Mini Split Heat Pump:
Frequently Asked Questions

What is a mini split heat pump?

How is a mini split different from a conventional heat pump?

Should I purchase a mini split, conventional, or geothermal heat pump?

What are the advantages of a mini split?

What are the disadvantages of mini split heat pumps?

Who are the mini split manufacturers?

What Is a Mini Split Heat Pump?

A mini split heat pump is a device that can heat and cool your home or office.  Mini split is also known by another name.....ductless heat pump.

Pictured above is an example of the indoor portion of the equipment and below is an example of the outdoor portion.

Why is it called "mini split"?

These devices often contain many indoor units "split" across one outdoor unit by routing refrigerant piping to each section.

What is the benefit of this "split"?

The indoor units often have small heating and cooling capacities.  

So one indoor unit may be big enough only to handle the climate needs of one or two rooms (thus the term "mini").

Therefore, instead of using several outdoor units, an owner can purchase one outdoor unit that can handle the cooling or heating needs of up to 8 indoor units.

How Is a Mini Split Different From a Conventional Heat Pump?

Below are some of the similarities and differences between mini split systems and conventional heat pumps:

  • Conventional heat pumps typically use on outdoor unit for every indoor unit.
  • The outdoor unit of a mini split system is essentially the same as the outdoor unit of a conventional heat pump.
  • Unless it is specified before purchase, the mini split system does not contain ductwork.  Each indoor unit is placed with the space that it is conditioning.  So each indoor unit contains a small fan to control the airflow within its own space.

    A conventional heat pump places the indoor unit (air coil) inside the ductwork, typically downstream from an existing furnace if it exists.
  • As it stands in today's market, the mini split heat pump is available with better energy efficiency than a conventional heat pump.
  • In order to "split" a number of indoor units across one outdoor unit, a branch box is required for proper control of the system and refrigerant.

Should I Purchase a Mini Split, Conventional, Geothermal Heat Pump?

Unfortunately, this is not a "one answer fits all" solution!

But we have provided some aspects below that may help you to arrive at a proper decision.

  • When comparing a conventional heat pump, a mini split heat pump, and a geothermal heat pump.....the initial start-up cost of a geothermal heat pump will be more expensive that a conventional or mini split.  However, be sure to research tax and utility rebates, rates, and credits before making a final decision.  See this tax incentive website to determine what rebates and credits are available in your state.
  • The installation cost of a new mini split system is generally less expensive than a conventional system IF there is not existing ductwork.  IF the ductwork already exists the cheaper option is generally a conventional heat pump.
  • A geothermal heat pump (if installed correctly) is more energy efficient than a mini split.  

    So if you decide on a geothermal heat pump, be sure to hire a reputable contractor to install the ground loop correctly!

  • A mini split (if the heat load is calculated correctly) is more energy efficient than a conventional heat pump.

    So if you decide on a mini split heat pump, be sure to hire a reputable engineer or experienced technician to calculate a correct heat load!
  • If you plan to operate your heat pump in temperature below 40 F, beware!  A conventional heat pump is not energy efficient below 40 F. Often it utilizes auxiliary heat which can be very expensive. 

    A number of mini split systems (such as Mitsubishi) are able to maintain good energy efficiency at temperatures of 15 F and below.

    Some owners complain that their geothermal heat pump does not perform well in lower temperatures.  Theoretically, if the installer knows what they are doing THIS SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.
  • A conventional (ducted) heat pump can lose up to 35% of its energy in the ductwork alone.  So mini split, ductless heat pump can save the homeowner a lot in energy cost.
  • In the end, the decision between conventional, mini split, and geothermal heat pumps can be location-dependent.  It is usually best to get the professional opinion of a local, reputable contractor.

What Are the Advantages of a Mini Split Heat Pump?

  • As long as the outdoor unit has the capacity, it is easy to "add-on" to the heating and cooling needs of an existing house or building.
  • The energy efficiency of a mini split heat pump is fantastic.  The best mini splits available claim a SEER of up to 26 and an HSPF of up to 10.5!
  • There is no large ductwork occupying valuable space.  No ductwork also saves on energy.   
  • Often one indoor unit is used for every one or two rooms in a house or building.  This results in great room-by-room climate control.  
  • The outdoor unit of a mini split is usually quieter than a conventional heat pump.
  • There are many indoor unit styles available to accommodate varying architectural and functional needs.  You can purchase wall-mounted (most common), floor mounted, ceiling recessed, or horizontal ducted (to connect to existing ductwork) indoor units.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Mini Split Heat Pump?

  • As discussed above, the start-up cost of a mini split system is generally more expensive than a conventional system.
  • An over-sized mini split can be very bad and can cause greater energy costs than a conventional heat pump.  
  • Since the indoor unit contains a small fan, this can add noise to an indoor space.  While manufacturers claim that the noise is equivalent to a whisper, some owners do complain about the noise.
  • The indoor unit is impossible to hide.  Many architects and interior designers do not like mini split units.

Who Are the Mini Split Manufacturers?

  • Mitsubishi mini split 
  • Sanyo mini split 
  • Toshiba mini split 
  • Lennox mini split 
  • Gree Industries mini split 
  • Fujitsu mini split 
  • Ambiance mini split 
  • Panasonic mini split
  • Goodman mini split
  • American Standard mini split
  • Trane mini split
  • York mini split
  • Heil mini split
  • Bryant mini split
  • Coleman mini split
  • Frigidaire mini split
  • Tempstar mini split

Return to Types of Heat Pumps

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.