Ductless mini-splits are currently ranked among the most efficient sources of indoor heating and cooling. After all, these systems bypass HVAC ductwork entirely to deliver heated or cooled air directly into the rooms that need it. They’re also zoned to prevent energy waste and ensure customized comfort in every area. However, they do have their limitations. This is especially true in exceedingly cold regions. Read on to find out more about using a ductless mini-split in your Grand Rapids, MI home for winter heating.
Mini-Splits and Optimal Operating Conditions
Although ductless mini-splits are widely lauded for their impressive levels of efficiency, it’s important to understand what these systems can and can’t do. Also known as ductless mini-split heat pumps, they moderate indoor temperatures via heat transfer rather than actually producing heated or cooled air. In the summer, a mini-split heat pump will provide reliable and cost-effective home cooling by extracting heat from the interior of your house and releasing it outdoors.
In winter, mini-splits must have an adequate amount of outdoor heat to transfer inside. Fortunately, mini-splits continue working at high levels of efficiency even when outside temperatures are fairly cold. For most mini-splits, optimal or ideal operating conditions are when outside temperatures are at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. When temperatures drop below this point, some mini-splits may struggle to source enough heat to keep entire houses warm. Moreover, their efficiency levels will progressively decline. The lower that outside temperatures become, the longer a mini-split will have to run in order to achieve the temperature settings at its thermostats. This means that it will use more energy and home energy bills will invariably rise.
In some instances, mini-splits might run all the time without ever creating a comfortable indoor environment. Thus, when local temperatures are exceedingly low or they have the potential to plummet, it’s generally best to have another primary heating solution such as a furnace or boiler, and a mini-split as a backup heating plan.
There Are Mini-Splits That Can Do the Job
There are ductless mini-splits that can continue performing well even in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, Grand Rapids has an average low of 19 degrees Fahrenheit in January, and there are some weeks in winter where temperatures can fall as low as three degrees. This is why many Michigan residents take advantage of ductless mini-splits for summertime cooling and only occasionally rely on these systems for heating in the winter. Attempting to use a mini-split for heating during the coldest points of the year not only compromises indoor comfort, but it can also place a lot of undue stress on your equipment.
When Are Ductless Mini-Splits Good for Heating in Grand Rapids?
There are definitely occasions in which a ductless mini-split can prove its worth as an alternative heating source. For instance, these systems work well on moderately cold days when indoor heating is needed, but there is still enough heat outside for the unit to source. Mini-splits are also helpful for warming up rooms that are under-serviced by central heating systems or not serviced by them at all. For instance, if you have a finished basement, attic, or garage that you use as a workshop, home office, home gym, or den, you could use a mini-split to periodically heat this space. In limited applications like these, ductless mini-splits can provide the additional benefit of humidity regulation and air filtration.
Heating Emergencies and Ductless Mini-Splits
There are also times when having a mini-split installed can come in handy even if you don’t normally rely on it for heating. If you install a mini-split for the sole purpose of cooling your house in the summer, you’ll be grateful for its dual functionality if your furnace or boiler fails mid-winter. Even on an extremely cold day, the temporary heating that a mini-split provides could prove life-saving while waiting for HVAC technicians to arrive.
Every Home and Mini-Split System Is Unique
Every home deserves a needs-specific heating solution. If you don’t have existing HVAC ductwork or if your HVAC ductwork is no longer functional, using a mini-split instead of retroffiting your house with ducting can be very appealing. With the correct model and the right level of cold-weather capabilities, it’s possible for some Michigan homeowners to use ductless mini-splits as primary heat sources. This is especially true when homes have tight envelopes or are well-insulated against the outside cold, and when they have supplementary heat sources such as gas fireplaces and limited, livable areas. The only way to know for certain whether a ductless heat pump is the right choice in primary heating for your property is by scheduling a consultation appointment.
The Benefits of Using a Mini-Split on Moderately Cold Days
On moderately cold days, using your ductless mini-split in lieu of your furnace or boiler is great way to save cash. It’s also an opportunity to protect and improve your indoor air quality. By bypassing HVAC ductwork and distributing air directly into individual zones or rooms, mini-splits don’t circulate the same allergens and other airborne contaminants that are commonly circulated by forced-air heat distribution systems. This is especially true in instances in which HVAC air ducts are advanced in age or poorly maintained. If you ever have a house guest with asthma, allergies, COPD, or any other chronic respiratory ailment, the flexibility of being able to switch over to a ductless heating system can prove helpful.
One of the greatest benefits of ductless mini-split systems is the ability to enjoy customized indoor comfort. While central furnaces and boilers heat buildings uniformly, ductless systems are zoned to heat individual rooms or zones as needed. Each room or zone throughout your home can have its own air handler for air distribution, along with its own thermostat for temperature control. This works well in households with residents who have dramatically different preferences and needs for indoor temperatures. Building residents can turn their air handlers off even as other residents keep theirs on. This also means that you don’t have to spend money to heat or cool spaces throughout your house that no one is actively using.
Having a ductless mini-split installed is also n excellent way to cut your summertime cooling costs. During the warmer months of the year, you won’t have to rely on your home’s HVAC ductwork to distribute cooled air, and you won’t have to deal with the related airborne contaminants or energy loss. In winter, a ductless mini-split can supply heat to areas of your house that aren’t serviced by your central furnace or boiler. It can also provide whole-house heating during times when outside temperatures are 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Best of all, if your primary heating system ever goes out during a cold spell, you’ll have another way to keep building residents safe and acceptably warm until help arrives.
Since 1961, Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling has been providing reliable heating and cooling services to residents of Grand Rapids, MI and the surrounding areas. We also offer indoor air quality services and ductless mini-split systems. If you’re interested in learning more about using a ductless mini-split for heating or if you want to find out whether a mini-split is right for your home, call us today to schedule an appointment.