Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you shopping for a reliable, budget-friendly home comfort system? If electricity is the ideal or only option available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a good choice. Both systems function on electric power and operate in heating and cooling modes for 365 days of 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 settle on a make and model.

What Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a type of central climate control system. As opposed to a furnace, which generates usable heat for the home by combusting a fuel source, a heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. In the winter, it extracts heat energy from the air outside and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve allows it to operate backward in the summer, running the same as an AC system to remove 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 — minus 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 component hooks up directly to an outdoor condensing unit via a small hole drilled into the wall. Several indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed.

Making Your Decision

Here are the most important details to think about when deciding between a heat pump and a mini-split for your the U.S. home.

Ductwork & Installation

If your home is already heated and cooled with a traditional furnace and air conditioner, the needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is likely the more practical option.

However, if you live in an older home or have just completed a renovation, 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 installing in the ductwork required for a heat pump.

Unit Control

Heat pumps are managed very much like most other central heating and cooling systems: by setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a convenient location. On the flip side, ductless mini-splits use a remote that lets you operate each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room.

Zoning

If you’re content with controlling the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be needed. If it is, you can maximize home comfort and conserve energy by heating and cooling separate rooms separately.

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be added into a central heat pump system by using multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be easier 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.

Design Flexibility

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 more choices for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can place one in a single room that you would otherwise find difficult to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a modified garage or sunroom without extending the ductwork. You can also install a mini-split air handler in each room, all connected to the outdoor condensing unit for affordable operation.

Energy Efficiency

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

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

Appearance

Heat pumps look almost identical to central air conditioners. The outdoor cabinet is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler stays within a utility closet or somewhere in the basement.

By comparison, mini-splits are easy to view. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be unobtrusive, but they are clearly visible in any room in which they are displayed on the wall or ceiling.

Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation

Whatever you decide to do, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can accomplish the professional installation you want. Our techs are ready to bring excellent products and services backed by our one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee. To learn more 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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