Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you looking for a dependable, affordable 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 run in heating and cooling modes for year-round comfort. So, have you made your choice? If you’re still trying to figure it out, get the details 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. As opposed to a furnace, which creates usable heat for the home by combusting 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, running the same as an AC system 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 — just without the ductwork. This is why it’s called a “ductless” system. A mini-split is designed as 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 through the wall. Several indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, allowing for whole-home comfort with no ductwork required. 

Making Your Decision 

Here are the most important things to consider 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 central AC system, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is probably the more practical choice. 

However, if you live in an older home or have just made an addition, you might not have ductwork accessible to use that space year-round. In this case, adding a mini-split is much less complex and is more cost effective than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are managed identical to most other central heating and cooling systems: by setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. On the other hand, 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 controlling the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be needed. If it is, you can increase home comfort and conserve energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be added into a central heat pump system by installing multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be more straightforward 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 offer whole-house comfort through a network of air ducts. 

Mini-splits have more choices for where you can put the unit. You can place one in a single room that you would otherwise find tricky to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a modified garage or sunroom without adding more ductwork. You can also install a mini-split air handler in each room, all connected 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 offered for a performance boost at low temperatures. 

Even so, ductless mini-splits are basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses affiliated with leaky ductwork. An ordinary home squanders 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 likely to produce the same quantity of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

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. 

By comparison, mini-splits are more noticeable. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be inconspicuous, 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 

Whatever you decide to do, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can accomplish the professional installation you are expecting. Our service providers are ready to provide 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.