Ductless Heat Pumps
What to Consider Before Buying

What is a ductless heat pump?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of going ductless?

How can a ductless heat pump save me money?

These are all essential questions that need answers before investing a new heating and cooling system for your home or office.

So....first.....

What is a Ductless Heat Pump?

All heat pumps contain indoor equipment and outdoor equipment.  A standard heat pump typically uses a forced air system.

Forced air is a fancy way of saying that the heating and cooling system uses duct work to carry conditioned air to different areas of the house...much like the picture below.

Ductless systems (also known as "mini split") contain the same function as a standard heat pump with the following important exception:

  • Each indoor unit (shown below) is placed within the room it is conditioning.  This allows for flexibility in control and often increases operation efficiency.

The outdoor unit (shown below) can serve one or more indoor units.  

For example, your home may contain five rooms with five separate indoor units.  The indoor units can often be piped to a single outdoor unit serving all five rooms.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Going Ductless?

Here are some advantages of mini split heat pumps:

  • Better climate control.  Each indoor unit controls to its own preset temperature.  So you may want to keep your bedroom at 70 F, while your kitchen may be more comfortable at 68 F.  This can also save on energy.  
  • Clean air.  Many mini split heat pumps boast high quality air treatment by means of filters that are often more effective than filters in a conventional system.
  • Easier installation.  While the equipment cost may be more expensive than a conventional system, the elimination of ducts makes for a cheaper installation.....and you won't ever see that bulky duct work in your basement or crawl space.
  • Less problems.  Forced air systems can have more problems due to the addition of fans and airflow through ducts and vents.
  • Better efficiency.  When compared with an equivalent conventional heat pump, a mini split heat pump will be more efficient because every forced air system loses energy due to air leakage from the duct work.  Also, ductless systems have more efficient options available.

Of course, everything has both it ups and it downs.  Here are some disadvantages of ductless systems:

  • Sometimes more noisy. Since the indoor unit contains a fan inside the space, it creates noise.  While this noise can sometimes be quieter than air moving through an air vent, it is something to consider....especially in a bedroom.
  • More expensive. Generally, even with the decreased labor cost, the total cost for purchasing the equipment and installing a ductless system ends up being a little more expensive than a conventional system.....However, don't forget about the energy savings that you will get month to month!
  • Oversized system can be an expensive mistake.  It can be more expensive than a conventional system to have an over-sized heat pump.
  • Eye-Sore.  Many people feel that the indoor unit is very ugly for interior decorating purposes.

How Can a Ductless Heat Pump Save Me Money?

Ductless can save you money is the following ways:

  • As mentioned previously, a forced air system can have air leaks in the duct work.  Energy.gov states that the energy savings of going ductless can amount to 30% just from saving on air leakage alone!
  • If you have a heat pump that was purchased and installed more than 3 or 4 years ago.... You can generally save another 30-50% on your home heating and cooling bills by going to the most efficient ductless heat pump available today.
  • Some areas of the house need more cooling and/or heating than other areas. Conventional forced air system are not able to control zones within a home with much efficiency or accuracy.  However, because of the nature of ductless heat pumps, one can realize savings by keeping one zone cooler/warmer than another zone.

Need more information on ductless heat pumps?  Click on the link for an article published by energy.gov.

Back to Heat Pump Types