By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen
Mini-split ductless heat pumps are becoming popular for good reason. They can heat efficiently even when winter temperatures drop below the freezing point, and they’re an economical and energy efficient replacement for window air-conditioning units. They’re also a good choice for a room addition if your current heating and cooling system can’t handle the extra load.
Ductless heat pumps are often installed as a primary heating source and paired with a backup system that kicks in when outside temperatures are extremely cold. Compared to conventional electric resistance baseboard heaters, a ductless heat pump system should considerably reduce your overall heating costs.
There are benefits beyond cost savings too. With baseboard heaters, the heat rises along the walls, but with a ductless system, the warm air flows evenly throughout the rooms, adding comfort. A ductless heat pump also could be an ideal solution if your home doesn’t have a forced-air duct system, such as you’d have with a forced-air furnace. In addition, if your existing ductwork is in poor condition, installing a ductless heat pump may be more practical and less expensive than repairing, sealing and insulating your old ducts. Ductless mini-split systems likewise are becoming popular in new home construction as well.
It’s a mix-and-match system
A ductless heat pump has two main components: the outdoor compressor and the indoor air handler. Coolant and electrical lines run through a conduit from the compressor outside the home through the wall to the inside air handler(s).
Ductless heat pumps can be configured in different ways. A common approach that could deliver the most value is to provide heating and cooling to one large zone in your home by using a single compressor and a single air handler. Or you could use one compressor to power as many as four inside air handlers, each with its own thermostat. A larger home even could have more than one outside compressor.
Ductless heat pumps are often a great solution, but as you explore this option consider these things:
- What are the other investments you could make to reduce your energy costs or improve comfort? Is the ductless heat pump the best option? A thorough energy audit of your home will help answer these questions.
- Are rebates offered by your electric co-op?
- What’s the best size and efficiency level for a ductless heat pump in your situation?
- Are there contractors in your area with experience installing ductless heat pumps?
- Can your local electric co-op give you a list of recommended contractors? You can also visit www.energystar.gov for tips on hiring contractors.
This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency.