Savings and Efficiency
Ductless Mini Splits are the New, Efficient Way to Cool (and Heat) Your Home Perspective from a Guest Contributor



With summer in full swing and temperatures rising, more and more homeowners looking to cool their homes are turning to ductless mini splits as an energy-efficient alternative to traditional air conditioning. (They heat your home in the winter, too!). So we checked in with Bill Hick, New England Regional Sales Manager with Fujitsu General America to find out more about what makes these systems so popular

Good Energy: How long have you been involved with home heating and cooling? Bill Hick: Twenty-three years. I started off in a large manufacturing conglomerate that afforded me many options ranging from residential heating systems to high velocity air conditioning prior to signing on at Fujitsu.

How does a ductless mini split work?
Like any air conditioner, we are taking the heat from the house and transferring it to the outside, much the same way your refrigerator does when it operates to keep your food cold. The evaporator (inside the house) and condenser (outside) work together to transfer and dissipate heat via the refrigerant pumped between the two units. When used in heating mode, we simply reverse the process and pump heat from outside to the inside. It’s all a matter of capturing and moving heat

Have ductless mini splits been around for a long time? How has the technology changed over the years?
Also known as air source heat pumps, the first systems came out in the ’60s, so they have been around for quite some time. Over the years they have become far less intrusive, quieter, less costly and far more efficient. Variable speed compressors, fans and digital controls have brought HVAC into the computer age, contributing to overall efficiency

Why is it that they’re so much more energy-efficient?
Mini splits are an efficient means of heating and cooling because they work like the cruise control in your vehicle. They use only the minimum energy required to perfectly match the need for heating or cooling required in your space. If the need for heating or cooling in the space decreases then the mini split electrical consumption also decreases. This avoids cycling, or turning on and off over and over again, which is a big waste of electricity. The variable speed of every moving component means you always have a perfectly sized unit to do the job. Eliminating ductwork and associated energy loss is also a big factor.

What savings can a homeowner expect compared to a traditional heating or cooling system?
Savings will vary depending on how often the system is used and what the original source of heating or cooling is. It’s not uncommon to experience up to 50 percent savings compared to conventional systems. With the rebates often available from states and utilities, the decision to go mini split is often a nobrainer

What types of homes are best suited for a ductless mini split?
Here in New England there are a lot of opportunities. Many homes may have baseboard or radiator heating with no air conditioning or just window units. Ductless mini splits not only give these homeowners efficient and effective air cooling, but they can also supplement their existing fossil fuel heating systems in the winter.

Do ductless mini splits offer other benefits?
There are really many benefits to going ductless.Indoor air quality is a concern for many these days, and we offer different types of filters which not only trap, but also kill, many airborne allergens and remove odors when properly maintained. Eliminating ducts is always a benefit since they require a lot of cleaning and maintenance. By delivering the heated or cooled air right within the space we are heating or cooling, energy isn’t wasted as air passes through ductwork. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 27 cents out of every dollar spent on heating or cooling air is lost in the ductwork.

New England has very dramatic temperature swings. How well do mini splits perform during extreme heat or cold?
Ductless mini splits are designed to cool in temperatures as high as 115F and heat in temperatures as low as -15F. They are rated to these levels but will work well even beyond that, though we seldom see those temperatures here in New England. In fact, more and more people are using them year-round and abandoning their fossil fuel systems outright, or just leaving them in place as a backup. The performance of these systems on the heating side specifically has improved drastically over the past 10 years. If you think about how computers have evolved over the last 10 years, the same can be said for air source heat pumps

Do you have a ductless mini split system in your home?
I am the proud owner of five single-zoned mini split systems in my home. I still have the original central gas furnace as backup for when it’s down below 5F for extended periods of time. But the Fujitsu systems do me well and I need only heat or cool those spaces that I’m actually using; the others I maintain minimally when not in use. I took advantage of local utility rebates and compounded them with state incentives. I literally saved thousands on just the install. In fact, there was such a great deal in 2013 that the last two I put in were nearly free when all was said and done! You can’t beat that, but you do need to fill out the paperwork to get your fair share of rebate dollars. I have also helped nearly all my friends over the years, and all are enjoying them in their homes too!



The chart above is when using a Ductless Heat Pump for the entire home compared to heating with other energy sources.



Saving up to 50% heating or cooling only 33% of your home.

While some homeowners do add onto their existing structures, the trend is driven largely by new construction. According to the Census Bureau, the average new single-family house completed last year was 2,657 square feet – 57% larger than four decades earlier. While the biggest new homes are being built in the South (an average of 2,711 square feet last year), home sizes have grown the most in the Northeast: a 64% increase in average new-home size over the past four decades.

What all of this means is that, after dropping sharply during the 1970s, the overall energy intensity of U.S. homes has changed little over the past three decades. Energy intensity is a metric that compares the amount of energy used against some unit of economic activity – households, in the case of the residential sector.



The average home used 183 million Btu in 1981 and 188.7 million in 2011; energy intensity did fall in 2012, to a preliminary read of 174.7 million Btu, but that was mainly due to weather. (Other factors, including geographic population shifts and changes in housing type, have had relatively little impact on overall energy intensity.) Think of someone scarfing down a chili cheeseburger and fries after an hour on the elliptical, and then wondering why he never seems to lose weight.

What has changed, though, is how households use energy. According to the Energy Department’s quadrennial Residential Energy Consumption Survey, in 1993 more than half (53.1%) of total household energy consumption went to heating living spaces, versus 41.5% in 2009 (those are the earliest and latest years, respectively, for which comparable data are available). Conversely, the share of energy consumption that goes to appliances, electronics and lighting rose from 24% to 34.6% over that same period. (The energy shares for water heating and air conditioning didn’t change much.)

So let's take the facts from the information and charts above and show you what it means in real numbers.
REW Research Center: The average home used 183 million Btu in 1981 and 188.7 million in 2011; energy intensity did fall in 2012, to a preliminary read of 174.7 million Btu, but that was mainly due to weather.
So let's take 174.7 million btu's that is energy used for heating and cooling.
Ductless heat pump whole house heating = DHP
High efficiency Natural Gas Furnace _______________________________ 14.07 X 174.7= $2458.02
Ductless heat pump whole house heating ___________________________ 10.34 X 174.7 = $1806.39
Using Ductless heat pump the Savings _________________________________________ = $651.63
Electric zone heater _______________ 30.29 X 174.7 = $5291.66 DHP $1806.39 Savings = $3485.27
Ductless heat pump whole house heating __________________________ 10.34 X 174.7 = $1806.39
Electric furnace _____________________42.66 X 174.7 = $7452.72 DHP $1806.39 Savings = $5646.33
Even more saving if you are using Oil or Propane

According to EPA, a SEER 13 standard represents a 30 percent increase in minimum energy efficiency requirements for air conditioners, in contrast to a 20 percent increase with a SEER 12 standard. According to DOE, 4.2 quadrillion Btu, or quads of energy, will be saved between 2006 and 2030 by a SEER 13 standard. 4.2 quads of energy is the equivalent to the annual energy use of 26 million U.S. households, which has a net savings of approximately $1 billion to the consumer by 2020. On the other hand, a SEER 12 standard will only save three quads of energy during the same time period.



A SEER 13 standard will also accomplish more in reducing fossil fuel consumption and limiting air pollution. The construction of 39 400-megawatt power plants will be avoided by adopting the SEER 13 standard, which will reduce smog forming nitrous oxides (NOx) emissions by up to 85,000 metric tons and cutting greenhouse gas emissions (the gases responsible for global warming) by up to 33 million metric tons (Mt) of carbon. In contrast, a SEER 12 standard would only avoid the construction of 27 400-megawatts power plants, reducing 73,000 metric tons of NOx and 24 Mt of carbon. Power plants are major sources of greenhouse gases and the emissions that cause smog, acid rain and soot pollution. At a time when many areas throughout this nation are struggling to improve their air quality and public health the differences in avoided emissions between SEER 13 and SEER 12 are significant. Since air conditioners run most on hot days, the rollback would increase pollution precisely when air quality problems are at their worst.

Electricity

2.3% increase per year This is a 46% increase in the last 20 years



Residential electricity prices in the U.S. have risen from an average of 7.83 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1990 to an average of 11.44 cents per kwh in 2010. This is a 46% increase in 20 years and sounds like a lot but as you can see from the chart below for many years electricity prices did not keep up with overall inflation (the red line is falling). Data Source: Electricity- U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Fuel Oil

196% increase in the last ten years
3% is the increase annually over the past 70 years from 19.41 dollars per barrel to $39.72 but American have seen average cost at $74.36 per barrel for the 10 years up from 37.75 per barrel from the 10 prior years, over a 196% increase in home heating cost.

Propane

243% increase in the last ten years
2.01 per gal April 5, 2016 average 2.95 for the last 10 years 2006 thru 2016
average 1.21 for the prior 10 years 1996 thru 2006
over a 243% increase in home heating cost.

Natural Gas

No real change in the last 30 years, speculators say it could go lower while others say it could go higher.

Last Point

If you use air-conditioning you are using electricity...

so start saving energy with Aqua Zone Comfort!


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