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Are ductless mini-splits good for heating as well as cooling?

At a recent meeting with a developer and his General Contractor, I was faced with a situation where I proposed the use of Mitsubishi Electric’s heating and cooling systems as a solution for renovation of a historic Seacoast NH building consisting of six apartments.  Conventional systems would be difficult to nearly impossible in two of the apartments (due to bulky ductwork with nowhere to put it) so I proposed a mixture of floor mounted and high wall ductless units to heat and cool the various rooms.  I was met with some resistance to the aesthetics of ductless units by the developer/owner, further strengthened by the GC’s astute observation and experience that “mini-splits are good for cooling but suck for heating.”  If you ever want to get me going on a conversation about HVAC, just utter those words and prepare to be schooled!

There are common misconceptions about mini-splits. Originally pioneered by the Japanese in the 1970s, mini-split systems were utilized primarily for “spot cooling” and some light-duty heating capabilities throughout Asia, and eventually throughout Europe and the Caribbean.  These systems were (and still are) often installed by untrained “professionals” who slung refrigerant lines between the indoor and outdoor portions, illegally purged out the refrigerant, and powered the systems up.  While “mini-splits” continue to be installed by untrained hacks across the globe, the professional ductless field has blossomed from a very specific use for limited spot cooling (at one point capping out at 12,000BTUs or 1-Ton of capacity), into a fully customizable and robust solution for homes, offices, and basically any other multi-residential or commercial application that exists.  It is time for consumers and builders to let go of the “mini-split” mindset, and to accept ductless (and ducted) inverter technology as a valid, efficient, viable, and quiet method to heat and cool the Northeast, and all of the US.

Mitsubishi Ductless Mini-Split Solutions

We promote and install Mitsubishi Electric systems, but there are several manufacturers out there making a similar product. Let’s take a look at a no-name mini-split vs a Mitsubishi Electric solution, to see why developers, GCs, and homeowners need to be educated on how multifaceted these systems have become…

Cooling-only, or efficient heating to around 30F outdoor tempEfficient cooling and heating down to -13F outdoor temps (and below)
One room/area on a single outdoor unitUp to eight areas with their own zones on a single outdoor unit
Wall mounted units onlyWall, floor, ceiling, ducted, constantly evolving
Installed by hacks or DIYInstalled by licensed, trained, and certified professionals
Warranty? Hah!12YR parts warranty when installed by Diamond Contractor
Remote ControllerBasic controller, wall mounted thermostats, Wi-Fi options
Aesthetically unpleasing both indoors and outClean installations that blend in and “disappear” in homes

As we tend to be in many tech-based arenas, the US lags behind Europe and Asia in HVAC advancements, adapting slowly to the ever-improving tech that surrounds my industry.  The American market for VRF in commercial buildings is around 3%, where much of Europe, China, and Japan it represents north of 70% in commercial applications.  VRF is the “big-brother” of residential ductless solutions, utilizing much of the same exact method and technology, just on a larger scale.  My point here is that the problem with utilizing ductless and inverter heat pump systems here in the Seacoast is not whether or not they will work, it is whether or not the homeowner, building owner, or GC has been educated on how effective and efficient these systems have become.

In the Seacoast NH, we have installed the following Mitsubishi Hyper-Heat systems:

  • Hundreds of single-family retrofit Mitsubishi Electric Hyper Heat systems being used as PRIMARY heat in homes with no backup or electric heat.
  • Dozens of single-family new construction homes with Mitsubishi Hyper Heat Electric systems for heat/cool.
  • 16 Apartment Mill Renovation in Somersworth with Mitsubishi Hyper Heat Electric systems for heat/cool.
  • 96 Apartment Construction in Exeter with Mitsubishi Electric Hyper Heat systems for heat/cool.
  • 55 Apartment Mill Renovation in Dover with Mitsubishi Electric Hyper Heat systems for heat/cool.
  • 16 Apartments in Portsmouth with Mitsubishi Electric Hyper Heat systems for heat/cool.
Lifestyle Images with Product Application for Residential Indoor

This past winter, the Seacoast saw temperatures dip as low as they have in years, and they stayed there for extended periods of time (let’s not forget the snow storms that were part of that mix).  During those stretches, we did not have a single Mitsubishi Electric Hyper-Heat system “crap out” or run out of capacity.  Though the nay-sayers claim they “suck for heating,” our systems were designed properly and all performed above expectation.  Already being a believer in this technology, these stretches of extreme weather only further cemented in my mind that we will continue marketing, educating, and proposing the use of these systems in the Northeast, positioning East Coast Heating & AC as the go-to HVAC contractor for all things Mitsubishi.  I will continue to educate and train our staff as the ductless market develops, so we can remain on top of the latest methods, hyper-heat technology, and certifications available to contractors.

If you see me out and about and have an hour to kill (and a tolerance for listening to me vent), mention how “mini-splits” just aren’t a REAL heat/cool solution, and we can chat for a while.

Pete Robitaille
East Coast HVAC

Contact us today to speak with a ductless HVAC expert.