Today’s heat pump HVAC systems provide warmth when the outside temperature is negative 13 degrees and cooling when it’s in the triple digits during the summer. Not every model can provide heating in temps that low. That depends on the model you choose and how you plan to use it.
Heat pumps are quickly becoming a popular alternative to conventional, forced-air heating and cooling. And, a big reason is that today’s systems can provide warmth in freezing temperatures.
For a long time, these systems — often used in mini split setups with air handlers inside — were only suitable for cooling.
People who tried to use them all winter complained that they’d start blowing cold air when the temperature outside dipped too low.
But that’s not the case anymore. Now, you can save money on your energy bills and increase your home comfort with ductless heating and cooling.
But, you need to make sure you have the right size and model if you want year-round comfort versus cooling only.
In this article, we’ll quickly explain how these systems work. That way, it makes a lot more sense as to why not all models work in the winter. Then, we’ll see how these have gotten better and why mini splits are becoming so popular.
Finally, we’ll give you a tip on the best cost-saving setting for your thermostat in the winter.
How Heat Pumps Work
Today, heat pumps are usually paired with air handlers in what’s called a mini split, or ductless heating and cooling.
You’ve probably seen heat pumps outside. They look like A.C. condensers, but much skinnier. In the winter, they draw in whatever heat, or thermal energy, is around outside.
The pump compresses that thermal energy, which amplifies it, so it’s now strong enough to heat your home.
That thermal energy travels into the house via a refrigerant liquid, or coolant, running in a closed loop between the heat pump and air handlers inside.
The air handlers act as vents. They draw in air from the room and re-circulate it once the system has warmed or cooled it, depending on the season. In the summer, they’ll also dehumidify the air.
The most popular indoor models are rectangular, wall-mounted units installed high up on the wall. You’ll also find wider, skinnier versions near the floor, or cassettes that recess into the ceiling.
Meanwhile, once the coolant releases the heat in the winter, it condenses back into a liquid. Then, it travels back to the heat pump.
This process continues in a cycle. It works in reverse for the summer, with the system drawing heat from the house and dumping it outside.
Today, models like the Mitsubishi Hyper Heat pump can work in sub-zero temperatures. The price tag is a little higher (although you still pay the same for the air handlers).
However, you can still get a “cooling only” system that also adds just a little touch of warmth — more on that later.
Mini Split Improvements Over the Years
The significant improvement in mini splits is rTHAT the newer models that work when it’s 13 below. And, that number is getting lower every year.
As technology improves, these systems also use less and less electricity to get the job done. You’re already not using fossil fuels to create heat like you would with a furnace or boiler.
Instead, you’re just transferring the heat in and out. All you need is a little bit of power to get the system moving. The looping happens almost automatically after that.
And, the system doesn’t just work at one speed like conventional HVAC. Forced-air systems give you a blast of air when the temperature in your house drifts from the thermostat setting.
Instead, a mini split usually just runs in a low power mode, using less energy to maintain the temp instead of correcting it.
They use so little energy that virtually every ductless heating and cooling system has an Energy Star certification. That means it meets federal standards proving it performs as well as comparable models while only using a fraction of the energy.
Even with a cooling-only model, you can save some money on heating bills. Use your ductless heating in the early fall and late spring. Those are the times when it’s just a little chilly, but you don’t need to spend all that money firing up the furnace.
What is the Best Thermostat Setting For Winter?
To get the absolute most from your HVAC system — ductless or otherwise — keep the thermostat at 68 or lower. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, that’s the perfect balance between saving money and staying warm.
Now, with a mini split, you can take this even further. Let’s say you’re downstairs all day. Set your air handlers in the bedroom cooler than the living room. Then, switch the temps at night: cooler downstairs, a little warmer in the bedrooms, so you’re not cold during the night.
Since each indoor unit works with a separate thermostat, you can customize the temperature in each room. Or, set them the same for even heating and cooling throughout the house.
Ductless Heating and Cooling in Havertown, PA
Are you ready to increase your home comfort and decrease your energy bills? If so, give us here at John Cipollone an email or a call. We’ll set up a free consultation, get more information on your home, and start you on the road to designing a system customized for your home.