Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you shopping for a efficient, reasonably priced home comfort system? If electricity is the best or only option available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be perfect for your home. Both systems function on electric power and run in heating and cooling modes for 365 days of comfort. So, what’s it going to be — heat pump or mini-split? 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 creates 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 redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve enables it to perform 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. Actually, it is a kind of heat pump — but although they don’t use 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 portion hooks up directly to an outdoor condensing unit through a tiny 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.

Making Your Selection

Here are the most important details to review 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 standard furnace and AC unit, the required ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is probably the more cost-effective option.

That being said, if you live in an older home or have just completed a renovation, you may not have ductwork accessible to use that space year-round. In this case, installing a mini-split is much less involved and is more affordable than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump.

Unit Control

Heat pumps are managed in a way similar to most other central heating and cooling systems: by using a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. On the flip side, ductless mini-splits have 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 required. If it is, you can increase home comfort and save energy by heating and cooling separate rooms individually.

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 practical to install mini-splits in rooms with precise temperature needs, 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 deliver whole-house comfort with help from a network of air ducts.

Mini-splits have more choices 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 can mount one in a transformed 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 hooked up to the outdoor condensing unit for cost-effective operation.

Energy Efficiency

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

Regardless, ductless mini-splits are basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses connected with leaky ductwork. An ordinary home squanders more than 20% of the air passing through the ductwork to poor air sealing or a lack of insulation. This means that a mini-split is more likely to produce 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 unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler concealed within a utility closet or somewhere in the basement.

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

Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation

No matter which decision you make, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can perform the professional installation you are expecting. Our specialists are ready to provide excellent products and services protected 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 nearby Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.

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