This guide contains all the details you required before purchasing a ductless heat pump to meet your needs. Ductless heat pumps have many benefits.
Modern homes make excellent use of ductless heat pumps, which include mini-split, windows, and portable air conditioners. They work without relying on a network of ducts. In contrast to ducted systems, their numerous advantages make them quite popular.
But why does a ductless heat pump perform its task so effectively? Let’s take a look.
What is a Ductless Heat Pump?
For homeowners without ductwork, a ductless heat pump, also known as a mini-split heat pump, is an effective and practical way to heat and cool their residence. Ductless systems are installed directly in the room they are intended to heat or cool, as opposed to central air conditioning systems, which feed air through a system of ducts and vents.
The simplest and smallest ductless heat pumps are single-zone mini split heat pumps, which only have one indoor unit and one outdoor unit. A multi-split ductless system, however, can be created by installing up to five indoor units. This makes the mini split unit a simple and adaptable method of controlling indoor temperature because you can heat or cool up to five spaces without the use of ducts.
Pros of a Ductless Heat Pump
Compared to window air conditioners and portable space heaters, mini-split heat pumps offer affordable comfort that can be tailored to particular areas of your home. But the benefits of a mini-split heat pump aren’t limited to energy savings. Ductless heat pump systems are also:
- A breeze to install – The majority of places in your home, including brand-new additions and rooms without windows, can have ductless systems quickly installed. To connect your indoor wall unit to your outdoor heat pump, all that is needed is a narrow pipe, which only requires a three-inch hole to be cut through an exterior wall.
- Flexible to configure – Several indoor wall units can be operated from a single outdoor unit, giving you the ability to size match your system to the heating or cooling load of each room and provide a cost-efficient whole-house solution.
- Better for your breathing – In a mini-split system, there are no ducts, so harmful microorganisms, and other allergens cannot grow and thrive. This is very advantageous for your health, especially in homes where people with respiratory conditions reside.
- Easier on the eyes (and ears) – A mini-split won’t obscure your view out the windows or be an eyesore in your living area in addition to being incredibly quiet. Most can be hidden on a back wall or placed above crucial sightlines in your space.
Cons of Ductless Mini-Split Systems
Although ductless heat pumps can spare homeowners from installing a lot of ductwork, they are not always the best choice. Before you pick an HVAC system, consider the cons of ductless ACs.
Some Homeowners Have a Larger Upfront Cost
How much does a ductless heat pump cost? It might be worse than you imagine. In some cases, ductless heat pump installation costs more upfront than other options.
For instance, a window unit or space heater will cost less upfront if you only need to cool one room. If you have a larger home with existing ductwork, you’ll usually pay less to replace your existing central heating and cooling system than to install a brand-new ductless system.
Some People Don’t Like the Aesthetic
In comparison to a central air conditioner, a ductless air conditioner has a smaller and more streamlined outdoor unit. Unfortunately, you will need an air handler—which looks like a white or beige bar—in every room. As opposed to an indoor unit, some homeowners prefer the appearance of a small vent.
Some Cold Climates Might Be Too Cold
Despite the fact that some contemporary ductless heat pumps can withstand temperatures as low as minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit, not all of them are capable. There are some homeowners who discover they require a fuel backup in particularly arctic environments.
Types of Ductless Heat Pumps
There are numerous varieties of ductless heat pumps. You can discover a ductless heat pump that suits your requirements and the size of your room.
Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump
The future of air conditioning can be seen in wall-mounted mini-split heat pumps, the most popular type of ductless heat pump. The evaporator and condenser are housed in an indoor unit, while the outdoor unit is divided into two separate units. These modern, incredibly efficient appliances are sleek and space-saving.
The indoor unit can be positioned high up on an interior wall to distribute conditioned air throughout the space. On the opposite side of the indoor unit, the outdoor unit is typically placed directly outside. The pipes are routed through a tiny, covert hole in the wall, and electrical cables are required to link the two units. These pipes are made up of a refrigerant pipe and a pipe to transport and discharge condensed water from the indoor unit outside.
The advantages of ductless mini-split heat pumps over other types of heat pumps are numerous. These include the advantages of high energy efficiency and simple installation.
Wall Mounted Multi-Split Heat Pumps
Multi-split heat pumps have an indoor and an outdoor unit, just like mini-split heat pumps. However, a single outdoor unit can supply power to several indoor units as opposed to just one indoor unit and one outdoor connected to it. Then, in order to support the indoor units, a larger outdoor unit is required.
Window Or Through-The-Wall Heat Pumps
Small packaged air conditioners with all the parts assembled in one unit are window heat pumps and through-the-wall heat pumps. Despite being smaller than mini-splits, they still have a powerful punch. Window air conditioners typically have BTU ratings of up to 12,500, but some manufacturers offer higher capacity ratings. Usually, one or possibly two rooms are cooled by using one of these units.
With only a 15-minute process, they are simple to install. For through-the-wall units, you can drill a hole in your wall and fit the unit in there, while window heat pumps can be mounted on window frames.
But take care—if you install the heat pump permanently in the wall, there will be a huge hole in the wall that needs to be filled when you remove it. Make sure to caulk out the edges of the air conditioner during the installation of these heat pumps to prevent air leaks.
Portable Heat Pumps
Portable heat pumps are another kind of small and compact heat pump unit, as their name suggests. One container houses the entire air conditioning setup. Single-hose and double-hose models of portable heat pumps are available. Single-hose heat pumps only draw air from one hose to the outside, whereas dual-hose pumps also draw air in through the additional hose.
The main benefit of this kind of heat pump is portability; you can move it around the house as long as there is a power source close by.
How Does a Ductless Heat Pump Work?
Air-source heat pumps with ducts are comparable to those with none. Outside of your home, you’ll find a compressor/condenser unit. You will have an air handler inside your house, mounted to a wall.
Both components are connected by a small conduit that requires a 3-inch hole in the wall. The conduit has suction and refrigerant tubes, a condensate drain, and a power cable. Now tell us how a ductless heat pump functions. Each part of a ductless mini-split system uses heat exchanger coils filled with refrigerant:
- A condenser coil (in the outdoor unit)
- An evaporator coil (in the indoor unit)
Air conditioning occurs as it passes over the coils in your ductless heat pump as it transports air from one place to another. A ductless system, as opposed to a central air conditioner, has the ability to reverse the process and, depending on the season, can either blow warm or cool air into the room.
How Does a Ductless Heat Pump Cool?
The operation of the ductless heat pump cooling system is comparable to that of the mini split air conditioner.
- The cooling process begins when heat from inside your home is extracted and put into the ductless heat pump.
- The indoor coil is exposed to this heat. The refrigerant inside the indoor coil absorbs the heat from your home and continues on.
- The refrigerant travels through the pipe from the indoor unit to the outdoor unit. Here, it enters the compressor, which heats up the refrigerant even more so it’s hotter than the air outside.
- The heat drawn from your home is finally released outside as the extremely hot refrigerant enters the outdoor coil. The cooling process repeats.
How Does a Ductless Heat Pump Heat?
The reversing valve changes the direction of the flow of refrigerant when a ductless heat pump switches from cooling to heating or vice versa. You won’t need to touch the reversing valve because the system knows to do this on its own based on the temperature you set. Once the ductless heat pump is ready to heat, these are the steps it follows:
- The heating process begins when heat from outside is extracted and put into the ductless heat pump.
- The heat is blown over the outdoor coil. The outdoor coil’s refrigerant continues to operate after absorbing heat from the environment.
- As the refrigerant enters the compressor, more heat is generated.
- In the indoor unit, where the indoor coil is located, the now-hot refrigerant finally enters after passing through the pipe. Here, the heat from the outdoors is let loose inside your house. The heating procedure is repeated.
Is a Ductless Heat Pump Right for Your Home?
Ductless mini-split systems can be a great solution for some homes, but they’re not right for everyone. What sort of residence is ideal for a ductless heat pump? You may want to take the plunge if:
- You live in a historic home without ductwork
- You live in a smaller home
- Your home’s windows can’t support a window unit
- You want greater temperature control
- You want to increase your home’s energy efficiency
Choosing a Ductless Heat Pump
Many factors that will affect the cost and efficiency of your ductless HVAC unit must be taken into account before you purchase one. To be able to select the most appropriate unit for your needs, here are various factors that you must look into:
Heat Pump Manufacturer
It’s crucial to keep this in mind. With so many heat pump manufacturers on the market right now, from premium big brand names to up-and-comers, it’s easy to get confused and frequently choose the wrong one. High-end brands typically come with more features, a more contemporary design, and higher efficiency ratings. A major drawback, though, is the high price.
Low-end manufacturers occasionally forego quality assurance procedures and contemporary features, which reduces the heat pump’s effectiveness and longevity. Yet, the lower price is a positive.
You can even browse mid-tier manufacturers when buying a new heat pump. A heat pump with all the bells and whistles would not require you to spend a sizable amount of money. After this hassle, you’d be able to compromise on some features for a good cost.
Heat Pump Cost
The initial and installation cost is often the primary factor when buying a new heat pump. Even though the precise amount may differ, ducted systems typically need more money to be installed, particularly if the ductwork needs to be installed from scratch or requires maintenance.
Since there is no requirement for a protracted installation process, ductless systems may have lower installation costs. In most cases, you can install them in a single day.
Ductless air source heat pumps such as mini-splits can range from around $1,500 to $5000, including the installation costs. The cost of window heat pumps, on the other hand, ranges from the low hundreds to about $1,000. They also don’t warrant a high installation fee because all that’s needed to install them is to pop open the window.
Heat Pump Size
Choosing the appropriate heat pump size for your space is crucial to achieving the right cooling and heating level.
Using a heat pump with the right BTU capacity to efficiently cool or heat the interior space is known as heat pump sizing. By choosing the proper heat pump size, you get a suitable indoor environment and save on energy bills.
So how do you gauge how big your heat pump is? Although there are a few different approaches, the most typical and widely accepted one is to figure out the heat pump’s BTUs/hour.
The British Thermal Unit is referred to as a BTU. A BTU is the quantity of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Without getting too technical, what matters to you is that a higher BTU rating of your heat pump means more cooling and heating power, ensuring a comfortable indoor environment.
As a general rule, you can estimate the needed air conditioner size by multiplying the square footage of your room by 2. The inclusion of a number of additional factors is then required if you want to make an exact determination.
These factors include the type of wall material, wall insulation, airflow into and out of the room, location of the house, whether the room faces the sun or not, outside temperatures, the presence of electronic devices in the room, the location’s relative humidity levels, the type of flooring and ceiling, whether the room is upstairs or downstairs, and many others.
Mini Split Heat Pump Installation: What to Expect?
Although a licensed HVAC technician must install a ductless heat pump, it’s always a good idea to know what to expect when one of these professionals visits your home. Depending on how many units the technician needs to install, ductless heat pump installation can take longer or shorter than the average five hours. The fact that ductless heat pumps are installed directly into the rooms where you want them means you won’t need to make any significant changes before installation, which is one of their best features.
In each room where you want a ductless system installed, make sure to move furniture to make a clear path for your technician before they arrive. Your technician will typically begin the job by installing the outdoor unit first, then drilling tiny holes in the walls of each room where the indoor units will be installed. The technician will then install the indoor units and connect them with pipes to the outdoor units. To make temperature control simple and practical, the technician can, if necessary, install thermostats in each room where a ductless unit has been installed.
You’ll be prepared to use your ductless system once that is finished. But, don’t forget to keep your dealer’s phone number handy for any help you might need with ductless system maintenance or ductless system troubleshooting in the future.
Conclusion: Ductless Heat Pump System
As the name suggests, a ductless heat pump (also known as a ductless mini-split system or ductless air conditioning) is a type of ductless HVAC system. The term “heat pump” is a little misleading. Mini-split systems are effective for both cooling and heating a room. They typically consist of an indoor wall unit and an outdoor unit.
The first item on your to-do list should be a ductless heat pump system if you’re worried about maintaining a comfortable indoor environment without putting a dent in your energy bills.
Ductless heat pumps offer low maintenance costs, hassle-free and adaptable operations, and smart functionality that you should consider if you want to maintain a comfortable home environment.
Can a Ductless Heat Pump Heat a Whole House?
A Ductless mini-split air conditioner is capable of cooling and heating a whole house with the right system and proper care. A network of units that effectively distributes air throughout the entire house can be connected.
How Long Do Ductless Heat Pumps Last?
Like heat pumps, ductless mini-splits can provide both heating and cooling, with a typical life span of 10 to 30 years, except in coastal areas.
Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work in Cold Weather?
Yes, ductless “mini-split” heat pumps are designed to work great in cold weather.