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11 Features to Look For When Shopping Online for a Mini Split System
Mini split systems are rising in popularity due to their affordable price and flexibility. These air conditioners are available in various sizes and configurations and can also include heat for year-round use. Since they split traditional window air conditioner functions into two components, they fit well in any room in the house and are even strong enough to cool open floor plans. They also take less time to install than traditional central air systems, and the installation process has a minimal effect on your daily life.
The features and specifications for each system can be confusing at first glance, especially since the technology has improved so much in recent years. With a little research, you’ll make the perfect investment in your home’s comfort, whether you live alone or with a huge family. Here are the essential mini split system features to understand and look for while shopping online.
1. Multiple Zones
Multi-zone mini split systems are ideal for large or small families. Even young professional couples without children may find themselves disagreeing over the thermostat at times, so having two separate temperature settings gives each person the freedom to make adjustments without having to throw on a sweater.
Multi-zone units have multiple indoor units connected to the same outdoor condenser. You can easily get up to 5 zones, but most brands offer options up to 8 zones. These require more HVAC knowledge and experience to properly purchase and set up. Most families will find that 2-3 zones sufficient for a single-story home and 3-5 zones to be enough for a two-story home. Add an extra zone if you want to cover your basement as well. If most of your first floor is an open floor plan and the master bedroom is on the second floor, you might find that you only need one zone on the first floor.
High-end multi-zone systems allow you to customize multiple rooms with one touch on a smartphone app, but older or less expensive models may require you to go to individual rooms to change the temperature. However, you can take a lot of the work out of this by using an automatic timer or scheduler—a feature that is now standard on most mini splits.Shop Our Multi Zone Mini Split Systems
2. Energy Ratings
Energy efficiency is a critical issue, as individual households and localities are trying to manage their energy consumption. Air conditioning can add significant costs to your utility bills if you live in a hot climate and choose a model with poor energy efficiency. You may see multiple energy efficiency certifications on mini split systems, but the most common one is Energy Star. Energy Star ratings are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Energy.
A unit’s Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) is also an excellent way to tell how efficient a system is. This number simply takes the unit’s BTUs and divides it by the unit’s amount of energy consumed. In mini split systems, the amount of energy consumed is simply the amount of electricity the unit uses. However, a more accurate gauge of efficiency is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER). This number also takes different temperatures into account, allowing you to get a complete picture of its efficiency year-round.
Federal regulations currently require new mini splits to have a SEER of 14 or higher. Look for a mini split system that features a 16 or higher SEER to keep your utility bills manageable. There are many mini split systems with ratings as high as 40 that can result in significant long-term savings, especially if you live in a region with hot summers.
3. Heat Pump
AC-only mini splits are perfect for homes in warm climates or that already have a solid heating system. However, if your heating system is aging or if you don’t have one at all, consider getting a mini split with a heat pump. Mini splits are a safe and effective way to heat each room of your home. However, while most are rated for at least -5°F, if your temperatures regularly drop below freezing in the winter for extended periods, you’ll need another heat source in addition to your mini split to maintain efficiency.
Though, extra heat options are available in single and multi-zone units. The Gree Sapphire (single zone) can easily handle temperatures as cold as -22°F, the Gree Multi-U (multi-zone) can handle as cold as -31°F and Mitsubishi’s Hyper Heat can handle as cold as -14°F. With a multi-zone system, you can concentrate the heat in individual areas of the house, as is done with air conditioning.
4. High BTUs
Both heat and air conditioning power can be measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), a standard measurement worldwide. You can also measure BTUs in tons, where one ton equals 12,000 BTUs per hour. The right number of BTUs for your mini split varies, depending on where you live, but it’s always better to have too many than too few. It’s always easier to decrease your AC usage later than to re-install a new system if it turns out your new system is too small for your needs.
Very hot areas in the United States need at least 22 BTUs per square foot of floor space to stay cool in the summer. This means that a 1,500 ft2 home needs at least 33,000 BTUs across the entire mini split system and possibly much more if the home has poor insulation. However, colder areas to the north need as few as 12 BTUs per square foot to stay comfortably cool in the summer. Based on this number, the same 1,500 ft2 home needs at least 18,000 total BTUs to stay comfortable in the summer. To safely account for additional heat caused by direct sunlight at higher latitudes, aim for a minimum of 24,000 BTUs.
The same general numbers are true for heating as well. A home in the warmest parts of the southern U.S. may need 12 BTUs per square foot or less in the winter, while a home that is well below freezing in the coldest months needs at least 33,000 BTUs. Since mini splits typically are better at cooling than heating, look closely at your system’s specifications before finalizing your purchase.
5. Wi-Fi Capability
Wi-Fi-enabled home appliances are quickly becoming the norm, and this trend has emerged in mini split units as well. A Wi-Fi controlled mini split connection allows parts of larger multi-room systems to communicate easily without relying on wiring running between each unit.
Wi-Fi-enabled devices usually include smartphone and tablet apps, which allow you to adjust your home’s heat levels from anywhere with an internet connection. This useful feature helps if you forget to turn down the AC before leaving for work or vacation. Even if your home Wi-Fi isn’t high-speed, your mini split system can still run smoothly and efficiently. It uses far less internet bandwidth than most daily tasks, so it won’t slow down your video streaming or other online activities.
6. Remote Control
Nearly all modern mini split systems have some kind of remote control. However, their quality and features vary dramatically, and some are very unintuitive. If your mini split system is Wi-Fi-enabled and uses a smartphone app for control, the remote quality matters a lot less, but it’s still good to have as a backup. The best mini split system remote controls have small screens on them so you can check the temperature setting instantly. Although they often have 10 or more buttons, they are clearly labeled so you can customize the mini split system’s operation from the comfort of your couch.
Many remote controls use small icons like water droplets and snowflakes to indicate temperature or humidity modes. These icons usually take little time to learn, but the system’s user guide serves as a great refresher if you’re ever trying to do something new with it.
7. Low Ambient Cooling and Heating
Air conditioning units are built to work in a particular temperature range—usually above 55°F. If you want to use your AC in lower outdoor temperatures, you need a unit labeled for such use. Although it’s not common to need AC when it’s less than 55° outside, you may use it if you cook frequently and your kitchen has poor air circulation.
Even heating units may not function properly if they aren’t rated for low outdoor temperatures. Fortunately, the vast majority of heat pumps are designed for dealing with below-freezing temperatures. Check the product specifications on the exact model you want to buy and compare them to your region’s extreme lows and highs. If the exact model you want doesn’t include low ambient temperatures, look for a similar model from the same manufacturer, as most manufacturers have low ambient options.
8. Quiet Motors
Some online listings for air conditioners specify how many decibels (dB) a mini split system uses, so you can get one that works for your family’s needs. Mini split systems are as low as 35-40 dB instead of the 50-70 dB typical of window air conditioning units. Even central air conditioners are usually noisier than mini splits’ indoor components.
The mini split’s indoor unit is almost always whisper-quiet, although it may make a little more noise while starting up or cooling off a very warm room. Most of the system’s hard work occurs in the outside condenser unit, which has a large fan to provide airflow through the rest of the system. Even if the outside condenser unit is outside a bedroom window, it generally does not make enough noise to wake you up. If you have concerns about a mini split’s volume level, look for a product listing with a dB level listed between 35-50 dB, or consider installing the condenser unit farther from your bedroom.
9. Humidity Settings
Mini split systems can dehumidify your air to a certain extent, but their capabilities vary. An indoor relative humidity between 30-50% feels most comfortable, and mini split systems can handle this in most climates. Newer mini split systems with advanced dehumidifying technology can remove a larger amount of moisture.
In some very humid climates, you may have to complement your mini-split system with an additional dehumidifier. This equipment is easy to add to your system and helps protect your home’s furniture and fixtures from mildew and corrosion.
10. Easy Filter and Coil Cleaning
Mini split systems require minimal maintenance, but the most important task is periodically cleaning the filter and wiping the coils. Cleaning the filter according to the manufacturer’s recommendations helps keep your air cleaner and your system running at maximum efficiency.
If you’re unsure how often to clean your unit, a good rule is to check the filters twice per month. Small homes without pets might not need to clean them that often, but it’s always good to ensure the filter is free of debris. Most manufacturers make it easy to locate, open, and clean the filter quickly. The filter on each zone’s unit is usually on the front under a panel and slides out for a quick brushing out or rinsing with water.
11. Warranty Coverage
One of the most important features you need for your mini split system isn’t a physical or electronic feature. The warranty covering your product entitles you to certain repairs and replacements if there are problems with your system. Some warranties are short and only cover a limited number of parts. Sometimes, manufacturers will try to absolve themselves of problems by blaming you or the technician who installed it.
Reputable companies like Gree and Mitsubishi and other leading mini split manufacturers all have robust warranties that cover most repairs for some time—usually at least one year. The only condition is that a licensed HVAC technician must install your mini split for the warranty to be valid, and you must be able to present a copy of your installation invoice for confirmation. It’s also important to note that these manufacturer warranties DO NOT cover labor expenses, though ComfortUp offers extended warranties for many products on our site.Find The Right Mini Split System For Your Home
Finding the Perfect System for You
ComfortUp makes it easy to shop for a mini split system that provides what you need. Search by the number of zones, brand, system design and type, square footage, and more. Our team is also happy to talk to you by chat message or phone so you can make the smartest investment for your home or business. Click here to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our product experts.
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