Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you shopping for a reliable, budget-friendly 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 function on electric power and operate in heating and cooling modes for 365 days of comfort. So, what’s it going to be — heat pump or mini-split? 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 type of central climate control system. Different from a furnace, which creates usable heat for the home by igniting a fuel source, a heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. In the winter, it extracts heat energy from the air outdoors and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve enables it to complete this process backward in the summer, behaving 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 is designed on the same principle as a heat pump. Actually, 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 component is connected directly to an outdoor condensing unit through a tiny hole drilled into the wall. Several indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed.

Making Your Choice

Below are key things to think about 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 needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is potentially the more affordable option.

On the other hand, if you live in an older home or have just completed a renovation, you might not have ductwork in reach. In this case, adding 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 in a way similar 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 operate 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 necessary. But 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 setting up multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be easier and more practical to install mini-splits in rooms with distinct temperature demands, 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 supply whole-house comfort with help from a network of air ducts.

Mini-splits have more choices for where you can put the unit. You can install one in a single room that you would otherwise find tricky to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a converted garage or other home addition without extending the 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

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

Regardless, ductless mini-splits are generally more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses associated with leaky ductwork. A typical home loses more than 20% of the air traveling through the ductwork to inadequate 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 almost identical to central air conditioners. 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 easier to spot. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be unnoticeable, 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

Whatever you decide to do, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can perform the professional installation you count upon. Our technicians are ready to bring 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 local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.

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