What Is A Mini-Split Heat Pump? (Meaning + Advantages)

A mini-split heat pump, also known as a ductless mini-split pump system, works similarly to a traditional heat pump, connecting an outdoor compressor to an indoor unit. However, it requires no ductwork. They are designed to cover smaller sections of your home rather than the entire structure.

Some of the most notable features that define mini-split heat pump systems are:

  • Mini-split heat pumps connect an outdoor compressor to an indoor unit;
  • Mini-split heat pumps do not use air ducts;
  • Due to the ductless system, the heating and cooling effects are limited to smaller sections of the home;
  • Upfront costs are higher, but operating costs are lower than other HVAC systems;
  • They are more energy-efficient than other HVAC systems

So, let’s examine chrome of the features of mini-split heat pumps, the costs involved, and whether it is the right system to install in your home.

Heat pumps fan outside in snow

How Does A Mini-Split Heat Pump Work?

A mini-split heat pump is an air conditioning unit that transfers heat in two directions. When in cooling mode, it transfers (or pumps) hot air from inside the home outside, and when in heating mode, it transfers heat from outside the home and transfers it inside.

Mini-split heat pumps are popular HVAC units that function similarly to traditional heat pumps by transferring air between an indoor unit and an outdoor compressor. However, they do not require air ducts, which is why they’re commonly referred to as ductless mini-split heat pumps.

This means, however, that the air conditioning effects of a mini-split heat pump are limited to smaller spaces and will not cover your entire home.

Instead, most people opt for a mini-split heat pump as an HVAC system for a small section of the home, such as a room where no air ducts have been added on after a home renovation.

What Does A Mini-Split Heat Pump Cost To Install?

Due to advanced technology and installation costs, mini-split heat pump HVAC systems have higher upfront costs than other HVAC systems. You can expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 to $8,500 for a mini-split heat pump system. However, you may also qualify for various tax incentives, which can offset the upfront costs.

When you want to work out the costs of a mini-split, there is a wide range of options for the system itself that can cost between $700 and $7,000, depending on what you’re looking for. Installation costs, however, will cost you an extra $800-$1,500 for each zone that you plan to install the system in.

This may seem like a lot of money. Still, when you factor in the advanced, energy-efficient technology that goes into the mini-split heat pump and the specialized process of installing not only the indoor unit but for the outdoor compressor, it starts to make sense.

Tax Incentives

However, the good news is that, due to the energy efficiency that mini-split heat pumps provide, the government has created several tax incentives for anyone who opts to install these instead of other HVAC systems.

The maximum tax credit for any mini-split system, packaged unit, heat pump, or central air conditioner is $300. Alternatively, you can also apply for a tax credit equal to 10% of your mini-split heat pump’s price with a maximum credit of $500.

So, fortunately, tax credits will slightly reduce the cost of installing the system, and you have the bonus of doing what’s good for the planet.

What Are The Utility Costs Of Mini-Split Heat Pumps?

The cost to run a mini-split heat pump HVAC system is far lower than other HVAC systems. It depends on BTUs and the Wattage of your system, but you can expect to pay between $0.23 per hour and $0.91 per hour for a 1,758 W 6,000 BTU Mini Split AC and a 7,033 W 24,000 BTU Mini Split AC, respectively.

These prices are based on the national average utility costs of $0.13 per kilowatt-hour (KWh). The prices will vary depending on where you live and the system you have in place, but you can calculate the costs with a BTU to Watts calculator found online.

The US Department of Energy claims that you can save up to 30% on your utility bills by converting from a central HVAC system to a mini-split system.

When Should You Opt For A Mini-Split Heat Pump?

Mini-split heat pumps are most suitable for home add-ons and renovations, smaller homes, historic homes, and older homes with no existing duct systems.

Anyone can opt to install a mini-split heat pump in their home, but, as we’ve explained throughout this article, a mini-split heat pump is most effective in smaller, isolated parts of the home.

Unlike a central HVAC system with air ducts, which can heat or cool your entire home, mini-split heat pumps are intended to cool down a single room.

Cooper & Hunter MIA Series, Mini Split Air Conditioner and Heater, 12,000 BTU, 115V,...
  • Cooper&Hunter Mia Series 12,000 BTU, 20 SEER, 20.8 SEER2, 110V, 1 Ton Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner with Heat Pump, UL Listed, AHRI...
  • Pre-charged with refrigerant. Works for heating with ambient temperature up to 5F°.
  • System comes with an Installation Kit including 16ft Pre-Flared and Insulated Copper Line Set, 16ft Communication Wires between Indoor and...

Multiple Systems

If you can afford it, it is possible to set up a Mini-split HVAC system with multiple zones, but it requires purchasing and installing multiple systems, which will not be centrally controlled.

So, if you need to heat and cool a single room, or a smaller space like a study, a mini-split heat pump would be the most suitable option.

Or, if you have an existing central heating system and have renovated and added a room to your home, a mini-split may be a better option than doing a complete overhaul of your entire system just to accommodate a single room.

Or, if you live in an older home that hasn’t been built to accommodate duct systems, a mini-split may be more suitable for you.

And finally, if you live in a historic home that cannot support the latest HVAC systems, a mini-split heat pump is a great alternative that will not compromise your existing structures since they don’t require ducts.


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