A heat pump is a “greener” method of heating and cooling your home. Although they cost more at first, they are estimated to pay for themselves over the course of a few years, in reduced heating and cooling bills. To heat the home, they take heat from the outside, even during the winter, at temperatures of 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and bring the heat into your home. In the summer, a heat pump will remove heat from your home and propel it outside.
A mini-split heat pump is ideal for homes that don’t have ductwork for a central air conditioning or heating system. Depending on your model, you can have one outdoor unit that will distribute heat into 4 separate indoor units, to heat 4 different rooms in your house. Each unit can have an individual thermostat, so as to regulate each room’s temperature.
A mini-split heat pump provides heat and air conditioning, in a single device. The compressor is placed outdoors, while the expansion valve and air-handling unit are located indoors. Mini-split heat pumps are usually ductless, so it can save you the cost of installing air ducts throughout your home. (A fan suffices in distributing the hot or cold air.) They can also be hooked up to existing ductwork if you already have it installed in your house.
We’ve composed this buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when selecting a mini-split heat pump. It'll help you:
Choose the right type of mini-split heat pump,
See useful tips about that particular type of mini-split heat pump,
Read reviews of different mini-split heat pumps, and what customers are saying,
Select the right brand of a mini-split heat pump, and
Compare prices and find the best deals.
We can distinguish between the types of mini-split heat pumps by the number of zones that they treat:
Single Zone Mini-Split: This consists of one outdoor compressor unit, and one indoor unit.
Multi-Zone Mini-Split: This has several indoor units, so it will be suitable for heating and cooling several rooms in your home. It’s not uncommon to find a multi-zone unit that can handle 8 different zones!
We can also distinguish between how they are mounted:
Wall Mount: This is the most popular, due to their efficiency, low cost, and aesthetics. They can be installed in such a way, as in a picture frame, that you don’t even notice them!
Ceiling Cassette: This model is attached to the ceiling in the center of the room. It has the advantages of being somewhat inconspicuous, as well as distributing hot or cold air isotropically (= evenly in all directions).
Concealed Duct (or “Ceiling Concealed”): These are installed into the ceiling, where the only thing visible are the ducts that release the cool or hot air. These can be separated into different zones, to treat several rooms at once.
Ceiling Suspended: This is also attached to the ceiling, but typically adjacent to one of the walls in the room.
Floor Standing: This is good for a room with an angled or low ceiling. It sits on the floor, much like a radiator, with its back against a wall of the room.
Central Split: These are large, central units that sit on the floor and deliver hot or cold air through a system of ducts.
Cost: You pay more for a heat pump, with the initial cost ranging from $600 to $1,500. However, the device will pay for itself over within two to three years, since it doesn’t consume a lot of electricity.
Match the unit to your room size: If a mini-split heat pump is too large for the room, it will waste energy instead of conserving it, and won’t regulate temperature properly either. If the heat pump is too small, it will have to run extra amounts of time to properly heat and cool the room. Some provide the following guidelines when choosing a heat pump:
Room size from 250 sq. ft. - 450 sq. ft.: 9,000 BTUs
Room size from 550 sq. ft. - 800 sq. ft.: 12,000 BTUs
Room size from 750 sq. ft. - 1100 sq. ft.: 15,000 BTUs
Room size from 850 sq. ft. - 1250 sq. ft.: 18,000 BTUs
Control humidity as well: Since the water vapor content in the room is closely related to the temperature, if it doesn’t regulate temperature properly, it won’t regulate the humidity either. Another point is that there will probably be some condensate during the winter, due to the outdoor unit getting too cold. There should be some way of letting this condensate out of the device in a controlled manner.
Installation vs. DIY models: Some companies, such as Mr. Cool, make mini-split heat pumps that you can install yourself, to save on installation. The hole for the tubing that connects the indoor and outdoor units can be as small as 3” in diameter, which is not difficult to perform by yourself. Such a unit will efficiently cool or heat a space that is between 300- 525 square feet. You just have to mount the indoor and outdoor units--the refrigerant is already supplied in the device.
Safer from intruders: One disadvantage of an air conditioning unit that you put in a window is that an intruder can easily push the unit in and gain access to your house. Using a mini-split heat pump will serve the same purpose, without the risk of intrusion.
Noise: You don’t want your heat pump to be obnoxiously noisy. The best models will have most of the moving parts in the outdoor unit, so as to keep the noise out of your house. The Senville 24000 BTU Mini-Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump is made for quiet operation, so it’s perfect even for your bedroom!
Specifications on heat pumps: There are a number of important specs that tell you the efficiency of your heat pump:
The Coefficient of Performance (= COP): This is a measure of the ratio of how much heating (or cooling) the device provides, divided by the work required. The higher the COP, the more efficient and economical the pump--you can find some with a COP between 3.1-4.1.
SEER: SEER ( = Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) tells you how well the heat pump cools. The minimum SEER is 13, so you want your unit to have a higher rating than that, especially if you live in a hot climate.
HSPF: HSPF (= Heating Season Performance Factor) tells you how well the pump heats your house. The minimum HSPF rating is 7.7, and the maximum is 12.5. You want the HSPF to be as high as possible.
Goodman was founded in 1975 by Harold V. Goodman of San Antonio, Texas. They are presently a subsidiary of Daikin Group, which is based in Osaka, Japan. Originally, Goodman manufactured flexible air ducts, but then when into HVAC (= Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) solutions and gas heat products. They presently make air conditioners, heat pumps, and gas furnaces. Their heat pumps have louvered coil guards that protect the condenser coils, as well as filter dryers to remove any contaminants or excess moisture.
Senville is a maker of mini-split and multi-zone heat pumps, as well as air conditioners and water heaters. Their headquarters is located in Montreal, Quebec.
Pioneer, located in Doral, Florida, is a manufacturer of ductless mini-split heat pumps, in a variety of geometries: wall-mounted, ceiling cassette, floor-ceiling mounted, and floor mounted. They also make ducted heat pumps that are ceiling-concealed or central split design.
Fujitsu, founded in 1936 and with their headquarters in Kawasaki, Japan, is a manufacturer of single- and multi-room mini-split heat pumps, as well as air conditioners and gas furnaces.
MrCool is a maker of heat pumps, gas furnaces, and air conditioning systems. Some of their units support WiFi technology as well--you can operate them with your smartphone or tablet.