Guide to Mini-Splits vs. Heat Pumps

Are you searching for a dependable, budget-friendly home comfort system? If electricity is the best or only choice available to you, a  central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a convenient option. 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 determine the right fit. 

What Is a Heat Pump? 

A heat pump is a type of central climate control system. Different from a furnace, which generates usable heat for the home by combusting 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, behaving 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. As a matter of 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 equipment connects directly to an outdoor condensing unit from a small hole drilled through the wall. Several indoor units can connect with a single outdoor unit, allowing for whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary. 

Making Your Decision 

These are key points to think about when choosing between a heat pump and a mini-split for your Buffalo home. 

Ductwork & Installation 

If your home is already heated and cooled with a traditional furnace and central AC system, the needed ductwork infrastructure is already in place. So in this case, installing a heat pump is probably the more cost-effective choice. 

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, getting a mini-split is much less involved and is more cost effective than adding 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 setting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. On the flip side, ductless mini-splits have a remote that lets you adjust each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room. 

Zoning 

If you’re happy with regulating the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be required. If it is, you can improve home comfort and conserve energy by heating and cooling separate rooms separately. 

Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be integrated 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 distinct temperature demands, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not. 

Design Flexibility 

Heat pumps don’t emphasize flexibility. Instead, they can replace your existing furnace and air conditioner and supply whole-house comfort with help from a network of air ducts. 

Mini-splits have more choices for where you can put the unit. You can install one in a single room that you would otherwise find challenging to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a converted garage or sunroom without extending the ductwork. You can also equip the entire home 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. 

Even so, ductless mini-splits are basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses affiliated with leaky ductwork. A typical home squanders more than 20% of the air passing through the ductwork to inadequate air sealing or a lack of insulation. This means that a mini-split is likely to provide the same amount of hot or cold air at a lower cost. 

Appearance 

Heat pumps look pretty much the same as central AC units. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler concealed 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 unnoticeable, 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 

Whatever you decide to do, Sunbeam Service Experts can complete the professional installation you want. Our service providers are ready to bring 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 local Sunbeam Service Experts office today.