Hand with remote control directed on the conditioner

Mini-Split Air Conditioners: Are They Energy Efficient?

Hand with remote control directed on the conditioner

In 1933, Willis Carrier released the first air conditioning unit, which utilized a blower and belt-driven condensing unit to cool the atmosphere in a room. Almost 90 years later, his invention is more important than he could have imagined. But, how do you stay comfortable and save money when cooling your home?

One solution is a split system, which has many advantages over other air conditioning systems. Read on as we discuss why it’s essential to consider an energy-efficient mini air conditioner. 

What Is a Mini-Split Air Conditioner?

Mini-split air conditioning is an HVAC system that uses individual units in each room, which connect to the same outside compressor and condenser. They don’t require lots of expensive and hard-to-install ductwork; they’re wall-mounted, and they take up little space. All they need is a minor hole drilling into the wall that lets out the drain lines and power cables.

How Does a Mini Split Air Conditioner Work?

There are two elements to a mini split air conditioner. The outdoor compressor unit is inherent in any system, which cycles refrigerant around the property.

Inside the home is a system that pushes out the hot or cold air. When a mini split heats your home, it collects heat from outside using a heat pump, which is transferred inside.

Regarding cooling, heat is collected from the living space and transferred via refrigerant to the outside. This chemical is key to the process, as it changes from gas to solid depending on where it is in the cycle. 

Heat can be removed by condensing, expanding, compressing, and evaporating. The compressor determines how quickly this cycle happens, making it vital to the system. A condenser coil in the outdoor unit disperses this into the atmosphere.

What Are the Benefits of a Mini-Split Air Conditioner?

The main advantage of a mini-split air conditioner is that you can use it for zoned cooling. Units can be programmed individually so that you can have lower temperatures in one room than in others. Depending on the property type, some systems may include up to four indoor handling units. 

Mini-split units are also much easier to install than other units. You don’t need ductwork, and you don’t need to punch large holes in the wall as you do with wall AC units. Connecting conduits can often run for some length, usually around 15 meters, so that you can use them in sizable properties. 

With modern, sleek designs, mini-splits fit onto a wall discreetly and are more aesthetically pleasing than portable AC units and window air conditioners. You don’t have to occupy floor space or large ducts around the walls and ceiling. 

Additionally, mini splits are exceptionally quiet. You won’t hear the whirr and hum of ducted systems, and most will have a decibel level of around 32.

Is a Mini-Split Air Conditioner Energy Efficient?

Having zoned cooling will save you money. You only need to heat the areas you want to the desired temperature, unlike other systems which may provide uniform cooling. This level of control means you will use less power. 

As these systems don’t use ductwork, they don’t suffer from the losses associated with ducted central air conditioners. Depending on how the system is laid out, you can lose up to 30% of forced air. This loss isn’t a problem with a mini split which delivers air directly where you need it.

The way a mini split moves heat through refrigerant is also energy efficient. As it takes heat from the evaporator coil, it can transfer more between indoor and outdoor units. 

The US Department of Energy states that a ductless mini-split system can produce 30% less energy than alternatives. If you spend $100 of energy per month using your heating and cooling, that is a monthly saving of $30. Over a year, this equates to $360.

Disadvantages of a Mini-Split Air Conditioners

One of the disadvantages of a mini-split system is that it may be more expensive to install than other systems. If you already have ductwork, getting a more energy-efficient ducted system is more cost-effective from the initial outlay standpoint. 

Though not a disadvantage, it’s vital that the correct size is determined for the units. Too small, the units will work overtime, using energy and failing to cool the room to the desired temperature.

Use too large a unit, which will cool too quickly, using excess power. It also won’t have enough time to dehumidify the space properly. 

Also, consider that energy ratings and savings will only apply if the units are placed in optimal positions. An HVAC technician will know how to put them in areas where they heat and cool spaces efficiently. Keep in mind that split systems are as good as the insulation in the home. 

How Does an Energy Efficient Mini Air Conditioner Compare to Central Systems?

Both of these units feature an outdoor compressor. The compressor is where the hot air and moisture exit the home. However, internally they work in quite different ways. 

With central air systems, the refrigerant travels to the indoor unit. Cool air is pushed out through the ducts and vents, using more energy. Some cooled air will inevitably warm before it reaches its destination, resulting in more energy use. 

A mini split delivers cool air directly where you need it, preventing considerable energy loss.

Is the Technology in a Mini Split Air Conditioner More Energy Efficient?

Even if your system is only five to ten years old, you will find more energy efficiency in a new unit. Much research and development have occurred during this time, meaning new systems are far superior. 

Firstly, they use voltage converters. As DC power is more efficient than an AC current, convertors in the system transfer these power-making savings. 

Mini split units also have inverters, allowing your AC to run at low levels. Older systems without inverters only enable the system to be on or off, operating at full power or not at all.

What Ratings to Look Out for When Buying an Air Conditioner

When buying an energy-efficient mini split air conditioner, you should look for a few ratings. These ratings ensure you get the best product that provides the most in savings.

SEER Rating

One rating to check is the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The SEER rating is a guideline provided by the AC, Refrigeration, and Heating Institute to rate the energy efficiency of a product. European products will have a similar one called ESEER.

Ideally, any system with this rating should have it between 16 to 30. Mini split systems will usually be between 20 to 29.

Energy Star

An energy star rating shows that a product meets federal guidelines on energy efficiency. These guidelines can often be quite strict, ensuring you get the most effective products. You can find such ratings on refrigerators, air purifiers, and AC units. 

Generally, products with an Energy Star rating will be 10% to 20% more energy efficient than products that do not carry the rating. This increased efficiency helps you save money while reducing your carbon footprint.

Energy Guide

The energy guide label is different from star ratings, which helps you understand a unit’s energy costs and make comparisons. You can save money by getting an AC unit with excellent energy guide ratings.

This label shows typical usage in kilowatt hours per year under average conditions. Lower numbers will be better for your utility bills.

Maintaining an Energy Efficient Mini Air Conditioner

Central systems require a certain amount of maintenance. As they age, ducts deteriorate and need resealing, cleaning, and insulating. Not all of this is easy to do yourself, so you may need an expert to do it for you. 

Mini-splits don’t require as much and will save you money in this way. Replace the air filters approximately every six months and get an engineer to tune up the system before the humid and hot season begins.

Buying an Energy Efficient Mini Split Air Conditioner

Buying an energy-efficient mini air conditioner is easy if you get the right help. Check the local area for companies with great reviews. They will be able to advise you on the right size and type of system. 

Make Island Comfort Air Conditioning your first stop for HVAC in Hawaii. We have a range of heating, cooling, and insulation solutions. Contact us here to discuss your needs and schedule an appointment.

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