Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a efficient, budget-friendly home comfort system? If electricity is the better 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 operate in heating and cooling modes for 365 days of comfort. So, have you made your choice? If you’re still trying to decide, read more about each HVAC system to help you determine the right fit. 

What Is a Heat Pump? 

A heat pump is a type of central climate control system. As opposed to a furnace, which produces usable heat for the home by burning a fuel source, a heat pump redirects 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 enables it to complete this process backward in the summer, running the same as an AC system 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. Actually, it is a kind of heat pump — but although they don’t use the ductwork. That’s 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 via a tiny hole drilled through the wall. Various indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed. 

Making Your Choice 

These are key points to consider 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 conventional furnace and central AC system, the required ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is likely the more cost-effective choice. 

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 complicated and costs far less than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are controlled identical to 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 use a remote that lets you control 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 worth the effort. If it is, you can maximize home comfort and conserve 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 more straightforward and more affordable to install mini-splits in rooms with individual temperature needs, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not. 

Design Flexibility 

Heat pumps don’t focus on 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 choices for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can place one in a single room that you would otherwise find tough to keep comfortable. You can mount one in a modified garage or other home addition without new 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 affordable operation. 

Energy Efficiency 

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

Regardless, ductless mini-splits are usually more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses affiliated with leaky ductwork. A normal home squanders 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 provide the same quantity 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 stays within a utility closet or somewhere 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 installed 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 accomplish the professional installation you are expecting. Our techs are ready to bring 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 nearby Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.