Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you looking for a reliable, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the best 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 operate in heating and cooling modes for year-round comfort. So, have you made your choice? 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. As opposed to a furnace, which creates usable heat for the home by igniting a fuel source, a heat pump transfers 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 allows it to operate backward in the summer, working 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. Actually, it is a kind of heat pump — minus the ductwork. That’s 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 equipment connects directly to an outdoor condensing unit through a small hole drilled through the wall. Multiple indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, allowing for whole-home comfort with no ductwork required. 

Making Your Decision 

These are key factors 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 standard furnace and AC unit, the needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. Therefore, installing a heat pump is likely 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 involved 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 convenient location. On the flip side, 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 worth the effort. If it is, you can enhance home comfort and reduce wasted energy by heating and cooling separate rooms individually. 

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 cost-effective to install mini-splits in rooms with precise temperature demands, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not. 

Design Adaptability 

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 more options for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can add 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 extending the 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 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. 

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

Appearance 

Heat pumps look almost identical to central AC units. 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 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 installed on the wall or ceiling. 

Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation 

No matter which decision you make, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can complete the professional installation you are expecting. Our techs are ready to bring excellent products and services protected 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.