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Community and Q&A

Heating only instead of minisplits?

LauraCarter | Posted in Mechanicals on

I’m designing a single-story cabin made up of two independent buildings – about 500sf (2 bedrooms and a full bath) and 700sf (open plan living, dining, kitchen, and a half bath), respectively. Climate zone 6 and a pretty heavily wooded/shaded lot.  Owner has no desire for air conditioning, so installing minisplits seems like a waste of good technology.  I’m thinking of suggesting just electric resistance heaters (baseboard or wall panels).  Ventilation will be one Lunos e2 per building, with another Lunos e-go in one of the bedrooms.  Any red flags with this plan, or reasons we should consider the minisplits anyway?

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  1. Jon_R | | #1

    > reasons we should consider the minisplits

    They are about 3x more efficient.

    1. LauraCarter | | #2

      Hi Jon! Can you go into a bit more detail? A radiant panel with no forced air component seems like it would be far more efficient.

      1. this_page_left_blank | | #3

        The radiant panels generate heat by passing electrical current through a resistive wire, which heats up. 1kJ in, 1kJ out. Minisplits are heat pumps, which move heat from one place to another. 1kJ in moves about 3kJ from outside to inside; exact ratio depends on conditions and specific equipment but 3:1 is a pretty typical number.

        1. LauraCarter | | #4

          Gotcha. So even if the cooling system never, ever gets used, you'd still go with minisplits over a heating-only system?

          1. _Stephen_ | | #5


  2. ohioandy | | #6

    Laura, there are other factors besides efficiency, of course. Minisplits are a high-tech way to put heat where you want it, and they do it relatively efficiently, but they are far more expensive up front and in maintenance than resistance heating. If the cabin is only sporadically occupied in cold weather, it might be tough to justify if you amortize it in terms of cost per heating day. Service calls are unheard of for resistance heating, but not out of the question for minisplits, and a remote cabin would be an expensive trip for a checkup. No matter what you choose, it sounds like you've got two zones, which further increases the expense. Another concern is a power outage--if you need to prevent freezing you will need propane on site anyway, so now you'd have two parallel heating systems.

  3. Jon_R | | #7

    I would design a cabin to be safe even when the interior drops below freezing. This saves energy and sooner or later, it is likely to happen anyway.

  4. brp_nh | | #8

    Your profile location says NY, so I'm going to assume this is climate zone 6 in the Northeast. Giving a specific location would be helpful.

    Ignoring heating efficiency for now.....although the owner says they have no desire for AC, I think they would appreciate the ability to cool and dehumidify when conditions are hot/humid for a week or weeks in a row.

    Our house in the White Mtns of NH (zone 6) gets full sun for a good portion of the day, which is great for our solar panels, but I'm glad we have a mini split for the worst of the hot/humid summer weather.

    I'd keep the mini splits as a top option and look carefully at the benefits of the higher heating efficiency and ability to cool/dehumidify.

  5. gusfhb | | #9

    I said to my wife the other day 'it feels like a summer camp'
    A late September stretch of 70 degrees and very high humidity made the whole house wringing wet
    The toilet paper was soggy

    So, the dehumidifying will be worth it

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