Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a reliable, 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 perfect for your home. Both systems operate on electric power and operate 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, get the details about each HVAC system to help you determine the right fit. 

What Is a Heat Pump? 

A heat pump is a kind of central climate control system. Compared with a furnace, which generates 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 outdoors and deposits it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve enables it to perform this process backward in the summer, working the same as an air conditioner to remove 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. In fact, it is a kind of heat pump — but although they don’t use 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 component is connected directly to an outdoor condensing unit from a small hole drilled in the wall. Multiple indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork required. 

Making Your Decision 

Here are significant factors to think about when choosing 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 conventional furnace and AC unit, the required ductwork infrastructure is already in place. In this situation, installing a heat pump is potentially the more cost-effective choice. 

However, if you live in an older home or have just completed a renovation, you might not have ductwork in reach. In this case, getting a mini-split is much less complex and is more cost effective than putting in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are managed the same as most other central heating and cooling systems: by using 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 necessary. But you can maximize home comfort and conserve energy by heating and cooling separate rooms individually. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be added into a central heat pump system by installing multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be easier and more practical to install mini-splits in rooms with individual 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 thanks to a network of air ducts. 

Mini-splits have more options for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can place one in a single room that you would otherwise find tricky to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a transformed 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 usually more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses connected 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 offer the same quantity of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

Heat pumps look almost identical to central air conditioning units. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler stays 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 inconspicuous, but they are clearly visible in any room in which they are installed 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 want. Our service providers are ready to provide 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 nearest Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today. 

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