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Your Guide to the Best Mini-Split Heat Pumps in 2024

A modern electric infrared heater

The growth in popularity of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems has seen mini-split heat pumps emerge as a popular option, lauded for their adaptability and potential for zoning. A forecast by Zion Market Research projects the global market for ductless heating and cooling systems to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% from 2023 to 2030, reaching a total value of more than USD 205.1 billion.

Given this impressive growth rate, the market now boasts more brands, including new entrants, with varied technical specifications to enhance performance. But not all meet buyer expectations. Identifying the ultimate mini-split heat pumps requires examination across critical performance areas like real-world efficiency, reliability, and temperature control.

This buyer’s guide provides an overview of key performance metrics customers look for when selecting high-performance mini-split heat pumps. With clarity on how these ductless heat pumps function, business owners can choose top-of-the-line models based on client needs and parameters, which will help to boost sales in 2024!

Table of Contents
Mini-split heat pumps at a glance
Why you need a mini-split heat pump with optimal performance
Key considerations when choosing high-performance mini-split heat pump brands
Top mini-split heat pump brands for high-performance
Closing thoughts

Mini-split heat pumps at a glance

An AC unit standing outside a house

Mini-split heat pumps, or ductless heat pumps (DHPs), are heating and cooling systems designed for residential and commercial spaces. As the name suggests, these units don’t need ductwork like traditional HVAC units. Instead, they feature an outdoor compressor and one or more air-handling units inside the house.

While they use the same functionality as regular air conditioning units, mini-split pumps are a great option for those keen on energy efficiency. Depending on fuel rates, ductless ACs can save users up to 30% on their annual/monthly energy bills.

The basic principle behind the functionality of mini-split ACs is that it takes less energy to transport something than to create it from scratch. To cool a house during summer, a cold liquid within the mini-split AC attracts the heat inside the room and disperses it outside.

Two types of mini-split ACs exist: single-zone and multi-zone. Single-zone mini-splits connect to one air handler, whereas multi-zone mini-splits connect to two or more air handlers in different rooms.

These units can feature different system configurations, with specialty units designed for open spaces, extreme climates, and concealed installations.

Why you need a mini-split heat pump with optimal performance

Energy and cost-saving

Mini-split heat pumps with optimal performance boast exceptional SEER ratings. A SEER 14 rating is ideal for a standard ductless AC unit. However, it won’t give the same level of energy efficiency as a top-of-the-line model, with SEER figures ranging between 26 and 33.1.

Well-designed mini-split heat pumps with higher SEER scores have the potential to slash energy use by more than 30%.

Enhanced comfort and air quality

A high-performance heat pump leverages multi-stage operations that ensure the system meets precise cooling and heating needs throughout different seasons. These ductless units adjust the refrigerant and compressor speeds to match an existing load and maintain set temperatures without excessive cycling.

This performance ensures comfort all year, where spaces are evenly heated during winter, and there are no cold spots or draftiness. Cheap mini-split heat pumps often struggle to achieve the desired comfort, especially in extreme conditions.

Faster temperature response (heat/cool)

Given the inclusion of rapid refrigerant circulation and inverter compressors, ductless mini-split heat pumps with optimal performance achieve desired cooling and heating levels much faster. These mini-splits also can hold the temperatures more evenly. The optimized equipment responds much faster, adequately controlling the zone temperatures.

Quieter operation

Modern top-performing ductless heat pumps operate much quieter than older, improperly sized units. Leading manufacturers cite noise levels as low as 19 dB(A) for indoor units and 49 dB(A) for outdoor condensers.

Features behind the low noise levels include vibration-damping chassis and mounts and swept fan blades. Older units often feature laboring compressors that run in extended cycles.

Eligibility for rebates

Top-performing heat pumps can meet stringent energy efficiency requirements set by different utility rebate programs. Organizations like Energy Star often back these utility programs, and to qualify for the certifications, the ductless heat pump must undergo thorough commissioning and sizing. For instance, an Energy Star-certified unit rated in the AHRI database can qualify for up to USD 200 rebates.

Key considerations when choosing high-performance mini-split heat pump brands

Sizing needs for your home

Proper sizing involves matching the correct BTU ratings to your needs and specifications. Generally,  larger rooms demand higher BTUs and vice versa for smaller rooms. To properly size a room, experts multiply its area by 25 to get the needed BTUs. However, consumers should consider factors such as climate, ceiling height, and the number of occupants and adjust accordingly.

Installation requirements and costs

Professional installation costs represent 20 to 30 percent of the total project expenditure. The rates of hiring a professional vary depending on your location, ranging between USD 30 and USD 150 per hour. Some top-of-the-line models may require carpentry work, like drilling holes in walls to install refrigerant lines, adding to the costs.

Energy efficiency ratings

High Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings (SEER) mean more energy savings. For appreciable savings, ductless heat pumps must achieve at least SEER 16 compared to outdated models below SEER 14. However, high-performance models tout SEER levels ranging from SEER 26 to 33.1, saving more than 30% on cooling costs. Consumers should also consider HSPF ratings ranging between 12 and 15 if they intend to lower their annual heating costs substantially.

Noise levels and sound-dampening features

Leading brands leverage technological improvements in expanded noise testing, compressor vibration isolation, and electronic control boards to dampen noise. Some premium units have as low as 19 dB(A) during peak operation. Before purchasing a unit, buyers should look for features like soundproofed chassis, swept fan blades, and motor mounts.

Appearance and aesthetics

Top mini-split heat pump brands emphasize technological innovation alongside aesthetic refinement, ensuring a perfect balance. Blending the hardware into existing home decor is often challenging, so consumers should consider custom casing panels or ductless ACs designed with polymers instead of metals.

Smart home integration

Top-of-the-line models have WiFi-enabled features, allowing users to remotely adjust temperatures, fan speeds, and operating modes. Amazon Alexa and Google Home allow users to control these systems using voice commands. Some mini-split ductless heat pumps employ advanced monitoring techniques that track real-time usage to enhance efficiency.

Warranty and coverage

Compressor lifespan often dictates the longevity of the equipment. Most brands have warranties ranging between 1 to 10 years on major parts, covering labor and replacement parts. Short-span warranties usually indicate poor quality and performance. Top-tier models offer lifetime warranties or more years to ensure reliability.

Top mini-split heat pump brands for high-performance

Best multi-zone mini-split heat pump: Z-MAX mini-split air conditioner

The ZERO multi-zone mini-split AC

The ZERO Brand Z-MAX mini-split AC is one of the most efficient high-performance heat pumps for multi-zone use. With certified SEER ratings of up to 22 and HSPF scores hitting 10, this unit consistently ranks top among mini-split AC heat pumps as per AHRI standardized testing. The high-efficiency scores guarantee savings on electricity costs.

The Z-MAX also features heavy-duty commercial-grade variable-speed inverters that ensure continuous operations even in extreme weather conditions. With sizing capacities ranging from 9,000 BTUs to 36,000 BTUs for cooling and 9,500 BTUs to 36,000 BTUs for heating, users can scale the ductless performance to buildings with variable load demands.

Best wall-mounted heat pump: Puremind mini-split air conditioner

PUREMIND wall-mounted mini-split AC

Consumers looking for the perfect wall-mounted mini-split heat pump won’t go wrong with the Puremind AC. This ductless air conditioner comes packed with all the features necessary for optimal performance, including remote control and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Unlike less optimal units, Puremind employs smart airflow and quick frosting and defrosting, contributing to its efficiency.

While it doesn’t have as high cooling capacity as the Z-MAX, 9,000 BTUs to 24,000 BTUs is more than sufficient for various room sizes. This unit stands out even further because of its shower-style airflow concept for cooling and blanket-style airflow for heating.

Puremind boasts SEER ratings up to 14 and integrated variable speed DC inverter compressors that ensure minimal power usage across seasons.

Most durable mini-split heat pump: Gree Aphro ductless air conditioner

Gree Aphro ductless air conditioner

Designed to offer decades of reliable operations, the Gree Aphro ductless air conditioner shines where resilience and craftsmanship take priority. This unit boasts commercial-grade zinc steel casing and durable Blue Fin corrosion-resistant condenser coils.

The Gree Aphro matches its integrated variable frequency compression with 9,000 to 24,000 BTU, covering loads in varied space sizes. Rated at a baseline SEER 16 efficiency standard, it ensures responsible electricity usage across heating/cooling modes.

Users can also enjoy remote app connectivity powered by the universal Wi-Fi standard technology. The low 24 dB(A) sound provides sufficient quiet, ideal for use in business establishments.

Closing thoughts

Choosing optimal performance mini-split heat pumps demands a holistic approach, balancing quantitative performance data and smart integrations. While technical specifications give much-needed guidance, the reliability of these units also hinges on warranties, assurance tests, and thoughtful design construction. Models like the Z-MAX flex their best-in-class capabilities, whereas the Gree Aphro stands out for its resilient build.

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