Ductless Heat Pumps
When your home is equipped with an electric furnace, wall heaters, radiant panels, space heaters – electric or fuel-powered – or electric baseboards, a ductless heat pump system is a prime addition in helping to keep your home cool during the hot months and warm during the winter season. Along with providing the maximum in quiet comfort for your home, you can also expect the ultimate in efficiency and a decrease in your monthly utility bill.
About Ductless Heat Pumps
Flexible and small in size, ductless heat pumps, also referred to as mini-splits, are versatile as well as economical and are a good choice for homes that do not have a ductwork system installed throughout the house.
The ductless system consists of two components. One for the outside referred to as the compressor or condenser, and the indoor unit referred to as the air-handler.
A mini-split system is designed to heat or cool a main area in conjunction with your current heating system. For example, if you rely on electric space heaters for heat, or a window or portable air conditioning unit for heating or cooling, you can still use these appliances while using a ductless system. The system adds additional heating or cooling to the same room equipped with other appliances or can be used in a room or area that is without any other heating or cooling device.
Pros and Cons of Ductless Systems
Pros of a Ductless System
A major advantage to a ductless system is that it works wonders as a retro-fit (add-on) to non-ducted systems.
When installing, you do not incur the cost of ductwork installation.
An option is to buy more than one indoor air-handling units making this a multi mini-split system. With several indoor air-handler units connected individually to the outside compressor unit, you can set each unit with its own thermostat to control heating or cooling to only the rooms you want versus a central air and heat unit that disperses the air through a network of connected ducts.
The only other parts necessary for installation to connect the compressor to the air-handler are a conduit to hold the power cable, refrigerant and suction tubing, and a condensate drain.
Ductless heat pumps are easier to install compared to others. All that’s necessary is for the contractor to bore a three-inch hole through whichever wall you choose. The hole is for the conduit and cables.
Another advantage of a ductless system is safety. Since only one small hole is necessary for installation, you don’t have to worry about access to your home the way you do with a window unit or a through-the-wall unit.
The air-handler has a lot of flexibility when it comes to positioning. The unit(s) can be hung directly on a wall, mounted flush against a ceiling, or hung/suspended from a ceiling. Some brands also offer free-standing floor models.
It’s estimated that the indoor air-handler can be as far away as 50 feet from the outdoor compressor. This provides versatility when determining placement of the system.
Cons of a Ductless System
While fast, quick, convenient, and an economical source for providing additional heat to an already established heating method, a ductless heat pump does not provide the same heating or cooling power of a forced-air system. The ductless system is used more as an enhancement versus the main source of heating or cooling.
Before having a ductless system installed, inspect your home for air leakage. Since a ductless system does not blast out heating or cooling like a conventional system, it is important that your home is well insulated and sealed. This means caulking areas where air loss occurs such as around windows and doors. It also means your home needs adequate insulation to help retain the conditioned air.
Initial installation of a mini split system may be higher than a traditional system but will save money in operating costs over time.
The condensate drain must be placed near the outdoor compressor.
Determining the Cost for Ductless Heat Pump Systems
As with any heating system, how secure your home is in regard to minimal heat loss has an effect on overall cost and installation of a mini split system.
How large an area you need heated or cooled can also affect the cost. For smaller homes, one unit may be sufficient. For homes with multiple rooms, you have the option of purchasing additional air-handling units for each room.
Finding a qualified contractor who has the experience in ductless heat pump installation is required to size the indoor unit correctly and ensure it is placed in the best possible location. Air-handlers that are incorrectly placed or sized for the area will result in energy loss and inadequate temperature control which could lead to increased energy consumption and costs.