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What Is a Ductless Heat Pump and How Does It Work?

Heat Pump Water Heater

A ductless heat pump provides either hot or cold air in certain rooms or small areas of the house. It uses a two-way heat pump, which aids in the heat’s natural tendency to move from warm spaces to cold ones and vice versa.

With inflation rising and bills skyrocketing, most homeowners are looking for something that can help them manage their home’s temperature, while at the same time saving on energy. This is where the ductless heat pump comes in.

In this article, we will look at the ductless heat pump and validate the notion that it stands out among its competition when it comes to efficiency and performance.

divider 7How Does a Ductless Heat Pump Work?

In a nutshell, the heat pump will move the refrigerant through all the components of the ductless heat pump. During summer, it will absorb heat, while in winter, it does the opposite. The refrigerant will pass through the expansion valve and previously made liquid will turn to gas.

The expansion valve will cool the refrigerant and will then go through the coils. Air is blown to these coils and subsequently introduced into the room. This is how heat is absorbed from the room and expelled outside.

During winter, the process happens in reverse with the heat pump extracting heat from the outside and dispersing it inside the house.

Most heating machines come with some complex arrangement of components, and to better understand how the ductless heat pump works, we must first take a look at what it is made of.

Below are the various components of ductless heat pumps and how they work:

electric heat pump

Evaporator

The evaporator’s main job is to remove hot air from the room by sending it through the refrigerant. Indoor air is constantly pulled in and passed through the evaporator coils, and before reaching the refrigerant, it is usually in a cold, gaseous state.

The evaporators are mostly arranged in coils of copper tubing.

After the heat has been removed from the air and is cooled, it is then injected back into the room. There are blower fans in the indoor unit, which help push the warm air out to cool the room.

Condenser

This works in a reverse manner to how the evaporator coil works, meaning that it releases the absorbed heat to the outside air. The heat absorbed from the room by the refrigerant is converted to hot gas. This is passed through the condenser coils where a fan blows over them. This will cool down the refrigerant and change it to liquid form.

Compressor

The compressor’s job is to increase the refrigerant’s pressure and temperature, a process done after the refrigerant leaves the evaporator coil. This is necessary since it creates a pressure difference, which allows for gas to flow from a higher point to a lower one.

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swim pool heater vs heat pump

Expansion Valve

An expansion valve expands the liquid and reduces both temperature and pressure. After passing through the condenser and going to the evaporator, the refrigerant is cooled down to a low liquid pressure state.

Refrigerant

This is the ductless heat pump workhorse used for taking heat from inside the house and expelling it outside and vice versa.

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The 4 Different Types of Ductless Heat Pumps

There are several ductless heat pumps, each created to suit different needs depending on various factors, such as room size and budget.

1.  Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump

heat pump

One of the best ductless heat pumps is the Ductless mini-split heat pump, which is wall-mounted. The appliance comes with two separate units, an outdoor housing unit with a condenser and compressor and an indoor unit with an evaporator. Both units are installed opposite each other with pipes running through the wall to connect them.

Pros
  • Can warm up individual rooms selectively
  • Easier to install compared to heat pumps with ducts
  • Easy to customize and can connect to your Smartphone
  • Easy to mount and does not compromise the layout of your house
Cons
  • Not as aesthetically pleasing as other ductless systems
  • A bit expensive

2. Multi-Split Heat Pumps

The multi-split heat pump is similar to the ductless mini-split heat pump, except that it comes with more than one unit inside the house and is controlled by one central unit on the outside. This means you can heat a couple of rooms on the inside at the same time. However, to aid in controlling multiple indoor units, the outdoor unit is usually a bit larger.

Pros
  • Has multiple indoor units that offer selective warming, thus saving utility bills
  • Ideal for houses with a complex layout
Cons
  • Expensive to install, depending on the number of indoor units you need

3. Window Heat Pump

Two heat pumps outside the house
Image Credit: Nimur, Shutterstock

This is a type of heat pump where all the components are assembled in one single unit. They appear smaller in size but will not disappoint in terms of efficiency and performance. They usually come at around 12,500 British thermal units (BTU) with some manufacturers providing other units that carry a heavier punch.

Pros
  • Quieter than other heat pumps
  • Easy to install
Cons
  • You may still have to modify the wall
  • The hole will need to be filled in case you decide to get rid of the heat pump

4. Portable Heat Pumps

As the name suggests, portable heat pumps are compact and can be carried anywhere within the house as long as there is a power supply. There are two types of portable heat pumps, including single hose and double hose pumps.

The single hose pump will drain air outside from one hose while the double hose drains from two hose pumps.

Pros
  • No wall modification
  • Can be transferred from one area to the next
  • Easy to handle as they are portable
Cons
  • May not pack as heavy a punch as its competition

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How to Choose a Ductless Heat Pump

Consider the Manufacturers

There are so many different kinds of ductless heat pumps, so choosing one may be a bit of work.

High-end manufacturers may make sleek heat pumps with amazing designs and applications but could also end up taking a huge chunk of your cash. There are a couple of big names worth mentioning, including MRCOOL, Daikin, Mitsubishi, LG, Freidrich, and Fujitsu.

On the other hand, low-end manufacturers may skip on some important aspects of the heating pumps, which may lower performance and efficiency.

heat pump outside the house
Image Credit: HarmvdB, Pixabay

Cost

One of the most important factors when choosing ductless heating pumps is the cost. Your budget will determine what kind of heat to get, with the average cost ranging upwards of $4,000.

The exact amount will always vary since there will be installation and maintenance costs to factor in. Ductless heat pumps will save you some money on this front, as they will not have a long process of installation and can be completed in a day.

The cost ranges from $1,000–$10,000. However, window ductless heat pumps will be cheaper.

For those looking for high-tech ductless heat pumps, which come with better technology like Wi-Fi, the cost is definitely going to be higher.

Pump Size

To get the appropriate size of ductless heat pump for your house, you must familiarize yourself with the term BTU, which stands for British thermal unit. This is the amount of heat required to raise a pound of water temperature by one degree Fahrenheit. The higher the BTU, the better the cooling and heating power of the pump.

In understanding the best kind of heat pump for your house there are a couple of factors to consider including:

  • Room Size: To get the best ductless heat pump for your room, you will need to calculate how much BTU you need. This is done by multiplying the total area of the room by 25, which gives you the BTU required. You can get the area of the room by multiplying the length, width, and height.
  • Exposure to the Sun: The amount of sun that enters the room daily will have a slight impact on the amount of cooling required by around 10%.
  • Height: The room height may not be uniform across the entire This will influence the amount of air conditioning you need.
  • Insulation: If your house comes well insulated, it means you may not need as much air conditioning as a poorly or non-insulated house.
  • Humidity: Areas with higher levels of humidity feel warmer than areas with low humidity. This calls for an increase in the BTU to counterbalance the additional warmth. Also, areas such as the kitchen may need a higher BTU since they have more than one source of heat.
Water heater Pump
Image Credit: akiragiulia, Pixabay

Advantages of Ductless Heat Pumps Over Traditional Heat Pumps

  • Ductless heat pumps don’t take up much space compared to their ducted counterparts, plus there is no need for a dedicated ducting system.
  • With ductless heat pumps, it is easier to warm or cool different rooms of the house.
  • Ductless heat pumps can improve the air quality of the room since they come with some air filters.
  • These also come with DC inverter technology which helps control the usage of the pump’s energy.
  • There are a couple of tax incentives from electric companies for people choosing to use ductless heat pumps.
  • Some ductless heat pumps have a higher level of efficiency.

Disadvantages of Ductless Heat Pumps Over Traditional Heat Pumps

As with most electrical appliances, the ductless heat pump may have some issues down the line. Some of the most common problems include:

  • Bad odors
  • Frozen evaporator coil.
  • AC fan failures
  • Dirty filters
  • Water leaks

Spice Up the Ductless Heat Pump

There is a way you can get even better service from your ductless heat pump with the help of smart AC control devices, such as the Cielo Breeze Plus, which can help you change the settings with your Smartphone, browser, or voice control.

Heat pump owners have the right to experience a more tailor-made temperature control with smart features such as:

  • Global control
  • Location-based trigger
  • Geofencing
  • Temperature and humidity automation
  • Air filter status
  • Timeline of action
  • Usage history

heat pump

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ductless heat pumps easy to maintain?

You can consider ductless heat pumps way easier to maintain compared to traditional heat pumps, as most of the common problems are DIY issues. Some of these maintenance issues include checking the filters and coils to ensure they are clean.

However, if you happen to notice bigger problems, such as a leak, contact a professional. Ductless heat pumps can last you upwards of 10 years, making them a great investment for your home.

Can I get a ductless heat pump for my old home?

For old homes built before the 70s, there were no built-in HVAC systems, and making one for the house would pose a danger to the structure. The best solution here would be a ductless heat pump.

You should be careful as to the kind of ductless heat pump you choose for your home, as you want to ensure minimal disruption of the structure. A window ductless heat pump or a portable heat pump would do the trick, but if you want to heat various rooms independently, then the multi-split ductless heat pump will be the best option.

divider 7Conclusion

Ductless heat pumps come with an efficiency and performance rating that makes them irresistible. Coupled with the number of added advantages, including low maintenance costs, this makes them the perfect choice for regulating temperatures in the home.

Ensure you get professional help in case of any problems with your heat pump, as not everything is a simple fix. Otherwise, keep your home at the perfect temperature with your new ductless heat pump.


Featured Image Credit: nikkytok, shutterstock

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