Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you looking for a reliable, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the better or only solution available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a convenient option. Both systems operate on electric power and run in heating and cooling modes for year-round comfort. So, have you made your choice? If you’re still trying to figure it out, read more about each HVAC system to help you determine the right fit.

What Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a type of central climate control system. Unlike a furnace, which produces usable heat for the home by igniting a fuel source, a heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. In the winter, it pulls out heat energy from the air outdoors and deposits it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve allows it to complete this process backward in the summer, behaving the same as an air conditioner to pull heat and humidity from indoor air and vent it outside.

What Is a Mini-Split?

A mini-split operates on the same principle as a heat pump. In fact, it is a kind of heat pump — just without the ductwork. That’s why it’s called a “ductless” system. A mini-split can be a ceiling- or wall-mounted unit with a built-in air handler. This indoor equipment is connected directly to an outdoor condensing unit through a tiny hole drilled through the wall. Several indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed.

Making Your Decision

Below are the most important factors to review when deciding between a heat pump and a mini-split for your the U.S. home.

Ductwork & Installation

If your home is currently heated and cooled with a conventional furnace and AC unit, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is likely the more cost-effective option.

That being said, if you live in an older home or have added on to the home, you might not have ductwork in reach. In this case, installing a mini-split is much less complex and is more cost effective than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump.

Unit Control

Heat pumps are controlled identical to most other central heating and cooling systems: by setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a accessible location. On the other hand, ductless mini-splits use a remote that lets you control each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room.

Zoning

If you’re satisfied with adjusting the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be needed. If it is, you can increase home comfort and reduce wasted energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently.

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be integrated into a central heat pump system by setting up multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be more straightforward and more affordable to install mini-splits in rooms with precise temperature requirements, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not.

Design Adaptability

Heat pumps don’t emphasize flexibility. Instead, they can replace your existing furnace and air conditioner and supply whole-house comfort through a network of air ducts.

Mini-splits have greater versatility for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can add one in a single room that you would otherwise find tough to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a transformed garage or sunroom without extending the ductwork. You can also install a mini-split air handler in each room, all hooked up to the outdoor condensing unit for cost-effective operation.

Energy Efficiency

Modern heat pumps are more efficient than ever. There are even cold-climate versions offered for a performance boost at low temperatures.

All the same, ductless mini-splits are generally more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses that come with leaky ductwork. An ordinary home squanders more than 20% of the air traveling through the ductwork to poor air sealing or a lack of insulation. This means that a mini-split is likely to offer the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost.

Appearance

Heat pumps look pretty much the same as central AC units. The outdoor cabinet is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler stays within a utility closet or place in the basement.

In contrast, mini-splits are easier to spot. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be unobtrusive, but they are clearly visible in any room in which they are installed on the wall or ceiling.

Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation

Whatever you decide to do, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can perform the professional installation you count upon. Our techs are ready to bring excellent products and services protected by our one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee. To learn more about heat pumps vs. mini-splits or request an installation estimate, please contact your nearest Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.

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