Over the last few years, the cost of electricity here in Jacksonville has steadily risen. As of today, the average Jacksonville resident now spends 42% more on electricity each month compared to the national average. That new reality means residents must look for any way to cut energy costs. Unfortunately, air conditioning makes up a large portion of the average home’s electricity bill. And since turning off the AC in a hot and humid climate like ours isn’t an option, there’s only one way to tame AC costs. It’s to purchase a more efficient air conditioner. For that, plenty of homeowners are turning to ductless mini-split systems. But will those systems save you money on your electricity bill? To answer that, here’s everything you need to know about the energy usage of ductless mini-splits.
The Average Seer Rating of a Mini-Split
The first thing you’d need to do to evaluate the energy use of a ductless mini-split is to look at its SEER rating. SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio, is the standard efficiency metric here in the US. It’s a number system representing how much electricity you can expect an AC to consume during a typical cooling season. When you look at a SEER rating, the higher the number, the more efficient the air conditioner.
As of 2023, all central air conditioning systems sold in the southern US must have a SEER rating of at least 15. However, most AC systems already installed don’t have a SEER rating that high. So, if your home has an older AC, it may have a SEER rating of 13 or less.
When it comes to mini-splits, though, you’ll find a much higher average SEER rating. Most mini-splits have a SEER rating of 20 or more. And if you’re willing to spend a little bit more, you can find mini-splits with a SEER rating as high as 42! You won’t find conventional central air conditioners with SEER ratings that high no matter where you look.
The takeaway is that the average mini-split is more efficient than the average conventional central air conditioning system, even when new. So, if you were to compare a mini-split to your Jacksonville home’s existing air conditioner, it’s all but certain that it would outperform your older AC by a significant margin. In other words, it would cost less to operate in every case. That’s the good news. But there’s more.
Operational Efficiency of Mini-Splits Versus Central AC
The next thing to consider to understand the energy use of a mini-split is to look at how one operates. Unlike conventional, forced-air central air conditioners, mini-splits don’t require ductwork. While that may not sound like a big deal, it’s more important than most people realize. That’s because an AC’s ductwork is typically the source of most of the system’s energy waste.
The reason for that is simple. Ductwork is rarely airtight and often has very little insulation if any at all. So, as cooled air travels through a home’s ductwork, plenty leaks into its walls, where it goes to waste. The ductwork also allows heat to reach the cooled air, where it can raise the airflow temperature before it reaches the parts of your home where you need it.
As a result, ductwork can account for as much as a 30% efficiency penalty in a central air conditioning system. That’s a source of energy loss that a ductless mini-split doesn’t have to worry about. By producing cold air inside each room that needs it, a mini-split provides targeted cooling with no wasted energy. And that’s just one of its advantages.
Mini-splits also give homeowners far more control over their home’s indoor temperature than conventional central AC systems. That’s because they offer zoned cooling by default. In a typical central air conditioning installation, you’ll have just a single, centralized thermostat controlling the temperature of the whole home. That can lead to significant temperature fluctuations from one room to the next. At best, some central air conditioning systems feature two zones, offering a little more control, but not much.
With a ductless mini-split system, however, you can set a different temperature in each room with an air handler installed. That provides better control of the indoor environment and makes it so that you don’t have to pay more to keep rooms colder than needed. You can even turn off the air handlers in the rooms you’re not in and avoid a big chunk of the cooling costs you’d otherwise face with a conventional AC system.
Other Efficiency Advantages of Ductless Mini-Splits
Some ductless mini-splits also have advantages that help them use less electricity than conventional air conditioners. For example, most mini-splits sold today feature inverter technology. That allows them to adjust the speed of their compressors to use only as much electricity as they need to maintain your set temperature.
With a conventional air conditioner, there are only two speeds—on and off. So, your system turns on when the thermostat reaches a preset variance above your set temperature and then stays on until the thermostat drops to a specific variance below your set temperature. That’s an inefficient approach because it means your AC’s compressor must always run at full power.
With a mini-split, inverter technology allows the system to sample the air temperature more frequently, so it can cut back on power usage when full-power cooling isn’t necessary. That accomplishes two things. First, a mini-split will run longer at a lower power level. That will maintain the temperature you’ve set and use less total electricity than a conventional system would. Plus, having your air handlers run longer allows them to extract more moisture from the air, which makes you feel cooler at higher ambient temperatures. So, with a mini-split, you may find that you don’t have to set the thermostat as low as you did with a conventional AC system to feel comfortable, saving you even more money on electricity.
Turn to the Mini Split Experts
So, the answer to whether mini-splits use less electricity to cool your home than conventional central AC systems is a resounding yes. They’re more efficient than most central AC systems on the market, don’t waste energy through ductwork losses, and let you choose when, where, and how much cooling you need. If that sounds like the cooling system you want for your Jacksonville home, Bold City Heating & Air can help. We’re a family-owned and state-certified HVAC company that’s served the Jacksonville area for two generations. We offer comprehensive HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance services, including installing and servicing the latest ductless mini-split models. We also offer indoor air quality and insulation services to help you improve the efficiency and livability of your home.
So, if you’d like to inquire about having a ductless mini-split AC installed in your Jacksonville home, call the experts at Bold City Heating & Air today!