What is the Difference Between a Heat Pump and Mini Split Air Conditioner
What is the Difference Between a Heat Pump and Mini Split Air Conditioner? We will answer this topic more in detail below but to lay it out plain and simple:
A mini split A/C will perform cooling functions ONLY.
A mini split heat pump will perform BOTH heating and cooling functions.
That is basically what the difference between a heat pump and mini split air conditioner is but keep reading to learn all of the important details.
Why Choose a Ductless HVAC System?
When the mercury starts to drop or rise, many smart homeowners look for split-split systems to heat or cool their homes, not realizing how effective they can be when used throughout the year.
Heat pumps without ducts can provide heat in colder places as well as well as cool in warmer areas.
Potential mini split heat pump owners might want to add air conditioning and/or heating to a new room in the home or other non-ducted space. It is also possible to install them as an alternative to central air system.
These mini split heat pumps can be used anywhere to provide cold air in summer and warm air in winter.
Where are Split-Systems Used?
These mini split heat pumps and air conditioners can be used anywhere to provide cold air in summer and warm air in the winter.
Stand-alone cooling systems are generally found in warmer areas or such as the southern part of the United States, as well as in special applications such as server rooms.
If cooling features combined with a heat source are required, a mini-split cooling and heating system (heat pump) can be installed, which will provide cold air conditioning during the warmer seasons and a perfect amount of heat during colder seasons. An air conditioning only unit will provide cooling but not heating. This is really the only difference between a mini split and a heat pump.
A Mini Split Heat Pump May or May Not be the Right Choice…
Though they may seem versatile, heat pumps are not invincible nor are they the perfect solution for every application.
There is a limit to your heating capacity. This means that in the case of extremely low temperatures, even larger heat pumps may not be able to extract enough heat from the outside to heat the house.
These are ideal for most areas, as long as the outdoor temperature does not drop too low.
Some heating systems are able to provide heat at temperatures down to as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit, but most models are only effective when the temperature stays above 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The specific heating capacities are detailed on each of the individual mini split product pages for your convenience.
When the outdoor temperature drops too low, the system will not be able to extract enough external heat to function properly. However, you can always use a ductless heat pump in tandem with central heating when needed in a worst case scenario.
That being said, if you live in a really, really cold area a mini split heat pump might not be the best choice for your home.
Why Would Anyone Choose a Mini Split A/C for Cooling Only?
Why do you want a mini split a/c and not a heat pump? There are several reasons why some consumers and business choose to invest in a cooling only mini split.
Pretty much anywhere temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees is a great option for A/C only units.
If you simply want to add air conditioning to combat the heat and humidity, you may not need an air conditioner + heater (heat pump) combo.
We recommend that you consider a air-conditioning only a mini split cooling system if you live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate where it never gets cold.
Cooling only systems are designed to provide air conditioning and cooling to specific areas. However, if you’re ever cold, you’re not able to provide heat.
In most homes and offices, heat is desired only when temperatures inside drop below 65 degrees. If the room that you are adding a mini split too is well insulated, you may be able to use the heat from the rest of the home in areas where winters are mild.
If you do not need heat, a cooling unit will be perfect for your needs.
Mini Split and Heat Pump Usage in Speciality Rooms
A mini-split heat pump system can be used as as a backup to supplement a weak furnace or a/c unit. This is a common technique employed by homeowners in older, drafty homes that are not well insulated.
They are ideal for keeping cool a server room or any small area that houses temperature sensitive electronic equipment.
A sunroom (sometimes called an Arizona room) is a common place that you will see ductless heating and cooling units. Typically a sunroom is a screened or windowed-in porch. Because porches and patios are never ducted into the central HVAC system many homeowners have turned to mini splits to solve their heating and cooling needs.
Often times as a family grows so does the need for additional rooms. Many times a homeowner will decide that it is more cost effective to add-on a new room to their existing home rather than going through hassle of buying a new home. When this choice is made, they either have to spend a bunch of money paying an HVAC contractor to re-duct their home (and possibly have to get a larger central air unit) or simply use a mini split to control the climate in that particular add-on room.
A ductless mini split heat pump or A/C is a good choice for nice warm or cool areas, both dry climates and humid are good candidates.
How do heat pumps work, and what is the difference between mini split A/C and a heat pump?
All types of air conditioners cool your home by capturing the heat inside your home and pushing it outside. A heater works basically the same way but in reverse.
To achieve this, the unit starts by sending high-pressure liquid refrigerant through an expansion valve.
This refrigerant, now at a much lower pressure, is ready to evaporate into a gas and is directed to the evaporator coil in the indoor unit.
Inside the indoor unit, warm internal air flows through the evaporator coil fins, releasing the heat captured by the refrigerant inside and causing the refrigerant to evaporate.
This hot refrigerant gas returns to the compressor (located in the outdoor unit) where it is crushed.
Like a sponge, crushing the coolant causes it to release the heat it had absorbed inside the house towards the outside air that moves through the condenser coil that cools the house.
A heat pump system cools the home in exactly the same way but is also able to reverse the flow of refrigerant to absorb heat from the outside and bring it into the space that is heating up.
When reversed, the high-pressure liquid refrigerant continues to pass through the expansion valve, but then passes to the coil in the outdoor unit instead of the indoor unit.
In the external coil, this refrigerant evaporates and absorbs heat from the outside air.
The refrigerant, now a hot gas, passes through the compressor and into the indoor unit.
Again, at high pressure, the heat is extracted from the refrigerant and the air that moves through the internal coil brings this heat into your room.
The refrigerant now becomes a high-pressure liquid that can absorb more heat from the outside air.
Repeat. and Repeat. and Repeat. It’s that simple.
We know what you must think: “How does it absorb external heat in winter?” Pressurization is the key. But keep in mind that if you are located in an extremely cold environment, a heat pump might not work for you.
Unless it is extremely cold, the low-pressure refrigerant that is depressurized by the valve in the outdoor unit will absorb any heat that may be expanding. It takes very cold because the low-pressure refrigerant does not find heat.
So When it Comes Down to it, What’s the Difference Between a Heat Pump and a Mini Split A/C?
So if you want to know what is the difference between a heat pump and mini split air conditioner, you could say that all heat pumps are mini splits but some mini splits aren’t heat pumps.
Hopefully this guide has helped to answer the question what is the difference between a heat pump and mini split air conditioner.
If you still have questions about the key differences between mini split a/c units and heat pumps, or if you just want to learn more about mini split’s in general, check out some of our free other resources.