With mild winters, Birmingham residents lucked out when it comes to home heating options. A lot of people in the area opt to use heat pump systems, which can both heat and cool a home without the need of a separate furnace. However, with the growing popularity of mini-split systems, we have more customers asking if they are a good option for home heating. So, how do mini-splits stack up for keeping your home toasty warm?
Short answer: Yes, but Under Certain Circumstances
Mini-splits can be used to heat a home, with some caveats. These small, affordable systems tend to be great options for smaller spaces or spaces that don’t have access to ductwork. In other words, don’t expect to get energy-efficient heating for a home that has cathedral ceilings. Mini-splits are fantastic for homes that are older (i.e., cannot be retrofitted with ductwork), home additions, and workshops/garages.
Get the Right Size for Your Room
It is critical that you do your research on sizing a mini-split system before making a purchase. If you want to use mini-splits to heat your home, we highly recommend hiring a professional to assist with purchasing decisions and installation. One of the benefits of this type of system is their energy-efficiency. Incorrectly sized units waste this benefit. A unit that is too small will constantly run, while a unit that is too large will continuously turn on and off. That energy usage adds up to higher electric bills.
Having professional help means getting everything right the first time. They assess how you plan on using the equipment, whether or not you need multiple units, and where to install everything for prime energy-efficiency.
Do an Energy Audit on Your Space
If you decide on a mini-split for your home, you want to maximize the energy-efficiency benefits. Do an energy audit of the spaces where you plan to have the units installed. Check the doors and windows for drafts. Make sure the area is adequately insulated. If you have windows, take advantage of natural radiant heat from the Sun. A simple audit and some DIY improvements add up on your electric bill over time.
Remember, Mini-Splits are Different from Central Heating Systems
Talk to a professional about the differences between mini-splits and more familiar central air and heating system. One difference that homeowners notice is how often the system runs. For example, a central system uses a thermostat on a wall to control temperature. The thermostat for a mini-split is on the unit itself, which means you need to consider installation location when programming the temperature. If the unit is installed on the ceiling, warm air rises, meaning that you may not be comfortable, but the mini-split thermostat thinks the air in the room is warm and shuts off.
Another difference is that mini-split systems work more efficiently when left to run. Turning a mini-split down for the evening or when you go to work doesn’t save energy over the long run. It seems counterintuitive, but when you turn the system back on, it must work harder to bring the temperature in the room up to a comfortable level.
Keep the Outside Unit Clear of Ice or Snow
While we don’t get a lot of bad winter weather here in Alabama, the outdoor portions of a mini-split system need protection from snow and ice on the rare occasions we get them. Keeping the outdoor units clean helps the system run efficiently. If snow is sucked into the compressor, or if ice builds up on the outside, it forces the outdoor unit to use energy to clear these problems. In other words, the heat that should go into your home is instead being used to melt away outdoor winter debris.
Remember, Change the Filter
Whether you use a central heating system or a mini-split, one rule is the same: keep those filters clean! A clogged filter is one of the most common causes of HVAC service calls. When a mini-split doesn’t have clear airflow, its efficiency drops. The system must work harder to push heated air into your home, and that puts pressure on all the other parts in the mini-split. Over time, this leads to added wear-and-tear, as well as higher electric bills. So be sure to clean or replace the filter every 30 days for optimum operation.
Are you interested in using mini-splits to heat your home or office? Give us a call at (205) 871-8111 for a consultation!