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How Efficient Are Mini Splits For Heating

How Efficient Are Mini Splits For Heating

Jon Hubal
8 minute read

As energy costs continue to rise, you may be exploring more efficient heating options for your home. One solution gaining popularity is the mini-split system. Mini-splits are ductless heating and cooling units that can provide zone control for specific areas of your home. But how efficient are mini splits compared to more traditional heating methods?

How Efficient Are Mini Splits For Heating

How Do Mini-Splits Work for Heating?

Mini-split heat pumps, often called "mini splits," are an efficient way to heat homes and spaces. How do they work to provide heating?

  • Mini-splits utilize an electric heat pump to absorb heat from the outside air and release it indoors. Even in cold weather, heat energy in the atmosphere can be extracted and used for heating. The heat pump compressor circulates refrigerant that absorbs the heat energy and transfers it inside.
  • Mini-splits can operate at high efficiency, especially compared to baseboard heaters, space heaters, or electric furnaces. The efficiency rating, called the coefficient of performance or COP, can reach 4.0 or higher, meaning for every 1 unit of energy used, 4 units of heat are produced. This significantly lowers heating costs.

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  • Ductless mini splits distribute heat directly to rooms and spaces. They do not require ductwork, so little heat loss occurs with central forced-air heating systems. The heated air is sent through insulated refrigerant lines to discreet wall units in each room. Individual temperature control is provided in each space.
  • Mini split heat pumps can maintain a comfortable temperature in the home, even in frigid weather. Newer models provide heating in temperatures down to -13°F or below. They are suitable for primary heating in many climates. However, a backup heating source may be needed for freezing temperatures.
  • Mini-splits are relatively quiet and unobtrusive. The outdoor compressor unit emits little noise, while the wall units operate quietly. They do not require vents, radiators, or baseboard units in each room. The mini-split approach provides whole-home heating in a space-efficient manner.

Efficient Are Mini Splits For Heating

Factors That Impact a Mini Split's Heating Efficiency

To achieve optimal heating efficiency with a mini-split, there are several factors to consider:

Size of the system

  • Choosing an appropriately sized system for the space is key. An oversized unit will short cycle, reducing efficiency and lifespan. An undersized unit will struggle to heat the space and run excessively, also decreasing efficiency. Carefully measure your space and use the manufacturer's sizing guidelines to select a properly sized system.

Installation location

  • The location of the air handler unit impacts performance. For the best efficiency, place the air handler in a central location, preferably in an area with good airflow to all parts of the space. Avoid installing the unit in corners, behind furniture, or other spots where airflow may be restricted. Proper installation is also important, so work with a licensed HVAC contractor.

Sealing and insulation

  • Ensure good sealing and insulation in the space the mini split will heat for maximum efficiency. Seal and weatherize doors and windows, add attic insulation, and address other air leaks. The less the mini split has to work to overcome heat loss, the more efficiently it will operate.

Fan settings

  • Use the mini split's fan settings judiciously. Higher fan speeds circulate air more quickly but also require more energy. Only use higher fan settings when extra airflow is needed to heat the space evenly. When possible, use lower fan speeds to maintain comfort while maximizing efficiency.

Supplemental heat

  • Avoid using supplemental heating sources like space heaters when operating the mini split. Supplemental heat will cause the mini-split to run less efficiently as it works harder to reach the set temperature. Only operate one heating system in the space at a time.

Mini Splits Efficient for Heating

How Efficient Are Single-Room Mini Splits for Heating in Winter?

Heating Efficiency

  • Single-room mini splits can be an efficient way to heat in the winter. Their inverter-driven compressors only operate at the capacity needed to maintain the set temperature, so they don't frequently cycle on and off like a standard air conditioner or furnace. This allows them to achieve a high coefficient of performance (COP) for heating, which is a measure of the unit's efficiency. Well-insulated homes may see COPs of 3 or higher, meaning for every 1 unit of energy used, 3 units of heat are produced.

Zoned Comfort

  • Mini-splits give you zoned control over the temperature in each room they serve. You can set the temperature in each zone to your desired comfort level. They are ideal for heating rooms that don't get much airflow from your central HVAC system. Some people use them to add supplemental heat to rooms that are always too cold in winter.

Quiet Operation

  • Because the inverter modulates the compressor speed and fans based on the heating load, single-room mini-splits operate quietly most days. You may barely notice any noise from the outdoor unit. They don't have a typical furnace's loud start-up and shut-down sounds. The slowly spinning fans also move air very gently for a draft-free feel.


  • While mini splits require installation by an HVAC technician, they don't need any ductwork. This makes them ideal for homes where installing ducts isn't feasible or affordable. The condenser is installed outside, and one or more air handlers are mounted inside on walls or ceilings. A conduit contains the refrigerant lines, drain line, and wiring between the indoor and outdoor units. Installation of a single zone mini split typically takes one to two days.

Mini Splits For Heating Efficiently

Tips for Improving Your Mini Split's Heating Efficiency

Select an Appropriately Sized Unit

  • Choosing a mini split that is properly sized for the space you want to heat is key to efficiency. An oversized unit will short cycle, reducing efficiency and comfort. An undersized unit will struggle to heat the space and run constantly, increasing energy usage. Work with an HVAC professional to determine the correct size based on room dimensions, insulation, and local climate.

Set the Thermostat Wisely

  • The lower you set the thermostat, the more efficiently the mini-split will run. For most people, setting the thermostat to 65-68°F provides a comfortable indoor temperature while maximizing efficiency. Each degree lower can save up to 5% on your heating bill. A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically set the temperature when you are away from home or sleeping.

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MRCOOL DIY Easy Pro® 24k BTU Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump Complete System


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Service Your Unit Regularly

  • Like any HVAC equipment, mini splits require regular maintenance to operate efficiently. Schedule annual service calls to check refrigerant levels, clean air filters, clear any buildup or debris, and ensure all components are in working order. Well-maintained equipment lasts longer, runs more efficiently, and provides greater comfort.

Consider a Heat Pump Model

  • Mini split heat pumps provide heating and cooling from the same unit using a refrigeration cycle. They can be 200-300% efficient compared to the 100% efficiency of a standard electric heater. Although heat pump mini splits have a higher upfront cost, they can significantly reduce heating bills and environmental impact. They work best in moderate climates where heating and cooling loads are similar.

Add Supplemental Heating Only When Needed

  • Rather than running your mini split constantly at a very high temperature to heat the whole home, use supplemental heating sources in the rooms you use the most. Space heaters, fireplaces, and heating blankets can provide extra warmth only when and where you need them. Your mini-split won't have to work as hard, so it can operate more efficiently. Be sure to follow all safety precautions if using space heaters.

Mini Splits Efficiency

So, How Efficient Are Mini Splits For Heating

In summary, mini splits can be an efficient and cost-effective option for heating your home. As the technology behind mini splits continues to advance, they are becoming more efficient, affordable, and appealing for homeowners. If heating efficiency and lower energy usage are priorities for you, mini splits are worth considering as an alternative to traditional furnaces. Making your home more energy efficient is an investment in cost savings and sustainability that can benefit you for years.

More Mini-Split Knowledge

Expand your knowledge about mini-split systems through a wealth of online resources. Dive into our collection of blog posts that cover a wide range of topics. Discover the top-rated mini splits of 2023 and determine if they align with your needs. Explore our guide on sizing a mini split and gain insights into the process. Additionally, empower yourself with the know-how to install a DIY mini split system.

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