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Can a Mini Split Handle Boston Winters?


There are drawbacks to ductwork. Damage or just slow deterioration over time can cause massive inefficiency, and they aren’t the most efficient way to distribute warmth or coolness to begin with. And then there’s the fact that many homes in New England simply weren’t built with ductwork and have never had it added.

The mini split, a ductless system, is ideal for either eliminating old ducts or for modernizing and air conditioning homes that never had ductwork. A mini split is available as a heat pump, which provides both cooling and heating. But can it provide enough heat for a Boston winter? Keep reading to learn the answer!

How Heat Pumps Work

These amazing systems operate on the same basic concept as an air conditioner. Refrigerant moves through coils, carrying heat from one place to another. A part called a reversing valve makes it possible to switch the direction of refrigerant flow, so you can either direct heat away from your home or conduct it into your home.

It may seem hard to believe that you can warm a home in chilly weather by using refrigerant. The trick is that the outdoor air doesn’t need to be warmer than your indoor air for the system to work. The temperature outdoors just needs to be higher than the temperature of the super-cool refrigerant, because it operates via temperature differential.

Mini Split Efficiency

While a ducted system puts all the heating or cooling power in one spot, and then distributes the warm or cold air through ducts, a ductless system’s refrigerant coils split when they enter the home. Air is heated or cooled right at each individual air handler, and there can be several in a home. 

The directness of the system prevents the air from changing temperature as it gradually travels through ducts, so it’s perfectly warm or cool with no waste. And with a thermostat at each air handler, you can heat or cool your home in zones, avoiding the excess energy use of keeping the whole home at your ideal temperature when you’re only occupying one zone. 

Heat Pump Efficiency

The reason that a heat pump is the most efficient way to heat your home is that it does not generate heat at all. Generating heat uses a huge amount of energy. However, simply moving it from one place to another only uses a tiny bit of energy.

Unfortunately, as the outdoor temperature gets colder, especially at temperatures that stay consistently below 40°F, the heat pump’s heating efficiency drops. It’s no longer the least-wasteful and most-cost-efficient way to heat your home. So what can you do?

Hybrid Systems

A hybrid system is a way of taking advantage of the incredible efficiency of a heat pump for as much of the year as possible without sacrificing your warmth and efficiency during the coldest part of the winter. It adds a backup heating system which comes on when the temperature is too low, and it automatically switches back to using the heat pump as soon as it would be the more efficient approach.

Hybrid systems for ducted heat pumps use a gas furnace to provide forced hot air through ducts. With a ductless system, though, adding a small electric heater is the ideal mini split alternative in Boston. If you want high heating efficiency, easy operation, total comfort control in separate zones of your home, and air conditioning as well, this is the way to go.

Reach out to Cooling Unlimited, Inc. to speak with qualified heating experts.

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