If you're wondering what people are talking about when they sing the praises of ductless heat pumps, you could be missing out on a way to make your own home both more comfortable and more energy efficient. These systems have some similarities to HVAC systems, including the use of indoor and outdoor units, a compressor, a condenser, an evaporator, and lines carrying refrigerant. But instead of warming and cooling air that is then pushed through ducts, ductless heat pumps deliver the coolness or warmth directly into specific parts of the house via indoor air handling units. Here are four situations that might prompt you to consider such a system.
1. Your Existing Home Lacks Ducts
Believe it or not, it's still quite possible to move into a home that lacks central heating and air conditioning ducts. Many beautiful vintage homes lack this modern staple of residential design. Installing an HVAC system in such a home, however, can pose some serious challenges. You may be understandably reluctant to wreck or radically remodel the walls, floors and ceilings of such a piece of history simply to make room for ducts.
Fortunately, ductless heat pumps provide an elegant workaround to this dilemma. Not only do they make the installation of ducts completely unnecessary, but their own installation involves a minimum amount of muss and fuss. Between the outdoor unit and the individual indoor air-handling units, all you need is a three-inch hole to accommodate the necessary connecting cables and refrigerant lines. Think of it as the equivalent of minimally-invasive surgery!
2. You Want More Control Over Your Comfort
Practically every home has certain rooms that tend to be warmer and/or cooler than the rest of the house. Trying to make these areas comfortable using a traditional HVAC system can prove a maddening exercise, since there's no way to get that trouble spot comfortable without rendering every other room insufferable. In this situation, what you need is zoned temperature control -- and ductless heat pumps can provide it.
The outdoor unit of a ductless heat pump is connected to multiple air handling units, or "heads." Some of the best heat pump setups can run up to four heads at a time, conveying either warm or cool air to up to four additional rooms. The beauty of this system is that each air handler is equipped with its own independent thermostat, allowing you precise temperature control for different zones of the house.
3. Your Utility Bills Are Too High
If you're puzzled by the excessive utility bills you rack up in the summer and winter months, chances are that your existing climate control system could be less efficient than a ductless system could be. One of the most notable weak points in an HVAC system's efficiency is its ductwork. Leaks, connection faults and even holes in your ducts can "lose" up to 40 percent of the heating and cooling power they're supposed to be delivering. This, of course, forces you to run the system harder to achieve something approximating comfort -- which means you'll pay the electric company that much more.
Ductless heat pumps can dramatically reduce this kind of inefficiency. Since they don't use ducts, they can't lose air to duct malfunctions or failure points. This automatically boosts your overall energy efficiency. Additionally, the fact that you can set different temperatures for different zones lets you direct more heating or cooling exclusively to those areas that need it, instead of overcompensating by increasing the setting for the entire household. If you choose an Energy Star certified ductless heat pump system, you could see a 30 percent reduction in your heating and cooling expenses.
4. You're Adding One or More Rooms to Your House
The modular, scalable nature of ductless heat pump systems makes them a great option for heating and cooling any new area you may be adding to your house. Extending your central climate control system to serve this area would require making major renovations to the ductwork, pipes and possibly other components as well. The other option -- installing a space heater and a window AC unit -- requires you to set up two separate components for each new room in the additional space. A ductless heat pump can deliver both heating and cooling in a single, easily-regulated unit, while your existing HVAC system continues to serve the rest of your residence.
Ductless heat pumps aren't always the best choice for every environment; if you suffer through extremely cold winters, for example, you'll want to have a supplemental heating option on hand. But for many homeowners, they're the solution to one or more vexing problems. Talk to your contractor, someone like Salem Heating & Sheet Metal, Inc., to see whether a ductless heat pump makes sense for your needs.