Ductless Heat Pumps (aka Ductless Mini-Split Systems) have become the new efficient way to heat a home, especially for homeowners with all-electric homes, who rely on baseboards or electric wall heaters for home heating. The reports of efficiency and quiet operation have generated so much interest with homeowners and businesses, we’re often approached by folks who wouldn’t necessarily need a Ductless Heat Pump System.
Since they’re relatively new to our market, the level of consumer knowledge about Ductless Heat Pumps is limited when compared to other traditional heating systems like gas furnaces or boilers. As a result, we get many questions from customers trying to determine if this type of system would be a good solution for their home. These questions range from basic application, to how they operate.
Let’s start with the basics. What is a heat pump? A heat pump works just like an air conditioner. In cooling mode, (yes, they provide cooling too) a heat pump moves heat from inside your home to the outside. Unlike an air conditioning unit, a heat pump can be used to heat your home and do it efficiently. A ductless heat pump does this by reversing the process it uses to provide air conditioning to your home. It collects heat that exists naturally in the ambient air outside and delivers it into the home. The heat that is being “pumped” out for cooling, or in for heating the home, travels through pipes containing refrigerant.
There are several types of heat pumps, including Ground Source heat pumps, also referred to as a Geothermal heat pumps. Again, heat pumps and air conditioners just move heat from one place to another. In the case of a ground source heat pump, it simply gathers heat from the ground instead of the air.
What we’ll be talking about are Ductless “Air to Air” Heat Pumps. In other words, heat pumps that move heat from one air source to another air source to heat or cool a home without the use of any ducting.
A Ductless Heat Pump provides heat or air conditioning simply by delivering it to cassettes or wall units that are mounted within the home. These wall units use a blower to blow air across the refrigerant coil concealed within the cassette, and then directly into the living space. To think of it another way, a conventional heat pump on a furnace does the same thing, except it transfers heat at a coil located in the ductwork at the furnace or air handler. The blower from the furnace turns on to blow air across the coil to transfer heat that is then distributed throughout the home via the ducting.
If you already have good ducting in your home, a ductless heat pump would not typically be the best solution. For a ducted system, one outdoor unit can provide a very cost-effective way to heat and cool your home with a whole house heat pump. Some of the newer generation heat pumps like Bryant for example, are so efficient, they’re worth considering before purchasing a ductless system.
When ducting doesn’t exist, Ductless Mini Split Systems, or Ductless Heat Pumps, are a very efficient way to heat your home. The beauty of these systems is, just like the name implies, no ducts are needed. And since they run completely on electricity, no other fuel source is needed either. These two features have allowed homeowners stuck with expensive electric baseboards or electric wall heaters as the main source of heat, a way to cut energy costs and live more comfortably, with affordable heat in the winter and cooling for the hot summer days.
As I mentioned, in a Ductless system, the unit that sits outside the home can provide heat or cooling to multiple indoor units called “cassettes”. Each cassette is controlled by its own thermostat, usually a remote control with a wall mount. The advantage of each indoor unit having its own remote is the ability to provide true “zoning”, so you are able to heat one room without heating the whole house. The coils that distribute heat or cooling within the living space range from a recessed panel in the ceiling to a floor mounted wall heater. The most common unit is a rectangular cassette that mounts on a wall towards the ceiling.
The outside unit is connected to the indoor unit(s) through pipes that transport the refrigeration. This is called a line set. A common concern, especially among condo owners, is the aesthetics of the line set when surface mounted to the structure. When getting estimates, it’s important that the routing of the line set is addressed, especially if concealment is an issue. How well the unit works will often amount to the quality of the installation, proper placement, sizing of the unit, and quality of the product.
The best way to determine if a Ductless Heat Pump is the right solution for your home is to get a couple of free estimates from reputable HVAC companies in your area. This is what you should expect from a good professional consultant. They will address how many cassettes are needed to deliver heat throughout a space or multiple spaces. They will do a heat loss and heat gain analysis. And they’ll provide data that will help compare energy usage with the energy source you are currently using.
Bottom line, if you have an all-electric house, and you heat with baseboards or wall heaters, you could substantially cut your heating costs! Happy Heating…and Cooling!
Bruce Davis Jr.
Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.
Bruce Davis Jr. is a second-generation plumber and HVAC technician. He earned his Commercial Plumbing License and later became N.A.T.E. Certified and E.P.A. Refrigerant Certified for HVAC service and repair for commercial and residential HVAC appliances. Bruce has years of experience as an HVAC Technician, Boiler Technician, and Plumber. He is now General Manager for the company he has been with his entire career and oversees the Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning business for Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.
Bruce Davis Jr. can be contacted at: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating Inc. 16614 13th Ave. W. Lynnwood, WA 98037