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 option available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be perfect for your home. Both systems function 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 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 creates usable heat for the home by igniting 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 redirects 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 operates on the same principle as a heat pump. In fact, it is a kind of heat pump — minus the ductwork. That’s 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 portion links directly to an outdoor condensing unit via a small hole drilled through the wall. Multiple indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, enabling whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary.
Making Your Decision
Here are key points to think about when choosing between a heat pump and a mini-split for your Birmingham home.
Ductwork & Installation
If your home is already heated and cooled with a standard furnace and central AC system, the required ductwork infrastructure is already in place. Therefore, installing a heat pump is potentially the more affordable option.
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, installing a mini-split is much less involved and is more affordable than installing in the ductwork required for a heat pump.
Heat pumps are controlled the same as most other central heating and cooling systems: by setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a convenient location. Having said that, ductless mini-splits have a remote that lets you adjust each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room.
If you’re content with controlling the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be required. But you can enhance home comfort and reduce wasted energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently.
Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be integrated into a central heat pump system by using multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be more straightforward and more practical to install mini-splits in rooms with specific temperature demands, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not.
Heat pumps don’t prioritize flexibility. Instead, they can replace your existing furnace and air conditioner and supply whole-house comfort through 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 tough to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a converted 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 cost-effective operation.
Today’s heat pumps are more efficient than ever. There are even cold-climate versions on the market for a performance boost at low temperatures.
All the same, ductless mini-splits are basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses associated with leaky ductwork. An ordinary home loses more than 20% of the air traveling through the ductwork to inadequate air sealing or a lack of insulation. This means that a mini-split is more likely to produce the same quantity of hot or cold air at a lower cost.
Heat pumps look pretty much the same as central air conditioning units. The outdoor cabinet is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler sits hidden 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 unobtrusive, 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, Norrell Service Experts can complete the professional installation you want. Our specialists are ready to deliver 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 nearby Norrell Service Experts office today.