Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a efficient, budget-friendly home comfort system? If electricity is the best 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 run in heating and cooling modes for year-round comfort. So, what’s it going to be — heat pump or mini-split? If you’re still trying to figure it out, read more about each HVAC system to help you settle on a make and model. 

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 igniting a fuel source, a heat pump moves 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 allows it to perform this process backward in the summer, behaving 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 is designed on the same principle as a heat pump. Actually, it is a kind of heat pump — just without 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 component hooks up directly to an outdoor condensing unit through a small hole drilled into the wall. Several indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, enabling whole-home comfort with no ductwork required. 

Making Your Selection 

These are key factors to consider 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 standard furnace and AC unit, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. Therefore, installing a heat pump is probably the more cost-effective solution. 

On the other hand, 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, adding a mini-split is much less complicated and costs far less than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are controlled very much like most other central heating and cooling systems: by using a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a accessible location. Having said that, ductless mini-splits have a remote that lets you control each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room. 

Zoning 

If you’re content with regulating the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be worth the effort. But you can enhance home comfort and save energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be added 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 specific temperature requirements, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not. 

Design Versatility 

Heat pumps don’t prioritize 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 greater versatility 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 can mount one in a transformed garage or sunroom without adding more 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 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. A normal home wastes more than 20% of the air traveling 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 quantity of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

Heat pumps look almost identical to central air conditioners. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler stays within a utility closet or space in the basement. 

By comparison, 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 mounted 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 perform the professional installation you are expecting. Our service providers 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 nearby Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.