Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you shopping for a dependable, budget-friendly home comfort system? If electricity is the better or only solution available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a convenient option. Both systems run on electric power and run 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 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. As opposed to a furnace, which generates 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 deposits it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve allows it to complete this process backward in the summer, working 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 is designed on the same principle as a heat pump. In fact, it is a kind of heat pump — just without the ductwork. That’s 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 equipment connects directly to an outdoor condensing unit via a tiny hole drilled through the wall. Several indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed. 

Making Your Choice 

Below are the most important factors 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 conventional furnace and central AC system, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. Therefore, installing a heat pump is likely the more practical solution. 

On the other hand, if you live in an older home or have added on to the home, you may not have ductwork accessible to use that space year-round. In this case, installing a mini-split is much less involved and costs far less than installing in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are controlled identical to most other central heating and cooling systems: by setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a convenient 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 satisfied with regulating the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be worth the effort. But you can improve home comfort and reduce wasted energy by heating and cooling separate rooms separately. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be incorporated into a central heat pump system by using multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be more straightforward and more practical to install mini-splits in rooms with precise temperature requirements, 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 thanks to a network of air ducts. 

Mini-splits have more choices 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 can mount one in a modified garage or sunroom 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. 

Energy Efficiency 

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

All the same, ductless mini-splits are basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses associated 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 more likely to offer the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

Heat pumps look similar to central AC units. The outdoor cabinet is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler is]] {hidden 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 mounted 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 complete the professional installation you are expecting. Our technicians are ready to deliver excellent products and services backed by our one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee. To learn more 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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