Are you shopping for a efficient, affordable home comfort system? If electricity is the better or only solution available to you, a central heat pump or ductless mini-split could be a convenient option. Both systems run on electric power and run in heating and cooling modes for 365 days of comfort. So, what’s it going to be — heat pump or mini-split? If you're still trying to decide, read more about each HVAC system to help you determine the right fit.
What Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is a kind of central climate control system. As opposed to a furnace, which creates usable heat for the home by igniting a fuel source, a heat pump moves heat from one place to another. In the winter, it extracts heat energy from the air outside and redirects it inside. Then, a built-in reversing valve will allow it to perform this process backward in the summer, behaving the same as an air conditioner to pull heat and humidity from indoor air and vent it outside.
What Is a Mini-Split?
A mini-split operates 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 is connected directly to an outdoor condensing unit from a tiny hole drilled into the wall. Multiple indoor units can link up with a single outdoor unit, providing whole-home comfort with no ductwork necessary.
Making Your Decision
These are significant factors to review when deciding between a heat pump and a mini-split for your San Antonio home.
Ductwork & Installation
If your home is already heated and cooled with a conventional furnace and central AC system, the necessary ductwork infrastructure is already in place. Therefore, installing a heat pump is potentially the more cost-effective solution.
That being said, if you live in an older home or have just completed a renovation, you may not have ductwork where you want climate control. In this case, adding a mini-split is much less complicated and is more affordable than putting in the ductwork required for a heat pump.
Heat pumps are controlled in a way similar to most other central heating and cooling systems: by adjusting a wall-mounted thermostat installed in a central location. Having said that, ductless mini-splits have a remote that lets you operate each wall-mounted unit from anywhere in the room.
If you’re content with controlling the temperature throughout the house using a single thermostat, zoning may not be required. If it is, you can maximize home comfort and save energy by heating and cooling separate rooms independently.
Such ‘zoned’ temperature control can be incorporated into a central heat pump system by using multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers. But it may be easier and more cost-effective to install mini-splits in rooms with precise temperature requirements, whether they’re heated and cooled by a central HVAC system or not.
Heat pumps don’t emphasize flexibility. Instead, they can replace your existing furnace and air conditioner and offer whole-house comfort with help from a network of air ducts.
Mini-splits have more choices for where you can put the unit. Homeowners can add one in a single room that you would otherwise find challenging to keep comfortable. You could mount one in a modified garage or sunroom without extending the ductwork. You can also outfit the entire house with a mini-split air handler in each room, all hooked up to the outdoor condensing unit for cost-effective operation.
New heat pumps are more efficient than ever. There are even cold-climate versions available for a performance boost at low temperatures.
Regardless, ductless mini-splits are basically more efficient because they don’t suffer the energy losses that come with leaky ductwork. An ordinary home wastes more than 20% of the air passing through the ductwork to spotty air sealing or a lack of insulation. This means that a mini-split is likely to offer the same quantity of hot or cold air at a lower cost.
Heat pumps look pretty much the same as central air conditioning units. The outdoor unit is nearly indistinguishable, and the indoor air handler stays concealed within a utility closet or place in the basement.
In contrast, mini-splits are easy to view. The air handlers come in sleek jackets designed to be unobtrusive, but they are clearly visible in any room in which they are displayed on the wall or ceiling.
Schedule Heat Pump or Mini-Split Installation
No matter which system you decide is right for your home, San Antonio Air Service Experts can perform the professional installation you want. Our technicians are ready to provide excellent products and services supported by our one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee. To learn more about heat pumps vs. mini-splits or request an installation estimate, please contact your local San Antonio Air Service Experts office today.