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Jul 9, 2021 11:15:38 AM by Lauren Mangano

Ductless Versus Ducted Heat Pumps: Which Should You Choose?

Heat pumps aren't that new, but modern versions are growing in popularity due to their versatility, efficiency, and long list of other benefits. Heat pumps are a great alternative to standard air conditioning because they can provide both heating and cooling. 
But once you've learned how a heat pump works, you still need to decide if you prefer it over conventional heating/cooling, if you need a standard heat pump or a Hyper-Heat heat pump, and if you need a ducted or ductless pump. In this article, we will go over ducted versus ductless.
What is a Heat Pump?

Ducted Heat Pumps

How they work

Standard ducted heat pumps can come in three forms: air-source, water-source, or geothermal. They all work by collecting heat from the air, water, or ground outside your home and concentrating it for use inside. The key with any heat pump is that it takes heat from one area and moves it to another -- rather than creating heat -- but the most common type is air-source.
With a ducted air-source heat pump, heat is taken from the air and sent to a central indoor unit, then distributed throughout your home via a system of ducts. For cooling, the heat is taken from indoors and moved through the ducts and back outside. Ducted heat pump systems take up less room than conventional ducted systems, making them a good alternative for smaller homes or homes where less construction is preferable. 
how does a ducted heat pump work


Ducted heat pumps are efficient: air-source pumps can deliver up to three times more energy than they consume, and ground-source heat pumps are even more efficient. High-efficiency ducted heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard ducted central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months.
Ducted systems are convenient in the sense that a homeowner can extend the duct system throughout the home, so only one unit is needed to heat the entire home. The ducts are also hidden by walls and soffits, so there's no unsightly units visible on the floors, walls, or ceilings. Furthermore, vents can be closed in rooms that aren't in use or in situations when you don't want a certain room to receive treated air.


If your home does not have existing ductwork, installing it can be expensive, disruptive, and time-consuming. There is also the issue of leaky ducts, which decreases the efficiency of your heat pump. In a typical house, about 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. This results in higher utility bills and lower overall comfort.
Dust and other airborne particulate can linger in the ductwork, too. This is a common culprit of allergies and respiratory issues in the home. Finally, your ducts can be come blocked which would result in more time-consuming and expensive repairs.

Ductless Heat Pumps

How they work

Ductless heat pumps are a type of air-source heat pump. Like ducted heat pumps, ductless pumps, also called mini-splits, work by moving hot air from the outside into your home to provide heat. For cooling purposes, they take the hot air out of your home and move it outside.
A Comprehensive Guide to Ductless Heat Pumps
They differ from standard heat pumps in that they blow the heated or cooled air directly into the room through line sets that connect the heat pump to the indoor air handlers. Each air handler has its own thermostat to control the temperature in the specific room/area of the home, otherwise known as zoning. Unlike systems where the air travels through ducts, ductless heat pumps allow you to choose where you want heating/cooling, when you want it.
To choose the correct amount and size of the air handlers, a professional, experienced installer is a must. Your installer should use a formula to determine exactly what you need in an order to create an efficient system.
How does a ductless heat pump work


Ductless heat pumps are minimally intrusive. They only require a small hole in the wall to run the line sets through, and there are no soffits that takes up room in the home. Because of this, they are much less expensive than installing ductwork. The outdoor unit consisting of the condenser and compressor is also smaller than typical ducted heat pumps. This is convenient for houses in the city or homes with less yard room. They also have flexible installations. Air handlers can be placed on the floor, high on the wall, or in the ceiling.
The minimal intrusiveness and flexibility make ductless heat pumps great for any home, but especially older or historic homes and rowhomes where ductwork would mess with aesthetic and charm and take up valuable space.
READ: Ductless AC Cools South Philly Trinity & Preserves Art
Additionally, ductless heat pumps allow for zoned control. Each room/area can be customized to the temperature you want, saving energy and money.
They also save money over time due to their energy efficiency. You can cut heating costs by 60% compared to electric resistance-based systems, and cooling costs are 30% less than traditional air conditioners. They have a great lifespan, too, averaging about 15 to 20 years. Finally, although ductless systems may seem pricey up front, they have great financing and rebate options, as well as extensive warranty options.


There are also a few drawbacks when it comes to the zoning aspect. For one, changing the temperature on each individual unit can be inconvenient. Rather than a one whole-home thermostat, you have to alter the temperature on each air handler. They are also only good for small spaces or areas with more "open-floor" setups. So the more closed off sections of the house you want heated or cooled, the more air handlers you will need (which increases the price).
Moreover, some homeowners prefer the built-in look of ducted systems rather than an air handler that visibly sticks out from wall or floor. While safer and less obtrusive than a window air conditioner, most mini-splits still aren't the most aesthetically-pleasing option, even if they are painted or altered. Lastly, needing several indoor air handlers may require installing a second outdoor unit, which can be inconvenient.

Which is Better?

Well, this is where you need to weigh the pros and cons of both types and see which makes the most sense for your home. An experienced contractor like ECI Comfort can guide you in this decision by coming out to your home and making the best recommendations. 
If your house has existing ductwork and you want the units to be out of sight, ducted heat pumps are probably the right choice. If you don't have ductwork or the room to install it, or want the option for zoning, ductless is for you.

If you live in the Delaware Valley/Greater Philadelphia area and would like to find comfort within your home, visit our website or give us a call at 215 - 245 - 3200 to learn more.

This entry was posted in Heat Pump, Ductwork, Ductless

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