This is a guest post from Snowflake Air, serving Boise, Meridian, Kuna, and Eagle ID.
When did you last replace the HVAC systems in your rentals? Most heaters and central air units last around a decade. So if it’s been almost ten years, it’s time to start thinking about your next investment.
Thinking ahead also gives you time to consider an upgrade that keeps your tenants happy — and, in the long run, save you a lot of money.
With all that in mind, this article focuses on the benefits of a ductless mini split. Unlike forced-air HVAC, which uses ductwork and vents, these systems use an outdoor heat pump, air handlers inside, and a heat transfer process to do the job.
The result is climate control that’s more customizable and comfortable and costs less to run.
To explain the benefits, we’ll touch briefly on how they work. Then, we’ll outline why they’re excellent choices for rental properties.
How Does Ductless Heating and Cooling Work?
Ductless heating and cooling rely on air handlers to circulate the air inside.
The heat pump outside draws in heat during the winter or gets rid of warmth in the summer.
The trick is that air doesn’t move through the system. Instead, the air handler cools or warms the air that is in the room. Small, flexible piping carries refrigerant in a closed loop between the indoor and outdoor units.
In the summer, that refrigerant transports heat from the room out to the heat pump. In the winter, the heat pump sends the warmth inside to the air handlers.
That’s what makes these systems different! They don’t need ductwork to move air from a room to the furnace or AC condenser and then back. Instead, the refrigerant and the heat, travels from one area to another.
Four Benefits of Ductless Heating and Cooling In Rental Properties
Ductless heating and cooling offer some advantages over forced-air duct systems. Four significant benefits for tenants and property owners are:
- Customizable “Zoned” HVAC
- Easy Installation With Small Footprint
- Better, Quiet Comfort
- Cost-Saving Energy Efficiency
Let’s look closer at each one.
1. Customizable “Zoned” HVAC
Ductless heating and cooling often go under the name “mini split” because these setups are small and “split” between the indoor and outdoor components. You can use these to create zoned HVAC.
Each indoor unit has a built-in thermostat. You can usually connect up to eight air handlers to a single heat pump. In some cases, you can use one heat pump for more than one dwelling. Either way, your tenants control each air handler separately.
For a single-family property, you also have the option of outfitting the entire house with a mini split (a multi-zone unit). Or, keep your conventional system and add an air handler in a room that always gets complaints about being too hot or too cold (single-zone).
2. Easy Installation With Small Footprint
Any certified HVAC company can install a single-zone mini split in a day. Even multi-zone systems are pretty straightforward. And, they’re non-invasive: All you need is a two-inch hole to run the lines. It’s discreet, and the air handler usually hides the opening in each room.
From there, the lines run behind the walls, just like your electrical service. You now have the option to make the area feel bigger by removing old ductwork.
Meanwhile, your tenants have more flexibility. Since the wall-mounted air handlers sit up high near the ceiling, there’s no worrying about furniture blocking a vent.
3. Better, Quiet Comfort
Each air handler has specialized fans to circulate the air further and more efficiently than vents. One indoor unit can cover a studio apartment, most of a smaller dwelling, or even an entire floor of an open-plan house.
And, speaking of smaller spaces, they make virtually zero noise. That’s a major selling point over window air conditioners, especially in smaller apartments where people have to choose between loud cooling units or watching TV.
4. Cost-Saving Energy Efficiency
Before we go into this benefit, we’ll touch on what we often hear is the biggest drawback to these systems: The sticker price.
Mini splits start at around $3,500 for a single-room unit. The price increases with each air handler or heat pump.
Depending on your footprint, especially for multiple units, you may need more heat pumps. An entire single-family home runs around $17,000.
But, if you pay utilities and build it into the rent, you’ll cut your monthly expenses right away. Or, your tenants will appreciate a drop in their monthly expenses.
Since a mini split uses a heat transfer process instead of burning fossil fuels, it only needs a small amount of electricity to run.
And, each air handler uses inverter technology to maintain the temperature. It’s much more efficient than a furnace or AC that cycles on and off a few times every hour.
Dollar for dollar, a mini split costs less to run each month than a forced-air system or window AC. They’re quieter and more comfortable, which tenants love. And, they’re easy to install and don’t take up much room, which makes your properties more appealing.
The only real consideration is that upfront price. If you have heaters or central air units ready for replacement, it’s likely worth the extra money to make the switch.
Or, if you’re thinking about upgrading and improving your portfolio, work with a certified HVAC contractor to crunch the numbers and see what works best for your properties.