Are you looking for a reliable, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the best or only option available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a good choice. Both systems operate on electric power and run in heating and cooling modes for year-round comfort. So, what’s it going to be — heat pump or mini-split? If you’re still trying to decide, get the details about each HVAC system to help you determine the right fit.
A heat pump is a type of central climate control system. Unlike a furnace, which generates usable heat for the home by igniting a fuel source, a heat pump moves heat from one place to another. In the winter, it extracts heat energy from the air outdoors and deposits it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve allows it to operate backward in the summer, running the same as an air conditioner to remove heat and humidity from indoor air and vent it outside.
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 is designed as a ceiling- or wall-mounted unit with a built-in air handler. This indoor component connects directly to an outdoor condensing unit via a small hole drilled in the wall. Multiple indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, allowing for whole-home comfort with no ductwork required.
Here are the most important points to consider when choosing between a heat pump and a mini-split for your the U.S. home.
If your home is already heated and cooled with a traditional furnace and air conditioner, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is probably the more cost-effective choice.
However, if you live in an older home or have just made an addition, you may not have ductwork where you want climate control. In this case, installing a mini-split is much less involved and costs far less than putting in the ductwork required for a heat pump.
Heat pumps are controlled the same as most other central heating and cooling systems: by adjusting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. On the other hand, ductless mini-splits use a remote that lets you control each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room.
If you’re content with controlling the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be necessary. But you can increase home comfort and save energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently.
Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be incorporated into a central heat pump system by installing multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be more straightforward and more cost-effective to install mini-splits in rooms with specific temperature requirements, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not.
Heat pumps don’t emphasize flexibility. Instead, they can replace your existing furnace and air conditioner and deliver whole-house comfort through a network of air ducts.
Mini-splits have more options for where you can put the unit. You can install one in a single room that you would otherwise find difficult to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a converted garage or other home addition without extending the ductwork. You can also outfit the entire house with a mini-split air handler in each room, all connected to the outdoor condensing unit for cost-effective operation.
Modern heat pumps are more efficient than ever. There are even cold-climate versions available for a performance boost at low temperatures.
Even so, ductless mini-splits are usually more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses associated with leaky ductwork. A typical home wastes 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 more likely to provide the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost.
Heat pumps look almost identical to central air conditioners. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler sits within a utility closet or somewhere in the basement.
On the other hand, 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.
No matter which system you decide is right for your home, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can perform the professional installation you expect. Our specialists are ready to deliver excellent products and services backed by our one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee. To ask more questions about heat pumps vs. mini-splits or request an installation estimate, please contact your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.
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