If you’re reading this article, it’s likely because you’ve read all about the benefits of a heat pump. Their ability to heat and cool makes them convenient HVAC systems for use all year-round. Plus, they’re much more efficient when it comes to using electricity as a fuel source—you won’t find another electric heater as good as a heat pump. In our climate, heat pumps are the ideal solution.
But even within the category of “heat pump,” you still have to decide whether you want to use one with or without ducts. We’ll go over both types for you.
Ducted Heat Pump
Technically, when one says, “heat pump,” they’re referring to the heat pumps that use duct systems. Sometimes that can cause confusion, so you may also hear these systems referred to specifically as “traditional heat pumps.” This prefix is used to reference the split system and ductwork combination seen in central AC units and furnaces.
When it comes to efficiency, ducted heat pumps can cool or heat your entire home at a reasonable cost. As long as the ductwork is in proper working order, you only have to worry about keeping the heat pump itself up to date with maintenance and repairs.
Maintenance for heat pumps is about the same as any central AC or furnace. In addition to having the system checked biannually, you’ll also want to have the ducts inspected. After several years of use, ducts can form leaks or disconnects. These will drive down efficiency if not found and sealed up.
Likewise, installing a traditional heat pump isn’t much different than installing a central AC. The HVAC technician will need to assess your entire home to find the right heat pump to sufficiently heat and cool your home. If you don’t already have ductwork installed—or if the existing ductwork needs to be resized or replaced—you’ll need to factor that into installation costs.
Ductless Heat Pump
Also referred to as ductless mini-split systems or just “ductless systems,” these systems are fundamentally different than ducted heat pumps. To avoid using ducts, they instead consist of one outdoor unit and an individual air handler for each room in the home. The flexibility of ductless heat pumps means you can install just one or as many as you need—it all depends on your goals.
General efficiency of ductless heat pumps is the same as that of traditional heat pumps. Where they truly shine is in the fact that they can directly heat/cool the room without having to send that air through a duct system first. This also alleviates them from any inefficiencies created by duct leaks.
Also, consider that separate air handlers mean separate controls. Instead of being forced to heat/cool the entire home, you can choose to conserve energy by only using the necessary units.
You won’t have to spend any money maintaining the ductwork. However, do consider that every unit is going to need its own maintenance.
The costs for an HVAC company to install each individual unit can certainly add up. However, the efficiency benefits of this system make it a worthy investment for many homeowners.