ASHPs can be installed across a full spectrum of homes regardless of whether the system is for new construction or a remodel. The technology has proved to be particularly popular among homes without ductwork, like Hartwig’s and others in the region.
“Heating and cooling in one system seems to perk customers' interest,” said Sullivan. “This is especially true for electrically-heated households where ductwork commonly doesn’t exist. Air source heat pumps provide an opportunity to add proper air conditioning and upgrade their heating efficiency at the same time.”
Hartwig, for example, did not have air conditioning in his home and was first drawn to the ASHP technology’s cooling capabilities. Since installation, however, he has made full use of both units to supplement his off-peak electric radiant heat and free-standing propane and wood-burning stoves.
“The cooling and air conditioning features of the mini-split caught my interest first. This was part of what initiated the upgrade, but we use it for heat too,” Hartwig explained.
A mini-split mounted on the inside wall of Hartwig's home provides heated and cooled air to the room.
In practice, Hartwig and Minardi both noted how it helps to be mindful of the seasons and outside temperature to adjust the units and settings accordingly. While the technology continues to improve, efficiency of the units does decrease on the coldest days, which is certainly true in northern Minnesota.
“I couldn’t eliminate the other sources of heat in my home [on the coldest days]... but they work together,” Hartwig noted.
In addition to heating and cooling, Minardi also likes to educate homeowners about the technology’s other functions, so they can get the most value from the technology.
“There is cooling and heating, but I also emphasize dry and fan modes. All of these are important to know about in our climate,” said Minardi. “Dry mode, for example, provides dehumidification. It can be 75 or 80 [degrees Fahrenheit] and humid, but once these units remove the humidity, for example, it’s comfortable. And that’s what people want.”
“Every house is different and a homeowner needs to play with the features to be most efficient and comfortable in their space,” he added.
Even with the learning curve that comes with new technology, it is an encouraging sign that customers, contractors and utilities are satisfied with the progress being made with cold climate ASHPs, especially in a climate like Northeast Minnesota.
“There is always more to learn when it comes to energy and technology,” Hartwig said. “But all in all, though, air source heat pumps are a great technology. I do love mine, and I’ve pitched them to quite a few people. My brother is probably sick of me talking about mini-splits.”
Editor’s Note: There is no relationship between homeowner Brent Hartwig in this story and the contractor company Brent's Heating and Cooling, managed by Mitch Minardi.