Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you shopping for a dependable, budget-friendly 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 operate 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. Compared with 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 extracts heat energy from the air outdoors and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve will allow it to complete this process backward in the summer, running 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. In fact, it is a kind of heat pump — minus the ductwork. This is why it’s called a “ductless” system. A mini-split could be a ceiling- or wall-mounted unit with a built-in air handler. This indoor equipment connects directly to an outdoor condensing unit via a tiny hole drilled in the wall. Multiple indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, allowing for whole-home comfort with no ductwork needed. 

Making Your Choice 

Below are significant points 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 standard furnace and air conditioner, the needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is probably the more practical option. 

That being said, if you live in an older home or have just made an addition, you may not have ductwork in reach. In this case, installing a mini-split is much less complex and is more cost effective than installing in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are managed identical 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 operate each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room. 

Zoning 

If you’re happy with regulating the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be necessary. But you can improve home comfort and conserve energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be incorporated into a central heat pump system by using multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be easier and more affordable to install mini-splits in rooms with distinct temperature demands, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not. 

Design Versatility 

Heat pumps don’t emphasize flexibility. Instead, they can replace your existing furnace and air conditioner and deliver whole-house comfort with help from a network of air ducts. 

Mini-splits have greater versatility for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can place one in a single room that you would otherwise find challenging to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a modified garage or sunroom without new ductwork. You can also install 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 that come with leaky ductwork. A normal home squanders more than 20% of the air passing through the ductwork to inadequate 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 almost identical to central air conditioning 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 unnoticeable, 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 want. Our techs are ready to deliver 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 local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.