Winter temperatures often dip well below freezing in Randallstown, MD. Because of this, homes require an efficient and high-functioning heating system. As consumers throughout the nation increasingly focus on cutting both their carbon footprints and their spending, ductless mini-split systems are gaining popularity. In the right conditions, mini-splits can heat and cool entire buildings while maintaining efficiency levels as high as 300%. However, mini-split systems also have a reputation for underperforming when the temperature outside plummets. Read on to find out why they remain a preferred heating solution in the region despite common cold-weather challenges.
The Highly Efficient Design of Ductless Mini-Split Systems
In large part, ductless mini-splits owe their efficiency to their flexible, duct-free designs. After all, ducted HVAC systems can lose up to 40% of their heating and cooling energy through their ductwork. With mini-split air handlers in every zone or room, heated and cooled air doesn’t have to travel far. Instead, conditioned air is dispersed right where it’s produced.
There’s also the fact that each air handler in the home has its own independently controlled thermostat. This allows residents to establish their preferred temperatures in their immediate areas. It also eliminates the need to heat and cool spaces that are empty.
During the summer months, a ductless mini-split heat pump functions just like an air conditioner. It gathers warm air from the building interior, passes it over its cooling coil, and then distributes it after extracting its heat. In winter, simply toggling a switch will set your mini-split to work in reverse. Rather than collecting warm air from inside the building, it will harness heat from the outdoors.
Unlike oil-fired and gas-fired boilers and furnaces, these units don’t burn any fuel, and they don’t produce harmful exhaust gases. The heat transfer process that they use is currently among the most efficient heating methods available.
Common Cold-Weather Challenges for Ductless Mini-Splits
Air-source ductless mini-split systems source their heat from the outdoor air. This creates an obvious challenge when the outside temperature is freezing or below freezing. However, even basic mini-split systems rise to the occasion. Low-cost models can harness outdoor heat even when the temperature is as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like air conditioners, mini-splits have outdoor condenser units. In a mini-split system, a single condenser can service multiple indoor air handlers rather than just one. However, its outside location makes this component vulnerable to problems like icing over and freezing when temperatures drop too low. This is especially true of entry-level mini-splits, which aren’t built for cold-weather climates. These models work best in regions with moderate winter weather.
Higher-performing mini-splits can continue sourcing outdoor heat even when temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. These mid-efficiency models can keep most building interiors at a safe, comfortable temperature in freezing conditions, but they aren’t impervious to freezing themselves. To keep their coils sufficiently warm, HVAC technicians often install base pan heaters just beneath their outdoor coils. The addition of these preventative components increases the amount of energy that mini-split systems use overall, but they also ensure that homeowners aren’t at risk of experiencing heating emergencies.
Entry-Level and Mid-Efficiency Systems vs. Low-Ambient Mini-Splits
Given that temperatures in Randallstown rarely dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, most residents can get by with mid-efficiency mini-splits. Mid-efficiency mini-splits won’t freeze over and stop working at this temperature if they have base pan heaters. However, they will experience significant losses in efficiency. The lower the outside temperatures drop, the harder these systems work. Even at just 20 degrees Fahrenheit, most models are in danger of dipping below 100% efficiency. Comparatively, entry-level options offer 100% efficiency until temperatures drop below 30 degrees. There are also limited strategies for keeping entry-level units from freezing.
To keep your household protected and warm during abnormally cold weather in Randallstown, installing a low-ambient mini-split is the best choice. These mini-splits are designed to withstand extreme cold. They have anti-freezing capabilities built right into them and don’t require base pan heaters. They maintain efficiency levels of 100% or higher at zero degrees Fahrenheit. Best of all, freezing or icing over doesn’t become a concern until the outside temperature dives well into the negatives.
There Are Multiple Ways to Use a Ductless Mini-Split for Heating
The right ductless mini-split system can heat your entire home during times of extreme winter weather. However, whole-house heating isn’t the only application for mini-split systems. These units also work great for heating up and cooling down remote areas of buildings that don’t get service from central HVAC systems. These include:
- Finished basements
- Attic bedrooms or offices
- In-law apartments
- Attached garages
- Garden rooms
Installing a mini-split system to service these spaces will limit stress on your ducted heater by preventing warm air from migrating into colder areas of the building. It will also keep these spaces both usable and comfortable when the outside temperature plummets or soars. In addition to regulating indoor temperatures, mini-splits also regulate humidity, ventilate rooms, and provide modest indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements.
Important Cost Considerations When Going Ductless
The major drawback of using mini-split systems for whole-house or remote heating is their higher upfront costs. A low-ambient mini-split system will cost quite a bit more than a central heater or heat pump. However, the cost of installing this equipment could be much lower. For instance, if you live in an older home that doesn’t have HVAC ducts, you’ll pay less for mini-split installation than you would for both new furnace installation and ductwork retrofitting.
In environments like these, mini-split systems also prove cheaper to operate than inefficient baseboard or wall heaters. Additionally, they create far fewer points of ingress for rodents and other pests. In this way, they often pay for themselves over time.
Another important thing to note about these innovative heating and cooling systems is that they can also have a major impact on both the marketability and value of your property. Given their high levels of efficiency, aesthetically pleasing designs, and customized climate control, mini-split systems are highly appealing to many prospective buyers.
Using a Mini-Split as a Supplemental or Alternative Heating Solution
If you already have a central heating solution and simply want to refine the delivery of heated air for greater cost-effectiveness over time, mini-split systems work great for supplemental heating. You can use your mini-split in early fall when the outside weather is mild and then switch to your central heater after the mercury takes a dive.
Supplemental heating with mini-splits is also an excellent choice for homeowners who rely on oil-fired or gas-fired furnaces and want a way to stay warm when oil or gas prices experience hikes. Having two functional heating systems in your home greatly reduces the likelihood of dangerous heating emergencies. It will also give you greater control over your wintertime energy bills.
We here at HB Home Service Team are committed to helping homeowners in Randallstown, MD, make informed decisions about their home heating and cooling systems. We offer top-notch heating, cooling, and plumbing services. We also provide carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and well pump services. To find out about our preventative maintenance plans or to schedule an appointment, contact HB Home Service Team today.