In a typical house where ducts are used to distribute conditioned air, about 20 to 30 percent of that air gets lost due to leaks and holes. This results in throwing money at an HVAC system that has to work overtime to make your home comfortable. If you have high summer and winter utility bills, a room or two that’s always stuffy or frigid, and ducts that are located in the attic or the garage, you may have a problem.
You could pay someone to patch up the leaks or do the job yourself to improve the ducts’ performance. But if your HVAC system is aging out, there is another solution: a ductless heat pump system.
How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?
A ductless, or mini-split system, can work both as a heating and cooling unit. It takes heat from inside the house and transfers it outside when set to cooling mode. In heating mode, the process is reversed. The system consists of an outdoor unit, which is composed of the condenser and compressor, and an indoor unit, which contains the evaporator and blower assembly. A conduit runs between them, transferring the heat via refrigerant.
With multiple single-zoned mini split systems, you will have more control over your home’s climate; the systems allow you to heat only occupied areas. This will conserve energy while keeping your family comfortable. Many models can have up to four indoor units connected to a single outdoor unit.
In addition to avoiding loss of conditioned air via duct leaks and the ability to closely control the temperature of each zone, ductless systems have other energy-saving properties. When the need to heat an area decreases, so does the energy consumption. Traditional units cycle on and off, wasting energy, while mini split systems consume the minimal amount of energy required to keep a space comfortable.
The indoor units are small, which allows them to be aesthetically flexible. You can choose from mounted, suspended, or floor-standing models depending on what works best for your space.
What Will a Ductless Heat Pump Cost Me?
Ductless systems are energy efficient, as well as fairly simple to install and operate. They are a perfect retrofit for houses with non-ducted heating systems or for new, energy efficient construction. But how much will it cost?
The cost of materials ranges from around $1300 to $4000. To get an accurate estimate on material costs, you will need to find out if your home requires single, double, triple, or a quad system, which are typically priced as follows:
Single – $1800
Double – $2500
Triple – $3000
Quad – $3800 and up
It may be possible to integrate a ductless system into your main living area or “zone” while using wall units or radiant heating and cooling to meet needs in other areas of the home—in which case even a house with a large energy load may only require one unit.
Your systems must be the right size and correctly located in order to save you money and run efficiently. It’s in your best interest to hire a contractor with specific experience in installing ductless heat pump systems. The contractor will need to pour concrete for the outdoor condenser, open a hole in an exterior wall, run electrical lines, and complete any additional work, such as disposing of an existing system. The labor accounts for a large portion of the cost and will run you anywhere from $1300 to $1500. Like materials, the amount you spend will depend partly on how many units you need installed.
Other Factors to Consider
- Before you decide whether or not the expenses of this project make it realistic for your budget, research rebates and other financial incentives for energy efficient home projects.
- Your efficient ductless heat pump system will work best in tandem with an energy-optimized household. Repair and close off leaks in your home, install energy efficient windows, and improve your insulation.
- Energy efficiency and increased comfort are huge advantages. However, the system may also have some disadvantages depending on your situation. Instead of generating hot or cold air, the system merely transports it, so it may not be as effective as a traditional HVAC in extreme temperatures. You may need to keep your old system in order to supplement on extremely hot or cold days.
- Ductless heat pump systems have not risen to mainstream popularity yet in the U.S., so your access to a highly qualified professional may be limited. Be sure to do your research and find the right person for the job.