Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a efficient, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the best or only choice available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be perfect for your home. Both systems operate on electric power and run in heating and cooling modes for year-round comfort. So, have you made your choice? If you’re still trying to decide, read more about each HVAC system to help you make your mind up. 

What Is a Heat Pump? 

A heat pump is a kind of central climate control system. Unlike a furnace, which generates 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 outside and deposits it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve will allow it to complete this process backward in the summer, behaving 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. As a matter of fact, it is a kind of heat pump — minus the ductwork. This is 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 links directly to an outdoor condensing unit from a small hole drilled in the wall. Various indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary. 

Making Your Selection 

Here are significant things to review when deciding between a heat pump and a mini-split for your the U.S. home. 

Ductwork & Installation 

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

That being said, if you live in an older home or have just made an addition, you might not have ductwork where you want climate control. In this case, installing a mini-split is much less complex and is more cost effective than putting in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

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

Zoning 

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

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be incorporated into a central heat pump system by setting up multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be simpler and more cost-effective to install mini-splits in rooms with individual 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 deliver whole-house comfort thanks to a network of air ducts. 

Mini-splits have greater versatility 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 could mount one in a transformed garage or sunroom without adding more 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 

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 basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses connected with leaky ductwork. The average home loses more than 20% of the air passing through the ductwork to inadequate air sealing or a lack of insulation. This means that a mini-split is more likely to supply the same quantity of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

Heat pumps look similar to central air conditioning units. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler concealed within a utility closet or place in the basement. 

In contrast, mini-splits are easy to view. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be unnoticeable, 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 system you decide is right for your home, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can accomplish the professional installation you are expecting. Our service providers are ready to bring 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 nearby Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.