Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a efficient, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the ideal or only option available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a good choice. Both systems function on electric power and run in heating and cooling modes for 365 days of comfort. So, have you made your choice? If you’re still trying to figure it out, 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. Compared with a furnace, which generates usable heat for the home by combusting a fuel source, a heat pump moves heat from one place to another. In the winter, it draws heat energy from the air outdoors and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve allows it to complete this process backward in the summer, working 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 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 can be a ceiling- or wall-mounted unit with a built-in air handler. This indoor component links directly to an outdoor condensing unit via a tiny hole drilled through the wall. Several indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, enabling whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed. 

Making Your Decision 

Below are key details 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 standard furnace and AC unit, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is potentially the more practical option. 

However, if you live in an older home or have just made an addition, you might not have ductwork where you want climate control. In this case, getting a mini-split is much less involved and is more affordable than installing in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are controlled the same as most other central heating and cooling systems: by adjusting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. On the other hand, ductless mini-splits have a remote that lets you control each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room. 

Zoning 

If you’re satisfied 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 save energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be integrated 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 precise temperature demands, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not. 

Design Adaptability 

Heat pumps don’t focus on 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 options for where you can put the unit. You can place one in a single room that you would otherwise find challenging to keep comfortable. You can mount one in a modified garage or other home addition without new ductwork. You can also outfit the entire house 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 available 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. An ordinary home squanders more than 20% of the air passing through the ductwork to spotty air sealing or a lack of insulation. This means that a mini-split is likely to supply the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

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

On the other hand, mini-splits are easy to view. 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 

No matter which decision you make, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can perform the professional installation you are expecting. Our techs are ready to deliver 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 local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.