What is a Split System? - Ask the Expert Episode 113

Not sure what the difference between a split system and a conventional system is? Our expert, Dan Danowski, explains.

Video Script:

Oh hey, welcome to Ask the Expert, I'm the expert, Dan Danowski here to answer all your heating and air conditioning questions.

Our first question is from Mike in Providence, Rhode Island. "Hey Dan, what's a split system?"

A split system is a very common kind of central air conditioning and heating system that you're going to find all over these glorious and beautiful United States from sea to shining sea hallelujah. It's got at least two different parts. You've got the condenser outside, which is the big square box. Then the inside part is the air handler. And you're going to run refrigerant lines and communicating wires to the air handler. They are going to work together, but they're split up.

You can add a furnace in to your split system for more heating, or you can leave the furnace out.

Have more questions? Just ask them in the comments below or on Facebook or on Twitter. 

29 comments (view/add)
  • Joe mancini
    Joe mancini
    Posted on 8/4/2022

    Hey Dan I have a 24k diy mr cool split system. Sometimes when it’s really hot the larger of the two lines frosts over at the condenser where there is no insulation. It seems to be cooling fine but is probably a little undersized for what it’s trying to cool so I’m sure it’s working hard on days over 90. Should I worry or as long as it’s cooling ok let it be ??

  • Dan Danowski
    Dan Danowski from Ingrams
    Posted on 8/11/2022

    It could be that enough dirt and dust is building up on that exposed line to allow water to accumulate which, in turn, is turning to ice. It could still be working fine. You just might want to get some foam insulation over that bit of pipe.

  • Don
    Posted on 9/28/2021

    I have a 2,040 sq. ft home. My HVAC system has been red tagged because of a crack that caused a leak. I have a central heat and a/c rooftop unit.
    Since, I have to replace the HVAC system. Could I go with a Mini-Split System with multi zones? If so, what would be recommended? I am also in the process of installing a Solar System. All of this is new to me, and I could use some direction.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Dan Danowski
    Dan Danowski from Ingrams
    Posted on 9/29/2021

    Yes, it would be possible to replace a central air system with a multi-zone mini-split. Whether or not that is the best thing to do for your home depends a lot on the details of that home. For those who live in cold climates, furnace heat is often preferable to mini-split heat pumps. Of course, homeowners in warmer regions can do just fine with only heat pump heating. Give us a call at 270-575-9595, and one of our experts can go over your situation with you.

  • gary palenik
    gary palenik
    Posted on 7/23/2021

    I have a Kenmore 70 pint dehumidifier after 2yrs of use the refrigerant leaked out, it calls for 410r, I was going to get a bullet piecing value and replace the refrigerant with 134a that I have let over from my automobile ac, Is this possible? also is it dangerous? that's why I am asking the Expert, thank you

  • Dan Danowski
    Dan Danowski from Ingrams
    Posted on 7/27/2021

    We definitely never recommend mixing different refrigerants. Those two refrigerants have different boiling points and pressure requirements, so they would not play well with each other.

  • La T
    La T
    Posted on 8/14/2020

    Looking to get an Universal Electric Split System. We have a two-level new construction in the framing stage, so have to make decisions of what is needed to go behind the walls. This is a garage apartment, two-car garage and other rooms like workshop, 1/2 bath, hobby kitchen and multipurpose room and storage on the first floor. On the second floor there are two bedrooms, 1 bathroom, open kitchen and living room combo. The total sq area in apartment is 1152, same for first floor, however there is an enclosed attached stairwell that measures 11' x 24' x 20' in height that will also need to be heated. We will have an all-electric house with a 200 amp panel. We are also going with an electric Stiebel Tempra 24 whole house instant hot water system that requires 100 amps.
    Thought we may need a 2 to3 ton Universal for each floor. Was thinking of using one 5 ton unit for both floors, but would definitely need to have several zones to manage the temps in each room. Does the Universal allow for more than one thermostat? If not, then should we get the two 3 ton units to each handle each level? Need to know asap to prepare for ductwork. We also need to know if it is ok to use pvc ductwork as we like the less invasive vents,however, we want to make certain we have the proper size pvc for the job. What would you recommend?

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 8/14/2020

    From what you describe, two separate systems would be our best guess. The Universal cannot use more than one thermostat. However, you could possibly adapt a zoning system to it. It is not compatible with high static pressure duct systems, if that's what you're referring to with the "pvc ductwork". Hope that helps!

  • Mary Duckworth
    Mary Duckworth
    Posted on 7/8/2020

    I have new split system installed in my double wide. Experienced installer moved my thermostat next to handler box where blower is. When i took off cover of handler thermostat started working properly. He said the wire was to short so that is why he moved it.

    Do you think possibly i have the filter too high on cover of handler. . I did feel extreme heat around cover door prior to taking it off.

    I hope im clear enough about the situation.

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 7/9/2020

    To be honest, I am not really understanding. You could give our tech guys a call at 270-575-9595 x300. It seems like this might be something better explained over the phone than in text.

  • Phyllis C.
    Phyllis C.
    Posted on 12/18/2019

    We bought a 100 yr old brick house with broken steam heat radiators, boiler doesn't work either..no duct work in house either. 1600 sq feet home, 2 bedrooms living room kitchen dining room and bath. Would mini split units be an effective option to replace heating and cooling in this house?

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 12/19/2019

    They definitely could be. A multi-zone system would definitely be effective for cooling. Depending on your climate zone, they might suffice for heating as well. Mini-splits are great for older homes that were built before central heating and air became common. A multi-zone system will definitely be more cost effective than putting in new ductwork, which you might not even have space to accommodate.

  • Becky Hogue
    Becky Hogue
    Posted on 6/7/2019

    Do you need an electrician to hook up power?

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 6/10/2019

    Many HVAC professionals can also perform electrical work. However, when they cannot, an electrician is recommended.

  • Toney Lewis
    Toney Lewis
    Posted on 5/10/2019

    Dan, i enjoyed the tutorial and you are hilarious! You made it easy to understand.

  • John Fields
    John Fields
    Posted on 4/18/2019

    Sooooo hating your wife? Not the best joke there. Maybe use another take without the squirming humor? But separately, so a window unit is not a split system but basically every other type of system is? How does a mini-split change the equation? Is it just smaller by some arbitrary measurement? Thx!

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 4/19/2019

    A split system is basically any cooling or heating system that requires two or more separate units to function. Non-split systems are usually called package units and include central heating and air conditioning package units, window units, and packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs). Most split systems consist of an outside condenser (big square box) and an inside air handler (tall rectangular box). Mini-split systems are much smaller than conventional split system, easier to install, and are very versatile in terms of location.

  • Ray Grenier
    Ray Grenier
    Posted on 4/15/2019

    Why do you keep shifting y our eyes back and forth when you talk? Are you nervous?

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 4/15/2019

    You caught him! Dan's not the most comfortable on camera, but he's dedicated to getting you folks the answers!

  • Marion
    Posted on 2/26/2019

    I have a 750 sq. ft. addition, what heating and cooling system would you recommrnd.

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 2/27/2019

    An 18k ductless mini-split heat pump would be a good fit for a 750 sq ft addition to a home. If you wanted to install it yourself, you could get a MRCOOL DIY 18k. However, if you would prefer a professional installation, you could get something like the 18k Gree Livo+.

  • Earl amos
    Earl amos
    Posted on 9/6/2018

    We have a 450 sq ft room what would the best unit be and what all do we need

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 9/7/2018

    For a 450 sq ft room, I would recommend a ductless mini-split system like a MRCOOL Advantage, Gree Livo+, or LG Mega at around 12k BTUs.

  • Don Simons
    Don Simons
    Posted on 8/26/2018

    Hi Dan
    I am a green builder Texas Louisenanv gulf coast.i .C.F walls and roof=R 30+envormental + tiight envelope-X waste.working toward a Leeds rating
    Platium first geo.

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 8/27/2018

    Good luck on LEED!

  • Avi
    Posted on 8/22/2018

    Hi there,

    I have 18+ year old Air Condition system and coil is corroded and developed a major leak apart from leak system functioned okay after some repairs.
    The questions are:-
    1. Should I just replace coil, flush refrigerant lines and leave the rest of system intact.

    2. Just replace complete system including the furnace, pretty pricey. I'm told that the new system runs on R410 refrigerant not R12 Freon therefore have to run new bigger diameter refrigerant lines (7/8"). The new R410 has higher pressure and might end up freezing up coil.
    Is this true. Thanks in advance for your answer. Avi

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 8/23/2018

    Depending on how the rest of the system is operating, replacing the coil and flushing the lines might be a good option. However, I would point out two things. First, if you are using R-12 refrigerant, it was phased out in 1996. Getting replacement refrigerant will be crazy expensive. Second, the average life of an air conditioner split system is 15 years or so. You're above average right now. With good repairs and solid maintenance you might squeeze a few more years out of it.

    In terms of a complete split system replacement, any system you buy today is going to run on R-410A. And since you would be getting a new coil in a new system designed for R-410A, I really don't know what they're talking about by saying "it might end up freezing the coil." That doesn't make any sense to me. Tens of millions of units use R-410A without any problems. Plus, R-410A isn't going to get phased out anytime soon, so any refrigerant replacement won't cost an arm and a leg. Basically, I don't see the objections about R-410A making sense.

    What I would recommend is that you get an estimate on what it would cost to replace your coil and charge your system. Next, get an estimate for replacement. Then shop around online (or just call us!) to try to find the equipment you need at a low cost. As always, if you need advice or help, call us at 800-360-1569.

  • Duffy Dumont
    Duffy Dumont
    Posted on 7/24/2018

    Does a geothermal heat pump, have to be installed inside the house? If not, does it make a difference, in efficiency, weather its inside or out?

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 7/25/2018

    Geothermal components should definitely be installed in some sort of housing. They're not designed to be out in the elements. One of the big advantages with a geothermal system is that there is no environmental wear and tear.

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