Are you shopping for a reliable, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the ideal or only solution available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be perfect for your home. Both systems run on electric power and operate in heating and cooling modes for year-round comfort. So, is it a heat pump or mini-split for you? If you’re still trying to decide, read more about each HVAC system to help you settle on a make and model.
A heat pump is a kind of central climate control system. Different from 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 outside and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve enables it to operate backward in the summer, working the same as an AC system to remove heat and humidity from indoor air and vent it outside.
A mini-split works on the same principle as a heat pump. Actually, 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 equipment is connected directly to an outdoor condensing unit from a tiny hole drilled into the wall. Various indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, enabling whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed.
Here are key points to consider when deciding between a heat pump and a mini-split for your the U.S. home.
If your home is currently heated and cooled with a traditional furnace and AC unit, the needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is likely the more practical choice.
However, if you live in an older home or have just made an addition, you may not have ductwork in reach. In this case, getting a mini-split is much less complicated and is more cost effective than putting in the ductwork required for a heat pump.
Heat pumps are controlled in a way similar 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.
If you’re happy with controlling the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be necessary. If it is, you can enhance home comfort and reduce wasted energy by heating and cooling separate rooms individually.
Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be added into a central heat pump system by installing multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be easier and more practical to install mini-splits in rooms with specific temperature demands, 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 offer whole-house comfort thanks to a network of air ducts.
Mini-splits have more options for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can install one in a single room that you would otherwise find tricky to keep comfortable. You can mount one in a converted garage or other home addition without extending the ductwork. You can also equip the entire home with a mini-split air handler in each room, all hooked up to the outdoor condensing unit for cost-effective operation.
Today’s heat pumps are more efficient than ever. There are even cold-climate versions on the market for a performance boost at low temperatures.
Regardless, ductless mini-splits are usually more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses that come with leaky ductwork. The average home wastes more than 20% of the air traveling through the ductwork to spotty air sealing or a lack of insulation. This suggests that a mini-split is likely to offer the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost.
Heat pumps look almost identical to central air conditioning units. The outdoor cabinet is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler concealed within a utility closet or space in the basement.
In contrast, mini-splits are more noticeable. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be unnoticeable, but they are clearly visible in any room in which they are mounted on the wall or ceiling.
No matter which decision you make, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can complete the professional installation you expect. Our techs 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 nearest Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.
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