First of all, according to a core of Eichler owners, the radiant system takes too long to heat up. In fact, some owners don't even bother to turn their radiant heat on in the fall or spring because of the long response time. Secondly, by the time the floor is warm and the temperature inside the house is comfortable, the solar gain and rising outdoor temperatures can quickly drive up the temperature inside beyond the point of comfort, forcing the homeowner to open windows and doors to cool down the house.
Mini-split systems equipped with a heat pump allow the homeowner the option to deliver a burst of indoor heat exactly when needed. Because of this advantage, most Eichler owners who choose mini-splits request the heat pump option over the straight air conditioning one. What's more, the additional cost of the heat pump is negligible, especially when all of the benefits derived from it are taken into account. Because of our mild Bay Area climate and active life-styles, some homeowners use their heat pumps year round and will only use the radiant system during cold spells.
Mini-splits also have a filtration system incorporated into their design to filter out pollen and dust and enhance indoor air quality. Homeowners have the option of using carbon filters, which further improve the air quality by removing unpleasant odors in the air. The units also have the capacity to run as a straight filter system, without heating or cooling. Other noteworthy features of mini-splits are their remote control functions (included with virtually all units), auto timer functions, and vanes that automatically move up and down to evenly distribute the air flow.
Mini-splits are manufactured by a host of companies, including Samsung, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Hitachi, and Friedrich. These companies have established good lines of distribution, training, and technical support.
Guest 'House Doc' Lance Eastman is a heating and cooling expert who operates Bay Area Plumbing & Heating, based in Redwood City: 650-323-6006.
Top photo credit: Cathye Smithwick