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Using a Ductless Mini Split for Heating a Garage

by Ultimate Heating & Cooling / March 10, 2022

A survey conducted by Gladiator GarageWorks found that nearly 30% of homeowners used their garage for hobbies, 19% for woodworking or carpentry projects, and 13% for exercising. 93% of homeowners said they used the garage for storage in a study by Home Innovation Research Labs. It’s safe to say that garages aren’t just for parking cars!

Spending long periods of time in a garage with no heating or cooling can be pretty miserable. However, with a ductless mini split system installed, you can make working in your garage more comfortable. Plus, having a climate-controlled space means you can keep any stored valuables in top condition, such as leather goods, wooden furniture, collector’s items, old family photos, and more.

Read below to learn how ductless mini splits work and the benefits of using one in your garage.

What Is a Ductless Mini Split System?

A mini-split system is a type of ductless heating and cooling unit. There are three main components to it:

  • An indoor wall or ceiling-mounted air-handler, which contains an evaporator coil and fan.
  • An outdoor floor-mounted condensing coil and compressor. In winter, it pulls heat indoors and in summer, it removes it.
  • A conduit to connect the indoor and outdoor units. Inside the conduit there’s electrical wiring for power and communication, copper tubing for refrigerant, and a drain line. The wall cutout size for the conduit is usually three inches.

Unlike a traditional HVAC setup, which uses a central unit to distribute air, the mini-split system has a dedicated fan and coil unit for each room. This setup makes them highly effective at controlling the temperature in a specific room. Also, the components used in a mini-split setup are smaller, so you can install them in most spaces.

How Does a Ductless Mini Split System Work?

Mini splits use a compressor pump to cycle refrigerant between the outdoor and indoor units. As the refrigerant moves through the pipes, it passes through two separate heat exchanger coils. The outside exchanger and refrigerant absorb any thermal energy from the surrounding air, which then warms the refrigerant and turns it from a liquid into a gas. As a result, the refrigerant’s pressure increases and, with the help of the compressor pump, the warm and vaporized refrigerant is pushed indoors. A centrifugal fan inside the indoor unit then distributes the heat from the pipework. In summer, the system works in reverse.

To ensure the system runs smoothly and delivers the set temperature, there are control units built into the indoor and outdoor units to monitor the air and refrigerant temperature.

Why a Ductless Mini Split System Is Perfect for Heating a Garage

There are several advantages of using a ductless mini split system in your garage instead of a traditional ducted setup. Here's why:

Improved safety

Those without a mini split setup (or similar) often use portable electric heaters as an alternative way to heat a garage. Although effective, they’re riskier to use. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that these space heaters cause over 1,000 home fires per year, resulting in roughly 50 deaths, as well as significant injury and property damage. Portable electric heaters are risky because they’re a high-wattage appliance, which has the potential to ignite nearby combustible items such as flammable goods. When you consider that a portable electric heater uses around 1,500 watts and a mini-split system uses 500 to 700 watts, it’s easy to see why they’re safer.

Lower running costs

The mini split’s low wattage means they’re cheap to run. Assuming an electricity cost of 12¢/kWh, running a mini split for one hour each day costs less than $2.60 per month. A portable electric heater is twice as expensive, so you’re wasting hundreds of dollars per year by comparison. 

Saves space

Whether you have a house, an apartment, or a condo, ductless mini splits are compact and fit easily into a wide range of spaces. Wall or ceiling-mounted indoor units measure around 12 inches (height) x 32 inches (width) x 9 inches (depth). The outdoor units are twice as high, but have a similar width and depth to the indoor unit. Since they’re so small, mini splits give you the largest working area for your garage projects.

Along with the excellent compactness of the indoor/outdoor units, going duct-free saves a high volume of interior space. In-home rectangular ducts range from 3 x 7 inches to 35 x 40 inches and round ducts are 4 to 41 inches. All of that space might otherwise be better used for insulation or other purposes. 

Easy to install

In addition to saving space, not requiring ductwork makes a mini split much easier and faster to install. All that’s needed is a three or four-inch hole to connect the indoor and outdoor units. The rest of your drywall stays intact and the entire installation just takes an afternoon.

Versatile

Depending on the model, a single mini split outdoor unit handles up to eight indoor units. This allows you to heat your garage along with multiple other rooms in your house. You can also set a different temperature for each indoor unit, so everybody in the house is kept happy with their respective room temperature.

Efficient

Ducted systems lose 20-30% of heat because of holes and leaks. A ductless mini split eliminates this problem and stops you from wasting energy on lost heat. Moreover, the ability to control the temperature in individual spaces/rooms means that only the areas you want to be heated or cooled are affected. There’s no need to waste energy heating up the entire home when there’s only a single room that’s colder than the rest. The same applies to your garage since that’s the area you’re focusing on heating. To learn more about how to improve your home’s energy efficiency, check out our heating tips for winter.

Comfort

Since the air compressor is outside and there’s no ductwork to carry sound or vibrations, noise pollution inside is reduced. Air quality is improved as well due to a multi-filtration system and lack of ductwork for dust to get trapped in. Unlike a forced air unit, mini splits don’t blow air around which could hinder garage activities like woodworking or painting.

Hopefully this has answered your questions on whether a ductless mini split would be a good fit for heating your garage. If you’re interested in installing or servicing ductless HVAC equipment, contact our team of certified HVAC professionals!

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