Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you looking for a dependable, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the better or only option available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a convenient option. Both systems operate 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, get the details about each HVAC system to help you make your mind up. 

What Is a Heat Pump? 

A heat pump is a kind of central climate control system. Unlike a furnace, which produces usable heat for the home by burning a fuel source, a heat pump transfers 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 perform this process backward in the summer, running 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 works on the same principle as a heat pump. In fact, 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 portion links directly to an outdoor condensing unit via a tiny hole drilled in the wall. Multiple indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, enabling whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary. 

Making Your Choice 

Here are significant points 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 air conditioner, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. Therefore, installing a heat pump is likely the more affordable choice. 

That being said, if you live in an older home or have added on to the home, you may not have ductwork in reach. In this case, adding a mini-split is much less complicated and is more affordable 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 using a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a accessible 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 happy with adjusting the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be necessary. But you can increase 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 more straightforward and more cost-effective to install mini-splits in rooms with specific temperature needs, 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 offer 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 tricky to keep comfortable. You can mount one in a transformed garage or sunroom without extending the 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. 

All the same, ductless mini-splits are generally more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses connected with leaky ductwork. A typical home loses 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 likely to offer the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

Heat pumps look similar to central air conditioners. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler sits within a utility closet or place in the basement. 

In contrast, mini-splits are more noticeable. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be unnoticeable, but they are clearly visible in any room in which they are displayed on the wall or ceiling. 

Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation 

No matter which system you decide is right for your home, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can accomplish the professional installation you are expecting. Our service providers are ready to bring excellent products and services supported 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.