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
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
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
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
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
What all of this means is that, after
dropping sharply during the 1970s,
the overall energy intensity
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
No real change in the last 30 years, speculators say it could go lower while others say it could go higher.
If you use air-conditioning you are using electricity...
so start saving energy with Aqua Zone Comfort!