Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you looking for a reliable, budget-friendly home comfort system? If electricity is the better or only option available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a convenient option. Both systems function on electric power and operate 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 make your mind up.

What Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a type of central climate control system. Unlike a furnace, which creates usable heat for the home by burning a fuel source, a heat pump moves heat from one place to another. In the winter, it draws heat energy from the air outdoors and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve will allow it to perform this process backward in the summer, running the same as an air conditioner to transfer heat and humidity from indoor air and vent it outside.

What Is a Mini-Split?

A mini-split is designed on the same principle as a heat pump. In fact, it is a kind of heat pump — just without the ductwork. This is why it’s called a “ductless” system. A mini-split could 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 in the wall. Several indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, enabling whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary.

Making Your Choice

These are the most important points to review when choosing 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 AC unit, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. Therefore, installing a heat pump is potentially the more practical option.

On the other hand, if you live in an older home or have just made an addition, you might not have ductwork in reach. In this case, installing a mini-split is much less complex and is more affordable than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump.

Unit Control

Heat pumps are managed the same as most other central heating and cooling systems: by setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a accessible location. Having said that, ductless mini-splits use a remote that lets you control each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room.

Zoning

If you’re happy with adjusting the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be worth the effort. If it is, you can improve home comfort and save energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently.

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be integrated 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 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 supply whole-house comfort through 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 difficult to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a transformed garage or sunroom without new ductwork. You can also install a mini-split air handler in each room, all hooked up to the outdoor condensing unit for affordable operation.

Energy Efficiency

Today’s 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 usually more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses that come with leaky ductwork. An ordinary home loses 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 supply the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost.

Appearance

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

By comparison, 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 mounted on the wall or ceiling.

Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation

No matter which system you decide is right for your home, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can complete the professional installation you expect. Our specialists are ready to provide excellent products and services supported 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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