An Introduction to Ductless Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are commonly used to cool and warm homes in the Southeast. They can cool homes by transferring heat form the interior to the exterior, and they can warm homes by transferring heat from the exterior to the interior – essentially operating in reverse. Not all heat pumps use ducts to distribute the conditioned air, however. There are ductless heat pumps available.

What Is a Ductless Heat Pump?

Also known as a mini-split heat pump, a ductless heat pump is a heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system that consists of a heat pump without ducts. Some heat pumps have ducts, whereas others don’t have ducts. Ductless heat pumps fall under the latter category. Rather than ducts, they release conditioned air directly from an air handling unit.

How Ductless Heat Pumps Work

Ductless heat pumps work in the same way as ducted heat pumps. They feature an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Ducted and ductless heat pumps alike will transfer heat between these two units.

When set to cooling, a ductless heat pump will absorb heat from the air around the indoor unit via refrigerant. It will then carry this refrigerant to the outdoor unit so that the heat can be released. When set to heating, the indoor and outdoor units operate in reverse. The outdoor unit will absorb heat from the surrounding air via refrigerant, which it will carry to the indoor unit.

Ducted vs Ductless Heat Pumps

The main difference between ducted and ductless heat pumps is that the former distributes the conditioned air through ducts, whereas the latter distributes the conditioned air directly from an air handling unit.

The number of air handling units a ductless heat pump has can vary. Some of them have a single air handling unit. Other ductless heat pumps have four or even six air handling units. Regardless, air handling units will distribute the conditioned air produced by the ductless heat pump.

Benefits of a Ductless Heat Pump

For homes without ductwork, a ductless heat pump is a cost-effective alternative to a ducted heat pump or a traditional ducted HVAC system. If your home doesn’t have existing ductwork and you’re looking to upgrade your HVAC system, you may want to choose a ductless heat pump.

Ductless heat pumps support zoning. Each indoor air handling unit creates a new zone. You can control the temperature of each indoor air handling unit. As a result, ductless heat pumps support zoning.