Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a reliable, budget-friendly home comfort system? If electricity is the better or only solution available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be perfect for your home. Both systems run on electric power and run in heating and cooling modes for 365 days of comfort. So, is it a heat pump or mini-split for you? 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. As opposed to a furnace, which produces usable heat for the home by burning a fuel source, a heat pump moves heat from one place to another. In the winter, it extracts heat energy from the air outside and deposits it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve will allow it to complete this process backward in the summer, working 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 is designed 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 is designed as a ceiling- or wall-mounted unit with a built-in air handler. This indoor equipment is connected directly to an outdoor condensing unit from a tiny hole drilled into the wall. Several indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, allowing for whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary. 

Making Your Selection 

Here are key factors to review 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 air conditioner, the needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is potentially the more affordable option. 

That being said, if you live in an older home or have added on to the home, you may not have ductwork where you want climate control. In this case, adding a mini-split is much less complex and costs far less than adding in the ductwork required for a heat pump. 

Unit Control 

Heat pumps are managed in a way similar to most other central heating and cooling systems: by using a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. On the other hand, ductless mini-splits use 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 necessary. But you can improve home comfort and conserve energy by heating and cooling separate rooms separately. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be added into a central heat pump system by setting up multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be more straightforward 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 Adaptability 

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 more options for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can place one in a single room that you would otherwise find tough to keep comfortable. You can mount one in a modified garage or other home addition without adding more 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 cost-effective operation. 

Energy Efficiency 

Today’s 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 basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses affiliated with leaky ductwork. An ordinary home wastes more than 20% of the air traveling through the ductwork to inadequate air sealing or a lack of insulation. This suggests that a mini-split is likely to provide 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 stays within a utility closet or space in the basement. 

By comparison, 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 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 accomplish the professional installation you expect. Our technicians are ready to deliver 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 nearest Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.