Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a reliable, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the ideal 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 year-round 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. Different from a furnace, which creates usable heat for the home by combusting a fuel source, a heat pump redirects heat from one place to another. In the winter, it pulls out heat energy from the air outside and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve will allow it to operate backward in the summer, running the same as an air conditioner to remove 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. 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 can be a ceiling- or wall-mounted unit with a built-in air handler. This indoor portion is connected directly to an outdoor condensing unit from a small hole drilled in the wall. Several indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed. 

Making Your Selection 

These are the most important details to think about 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 traditional furnace and AC unit, the needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is potentially the more practical solution. 

However, if you live in an older home or have added on to the home, you might not have ductwork where you want climate control. In this case, installing 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 in a way similar 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 operate each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room. 

Zoning 

If you’re satisfied with adjusting 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 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 Versatility 

Heat pumps don’t focus on 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 options for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can install one in a single room that you would otherwise find tough to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a modified garage or sunroom without new ductwork. You can also equip the entire home with a mini-split air handler in each room, all connected to the outdoor condensing unit for affordable 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 generally more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses associated with leaky ductwork. A typical home wastes more than 20% of the air passing through the ductwork to poor air sealing or a lack of insulation. This suggests that a mini-split is more likely to supply 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 concealed within a utility closet or place in the basement. 

On the other hand, 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 

Whatever you decide to do, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can complete the professional installation you are expecting. Our technicians 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.