These days, people want to start saving on their energy bills, as well as looking for more green ways to heat their home, and reduce their impact on the environment. One common replacement for HVAC heaters is the heat pump.
Today, we will cover the differences between heat pumps and HVAC heaters, as well as the difference between the two most common types of heat pump, so that you can make a decision about which you may feel is best for your home.
HVAC Vs. Heat Pumps
The primary difference between a HVAC system, a furnace usually paired with an air conditioner, and a heat pump is that the latter can circulate both hot and cold air, achieving the goals of both a furnace heater and an air conditioner in one, much greener, unit.
One IESO study found that a heat pump can reduce heating costs by 60% in certain areas.
An air conditioner actually makes your house colder by removing heat from your home, and a heat pump can do the same thing, so they are actually very similar, but a heat pump can also send heat back in.
Put simply, a heat pump can efficiently heat and cool a house using merely electricity. As a result they can be both more green and cost efficient than the common furnace and air conditioner combo.
However, this depends on your house being in a geographical area that gets more hot than it does cold, like most of the US.
In other words, a heat pump is not efficient to heat a home when temperatures drop below freezing, and it loses both its green and cost advantages over the furnace.
So, a heat pump is better in temperatures that don’t get below freezing, if this is applicable to you then a heat pump may be worth considering.
Mini-Split (Ductless) vs Ducted: Which Heat Pump System Is Best?
So, when heating a house, the concept of ‘zoning’ is important. This basically refers to the ability of a home to heat certain areas, with the goal of heating the home the most efficiently.
Certain homes may have air ducts, due to their previous HVAC systems, while some homes don’t have any air ducts and use a completely different system of heating, perhaps heated floors or something similar.
Mini-Split/Ductless Heat Pumps
In terms of heating and cost efficiency, the mini-split heat pump, which is a system that doesn’t use any air ducts, is best due to this concept of zoning.
Without a system of air ducts, several smaller heating systems can be strategically placed in certain zones in order to heat, and cool, your house in a very efficient way.
Moreover, as air ducts do not have to be retroactively installed, the cost, upfront, becomes much cheaper.
The system just described, that utilizes zoning without ducts, would be a ‘multi-zone’, but still ductless, system that heats the house through multiple units, strategically placed.
Yet, a ‘single-zone’ heat pump, is arguably the most economical solution of all described.
A single-zone heat pump system works best in open plan or smaller homes. As the name suggests a single heat pump unit is placed strategically in a single zone in order to heat the whole house.
As it is only one single heat pump unit it is both energy and cost efficient, more than any other system. But if your house is large and has many rooms and floors, this just isn’t efficient in terms of heating, and a multi-zone system would be necessary.
Ducted Heat Pump
On the other hand, a ducted heat pump would be ideal for a home that already has ductwork, a series of air ducts that connects rooms to a central heating system.
A heat pump would replace the central HVAC system, requiring extra work to remove the existing furnace, and thus can cost a little more than a ductless system.
A ducted heat pump essentially replaces your existing heating system, but uses the same duct that already exists.
This is less energy efficient as this idea of zoning is out the window unless you want to take on the costs of removing all the ducts and starting from scratch. Yet, a ducted heat pump may be more straightforward in a large, traditionally architected home.
Which Is Best?
As discussed, the efficiency, in terms of both energy and cost, of the heat pump units described depends completely on the architecture of your home.
It’s important to state that this comparison is based on the house already existing in a geographical area that does not commonly experience freezing temperatures, if this doesn’t apply to you there are other considerations that will affect efficiency.
In a home that has a traditional layout, lots of walled rooms, and is more of a closed plan, potentially also having multiple levels, that already has an air duct system in place, a ducted heat pump system would be most effective.
In a traditionally architected home, that is closed plan as previously described, that doesn’t have an air duct system, a multi-zone ductless heat pump system would be the most efficient.
By far, the most efficient heat pump system is the ductless single-zone type. However, this relies on your home being more open plan, having less interior walling and floors, and also not having existing ductwork.
What should be clear is that heat pump systems are more efficient, in both cost and energy, than a HVAC heating system.
The best type of heat pump system for your specific home will depend completely on its architecture and whether it has air ducts or not.
The single zone ductless heat pump system is by far the most efficient to heat home, but requires specific interior architecture.
If you are considering a heat pump system, it can be worth getting a call out from your local supplier, they will be able to provide specific advice on the best system for your home.