HVAC technician performing mini-split service

When searching for a heating and cooling system for your residence, it’s critical to choose one that balances efficiency, functionality and the impact on your wallet. That’s why many families use mini-splits for climate control in their home.

Mini-splits—often known as ductless mini-splits—offer many advantages that make them a popular choice for both homes and businesses. They're very energy efficient, decreasing energy consumption and saving on utility bills, because they eliminate the energy losses associated with the ductwork found in traditional HVAC systems. They also make it possible for users to tailor the temperature in each room, improving overall comfort while conserving energy.

If you’re contemplating mini-split installation in Sacramento, it’s necessary to first determine if these devices are recommended for your living situation. Here, we’ll investigate how mini-splits stack up against other heating and cooling methods.

What a Mini-Split Is and How It Works

A mini-split, or ductless mini-split, is a heating and cooling device that does not use ductwork. It's a popular choice in homes that don't have existing air ducts and for homes with rooms that aren’t served well by the home's existing HVAC system.

A mini-split system consists of two primary components: an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling component. These are connected by a conduit carrying the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing and a condensate drain.

Here's how it works: the outside compressor circulates the refrigerant necessary for heat exchange throughout the coils and the air handler. The in-house unit draws in air from the room, cools or heats it over the coils and pushes the conditioned air back into the room.

Mini-Split vs. Central Air

Mini-splits provide targeted cooling in certain rooms or zones of your residence. They are known for energy efficiency because they only provide hot or cold air for the areas you desire. However, they sometimes don't blend seamlessly into every decor due to their wall-mounted indoor units.

Conversely, a central air system uniformly conditions your entire home, producing consistent comfort levels throughout. Its ductwork is hidden away, preserving the aesthetics of your home. But it might not be as energy efficient as a mini-split, especially in quite sizeable homes or residences where certain rooms may not need nonstop conditioning.

Mini-Split vs. Window AC/Window Unit

Mini-splits are usually more energy efficient and quieter than a window air conditioning unit and are useful for cooling air in multiple rooms. This is why mini-splits are a convenient choice for numerous homeowners. They also use a form of refrigerant that is more environmentally safe, decreasing their environmental impact. These devices can even add value to your home due to their reliable nature and remarkable cooling capabilities. However, they come with a greater purchase price.

Having said that, window air conditioners are less expensive up front. They are often a good fit for homes that are not able to accommodate a central air system or for people with budget constraints. Even with these advantages, window units can use up to 40% more energy than ductless mini-split systems and typically make more noise.

Mini-Split vs. Portable AC

The answer to what is better, a ductless mini-split or a portable air conditioning unit, is dependent on your main concerns. If your main considerations are energy efficiency and ability to quickly cool a room, a mini-split is considered far superior to a portable AC unit. However, if funding is a significant concern, a portable AC is less expensive.

Mini-Split vs. Gas Furnace

Choosing between a mini-split system and a gas furnace depends on a variety of factors which can include the climate in your city, home size, energy efficiency preferences and how much you plan on spending.

A mini-split system typically is more energy efficient than a gas furnace. It can heat and cool targeted areas inside of your home, providing custom climate control in specific rooms. Mini-splits also are for the most part quieter and have a greater up-front cost, but their operating costs are usually lower due to their better energy efficiency.

However, a gas furnace can be a highly effective heating remedy, particularly in colder climates where mini-split heat pumps may struggle to maintain comfort levels in the bitter cold. Even though they are less energy efficient than mini-splits, gas furnaces typically are not as expensive. Having said that, their operating costs can be higher, especially if natural gas prices jump up.

Mini-Split vs. Heat Pump

Mini-splits and heat pumps function with the concept of heat transfer. They are both energy efficient, but a heat pump's air ducts can use more power. However, the choice between a mini-split and a heat pump often depends on a family's needs and circumstances.

For example, if you live in a warmer climate and mainly need cooling, a mini-split system might be a better choice. On the other hand, if you require both heating and cooling and already have ductwork in place, a heat pump could be a more efficient option.

Mini-Split vs. Space Heater

With regards to heating and cooling a home, mini-splits and space heaters each have merits. However, for total efficiency, versatility, comfort and safety, mini-splits outperform space heaters. Mini-splits have superior energy efficiency due to the fact they deliver conditioned air straight to different zones and can serve multiple rooms at once.

Space heaters are a great deal less expensive to buy but are typically used only for heating a small area or an individual room. They also are usually less energy efficient. Unlike mini-splits, space heaters do not deliver cooling. The most significant drawback for space heaters is the risk of fire. Experts say some 1,700 fires each year involve space heaters.