Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a dependable, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the best or only solution available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be perfect for your home. Both systems run 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, get the details about each HVAC system to help you settle on a make and model.

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 combusting a fuel source, a heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. In the winter, it extracts heat energy from the air outside and deposits it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve allows it to perform this process backward in the summer, behaving 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 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 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 through a small hole drilled through the wall. Various indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, enabling whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed.

Making Your Decision

These are significant things 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 AC unit, the required ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is potentially the more practical choice.

That being said, 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, installing a mini-split is much less involved and is more affordable than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump.

Unit Control

Heat pumps are controlled in a way similar to most other central heating and cooling systems: by setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. Having said that, ductless mini-splits use a remote that lets you adjust each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room.

Zoning

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

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be integrated into a central heat pump system by using multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be simpler and more affordable to install mini-splits in rooms with precise temperature requirements, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not.

Design Flexibility

Heat pumps don’t prioritize flexibility. Instead, they can replace your existing furnace and air conditioner and deliver whole-house comfort with help from a network of air ducts.

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

Even so, ductless mini-splits are usually more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses connected with leaky ductwork. The average home wastes more than 20% of the air traveling through the ductwork to spotty air sealing or a lack of insulation. This suggests that a mini-split is more likely to produce the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost.

Appearance

Heat pumps look almost identical to central AC units. The outdoor cabinet is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler stays 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 inconspicuous, 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 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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