Heat pumps cool and heat your home by pulling cooled or heated air out of the exterior air or ground. While a ducted heat pump uses the existing ductwork in your home, a ductless heat pump (also known as a ductless mini-split heat pump or just mini-split) doesn't require ductwork. A ductless system is an incredibly energy-efficient option that relies on one exterior unit and several indoor units, hence the term "mini-split." If you are considering getting a heat pump, ask yourself these three questions to determine if a mini-split system is right for you.
Do You Have Existing Ductwork in Your Home?
If you already have existing ductwork in your home, you could still get a ductless system, but it would probably be less expensive and time-consuming to simply install a ducted system because your home is already ready for one. You won't see the same monthly savings with a ducted system, but you can still find an energy-efficient model, and ducted systems are usually a little more effective.
However, if you don't have ducts, a ductless system is the best choice. Adding all that ductwork can seriously rack up the dollars. Plus, if your home doesn't already have ductwork, it may not even have enough room for ducts. Ductless systems are easy to install. A small hole at each of the air-handling units is required for the conduit, but you don't have to rip open walls and ceilings to install ducts.
Do You Want Zoned Heating?
If you don't use a room often, such as a guest room, you may decide not to heat that room until you actually need to use it. Unfortunately, this isn't as simple as closing a vent. When you close a vent in a standard ducted system without zoned heating, you create several problems, such as increased duct leakage, lower air flow, increased energy consumption, and lack of air flow. You can't create zoned heating on a system that doesn't offer it.
Ductless mini-split heat pumps, however, do offer zoned heating. This is because you install an indoor air-handling unit in each zone. As a result, you can turn off the air-handling unit to that rarely used guest room without the negative side effects. In fact, you actually end up saving money because you're using less energy. All the indoor units connect to one exterior unit, and the number you need depends on the size of your house and how well it is insulated.
Do You Want One of the Most Energy-Efficient Systems Available?
As a result of this zoned heating, ductless heat pumps are incredibly energy efficient. However, even if you are using every air-handling unit, you should still save money. Ducted systems are a little more attractive because they don't require units in every room. You simply have a small vent in the floor, wall or ceiling. However, the ducts that carry the air to the rooms are amazing energy wasters. It's estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the air moving through ducts is lost. Plus, if you make the mistake of closing some vents, the pressure inside the ducts increases and causes more leaks.
Because mini-split systems are ductless, they don't have these same leaking problems, so you use less energy more often. When buying a ductless heat pump, make sure to check for three things: Energy Star label, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). The Energy Star label just insures it has met the rigorous Energy Star requirements. The SEER number tells you how efficiently the system cools, and the HSPF number tells you how efficiently it heats. It's required for the system to have an SEER 13 and HSPF of 7.7, but higher is better.
Ductless mini-split heat pumps are an energy-efficient and affordable way to heat and cool your home. If you want to switch to a heat pump, but don't have ductwork, a mini-split system is a great alternative. For more information, talk to a contractor in your area today.