How to Decide if a Ductless Heat Pump Is Right for Your Home

Here in Tigard, OR, much like everywhere else, household energy costs represent one of the largest monthly expenses for any family. It’s also true that heating and cooling costs represent the lion’s share of a home’s energy budget. That makes improving the efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling equipment the single best way to lower your energy bills. Today, ductless heat pumps offer homeowners a great way to do that. However, it’s a good idea that you know as much as possible about them in advance before you invest in installing one. Here’s everything you need to know about ductless heat pumps so you can decide if one would be a good fit for your home.

What’s a Ductless Heat Pump?

Ductless heat pumps, also known as mini-split heat pumps, are a heating and cooling option that’s growing in popularity here in the US. They’re not very new, however. Ductless heat pumps date back to 1959 and are the brainchild of Mitsubishi. Afterward, most major HVAC manufacturers began offering them. They’re the most popular heating and cooling option throughout Europe, Japan, and many other places throughout the world.

Ductless heat pumps are far smaller and more efficient than the conventional forced-air HVAC systems most homes here in the US rely on. Instead of using a network of ductwork installed throughout your home to move conditioned air around, they take a different approach. With a ductless heat pump, you’d have one or more slim outdoor condenser units connected to individual air handlers installed in each room of your home.

Instead of ductwork connecting the components of the system, there’s only a small bundle of tubing and control wires. The lack of ductwork minimizes energy losses and makes installation simple. It also means that ductless heat pump systems offer zoning by default. That means you can set individual temperatures for each room in your home or turn off the heat or air conditioning in the parts of your home you’re not using. It’s a benefit that most conventional HVAC systems don’t offer, at least without the addition of complex thermostats and electronic ductwork dampers. That’s not all, though.

Unlike conventional HVAC systems, heat pumps don’t consume energy to heat or cool your home directly. Instead, they capture heat from the outside air in the winter and vent heat outside in the summer, relying on the refrigeration cycle to heat and cool your home. That mode of operation makes them among the most efficient types of air conditioning you can buy. They’re also, hands-down, the most efficient type of heating system available.

How Heat Pumps Operate

When you operate a heat pump in cooling mode, it works much like a conventional air conditioning system. However, heat pumps typically have a few technological tricks up their sleeves that boost their efficiency. For example, most heat pumps run on DC power, using an inverter to convert your home’s AC power supply for the job. The advantage of doing that is the fact that it’s possible to control a DC motor’s speed far more precisely than an AC motor. This allows a ductless heat pump to operate using only as much electricity as required to keep the temperature where you want it. Also, the lack of ductwork removes the possibility that you’d lose any cold air before it reaches the part of your home where you need it.

In heating mode, however, heat pumps are nothing like other conventional heating systems. The main reason for that is the fact that heat pumps only move heat from one place to another, rather than creating it using a fuel source. They use a refrigerant, which gets far colder than the outside temperature, even in the middle of winter. In the outdoor condenser unit, that super-cooled refrigerant passes through a heat exchanger. Since it’s colder than the outside air, the refrigerant attracts and absorbs heat energy from the air. Then the system carries that heat energy into your home to keep it warm.

As a result, heat pumps can provide you with up to 4 units of heat for every unit of electricity they consume, under ideal conditions. That’s an unbelievable 400% efficiency rate! And although a heat pump begins losing efficiency in very cold temperatures, they very rarely drop below the efficiency rates of even the best conventional heating systems. In other words, they’re a real energy-saver for almost every home that has one.

Are There Disadvantages to Heat Pumps?

By now, you’re probably thinking that heat pumps are far and away the best HVAC option available. However, they do come with some disadvantages you should know about. One of those disadvantages is cost. You’ll have to pay more upfront for the average ductless heat pump system compared to a conventional HVAC system. Plus, since they provide both air conditioning and heat, it means you’d need to decommission your existing heating and cooling systems to upgrade to a ductless heat pump. If either your furnace or air conditioning system is somewhat new, you’d have to accept a bit of a loss on your investment.

Plus, heat pump systems don’t operate like the heating and cooling solutions you’re used to. For one thing, they tend to run continuously in cold weather, and rely on warm, but not hot, air to heat your home. Even though that’s part and parcel of their amazing efficiency, it’s something that some homeowners have trouble adjusting to. And they also rely on small electric heating elements to augment heat production in very cold weather. That means they lose most of their efficiency advantage if there’s a prolonged cold snap. However, it’s worth pointing out that we don’t typically get that type of winter weather here in Tigard, OR, very often.

Consult Your Trusted Heat Pump Team

Now that you know more about how ductless heat pumps work, including their advantages and disadvantages, you have everything you need to make the right choice for your home. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consult an expert, anyway. The team here at Specialty Heating & Cooling LLC knows everything there is to know about ductless heat pumps. They can help you go over every aspect of your decision and offer you specific guidance based on your particular situation.

Plus, we’ve been the leader in HVAC services here in Tigard, OR, since 1985. That means we have a long track record of customer satisfaction, and we won’t rest until you’re comfortable. So, whether you need furnace or air conditioning installation, maintenance, or replacement, we’re the local name to know. And we offer other useful services like water heater sales and service, air quality services, and more. We even handle commercial HVAC services if you’ve got a business location to keep comfortable, too!

So, for ductless heat pumps, or any other HVAC service you might need, contact Specialty Heating & Cooling LLC today and leave the rest to us.

company icon