Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a efficient, reasonably priced home comfort system? If electricity is the best or only choice available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a good choice. 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. Compared with a furnace, which produces usable heat for the home by igniting a fuel source, a heat pump moves 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 will allow it to operate 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 operates on the same principle as a heat pump. As a matter of fact, 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 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 through a tiny hole drilled through the wall. Several indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary. 

Making Your Selection 

Below are key details to review 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 traditional furnace and AC unit, the required ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is probably the more affordable choice. 

On the other hand, if you live in an older home or have added on to the home, you might not have ductwork accessible to use that space year-round. In this case, getting a mini-split is much less complex and is more affordable than installing 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 adjusting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a convenient location. On the flip side, ductless mini-splits have 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 required. If it is, you can increase 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 practical to install mini-splits in rooms with distinct temperature requirements, 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 deliver whole-house comfort through 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 tough to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a converted garage or sunroom without adding more 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 cost-effective operation. 

Energy Efficiency 

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

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

Appearance 

Heat pumps look pretty much the same as central AC units. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler within a utility closet or place in the basement. 

In contrast, 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 positioned on the wall or ceiling. 

Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation 

Whatever you decide to do, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can accomplish the professional installation you expect. Our technicians are ready to bring excellent products and services backed 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 local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.