heat and cool our house.
Your ductless system should have no problem keeping up with your home’s heating and cooling needs. If you keep in mind that a heat pump works differently than a furnace and should be operated differently, too, following these simple practices will keep your home at the right temperature.
In a home with an electric (or gas/propane) furnace, we are used to the system coming on full-blast and then turning off when the set temperature has been reached.
Ductless heat pumps efficiently heat and cool your home by running at a consistent mid-to-low speed, providing a more consistent temperature and less of a temperature “swing” in between cycles the way a furnace operates.
There is also generally no need to set your system back at all. Unlike with a furnace, where you might set the thermostat back while you are sleeping or away from the house, with a ductless heat pump you just set it and forget it! Why? Because these systems are able to provide a little bit of heat when the home needs just a little, and a lot of heat when the home needs a lot.
With high-efficiency equipment, this means great savings and very stable temperatures. You can still set the thermostat back when you’re away, but we’d recommend dialing it back by just 3° F. With exceptions for extended absences, we recommend never setting a home below 62° F in order to prevent mildew from growing. The same general rules apply for ductless heat pumps in cooling mode during summer months.
These won’t work with my smart home.
Homeowners are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, asking more and more questions about smart and connected homes.
How will my ductless heat pump work with my smart devices? Will I be able to connect with Alexa or Google?
It’s true that adding a third-party smart thermostat to many ductless systems probably won’t lead to maximized benefits. However, many manufacturers are working to create ways for third party smart thermostats to work better with ductless heat pumps — one thing to look for is a product that advertises “Works with Nest” or “Works with Alexa.”
Another development is that many ductless manufacturers utilize their own smart thermostats and/or connected controls and apps for their equipment. For example, Daikin has the ONE+ thermostat and Mitsubishi has the Kumo Cloud app. These proprietary apps and thermostats are easy to connect, and provide many of the same features as the well-known smart thermostats on the market. Beyond that, some are also now beginning to work directly with Nest or Alexa (and potentially others).
If connectivity is a concern, talk to your installer about the brands and models that can integrate with your existing smart home, or that feature their own smart technology.
Ductless heat pumps have come a long way in performance, aesthetics and features. As a result, many of the myths about ductless heat pumps are dated (if they were ever true in the first place). While no heating and cooling system is perfect, ductless heat pumps offer a variety of options and experiences that can truly deliver the comfort you need, along with unmatched efficiency and savings. For more on the benefits of ductless heat pumps, check out our Ductless Heat Pump Buyer's Guide.
On April 1, 2022, the NW Ductless Heat Pump Project and GoingDuctless.com website, including the Find-an-Installer page, will retire.
Homeowners: Visit your local utility website or ComfortReadyHome.com/homeowners to access resources and discover energy-efficient home upgrades, find local contractors, and take advantage of utility incentives.
Contractors: Contact your local electric utilities and visit BetterBuiltNW.com/resources or ComfortReadyHome.com/contractors for ductless heat pump resources. You can direct your customers to their local electrical utility for resources and available incentives.