Home Inspector with Safe@Home Inspections, LLC in SE Washington 215

Heating can be one of the greatest recurring costs associated with owning a home.  The rising cost of fuel doesn't just hit you hard at the gas pumps - it can be a difficult pill to swallow when you get that monthly oil or natural gas bill too.  And despite the current downturn in fuel costs, those expenses will rise again. This double whammy has caused many people to think outside of the box and look at options outside of traditional climate control systems.

Some people are a little wary of green heating and cooling systems because they worry that they might have to radically renovate their home in order to accommodate modern apparatus.  This is especially in older homes that were built during an era where the fine point of technology was heat emanating from a central source such as a fireplace or woodstove.  Fortunately, there are solutions for this type of application. 

Ductless, mini-split heat pumps are devices which are sort of like air conditioners, except they also have the ability to move hot air into your home as well as cool, depending on your needs.  Instead of sitting in your window like a normal air conditioning unit, this type of heat pump can be installed in place of a stove or a radiator in any room in your house.  They can even be mounted flush with the wall or suspended from the ceiling, if that's the kind of look you are going for.  Best of all from a renovation standpoint, these systems do not require any ductwork.

Mini-split heat pumps are small and it is usually possible to connect more than one to the exterior heat exchanger, meaning you can heat or cool multiple rooms with the same system.  There's no need for any kind of ducting or opening up the walls for anything more than a 3 inch piece of tubing.  Each interior unit is individually controlled so in effect you get zoned climate control for your home. 

The unit on the outside of your home is a compressor and a condenser.  The way it works is by removing hot air from a home in the summer via the evaporation coolant in the indoor unit's coils.  This pulls heat out of the air and pumps it to the coils outside your home, where it is released harmlessly into the air.  In colder weather, the process is reversed, and the heat that is sucked out of the exterior air is then sent into the home where it gets distributed into each room by the coils of the mini-split unit.

Mini-split ductless heat pumps use simple technology to consume up to 3 times less energy than a standard heating system.  If you live in an area with hot summers but chilly winters such as Lewiston ID, then this type of heating system could be a good choice for you - particularly if you want to preserve the look of your home and your sanity by not having to spend months in the dusty world of renovating and contractors.

Comments (4)

Barbara Delaney
Park Place REALTORS, Inc. - Roanoke, VA

Dear Paul,

Interesting post.  Could you give me the name of a manufacturer to see what these things look like?

Would this be a good system to install in a finished, but unheated attic?



Jan 25, 2009 04:10 AM
Paul Duffau
Safe@Home Inspections, LLC in SE Washington - Asotin, WA
Caring for People, Educating about Homes


It would probably work well there, especially in summer.

This site has a couple (or three) options and some good info - though it is sales oriented so they oversell a bit.

I'll be putting a system into my home this summer.  I have a 1910 built home - no ducts in place and limited room to add them.

Good luck with it.

Jan 25, 2009 12:11 PM
Joshua Frederick
Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC - Defiance, OH
Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio

Interesting indeed.  We just moved and our house is total electric with no Central Air, and this might be the way to go.  Thanks for sharing the info.

Jan 25, 2009 09:19 PM
Paul Duffau
Safe@Home Inspections, LLC in SE Washington - Asotin, WA
Caring for People, Educating about Homes


I have a similar situation - all electric heat (wall heaters) so it's a priority.  Good luck - but double check the temperature ranges - you're pretty far north and while they've improved low temperature efficiencies, it might not deliver everything you need.  A split-system might work better.

Jan 27, 2009 09:52 AM