Are There Big Differences Between Ductless and Standard Heat Pumps?

cooling_house_heating_houseThe heat pump is a popular kind of comfort system in Oregon because it’s an ideal match to our climate. A heat pump is, at heart, an air conditioning system that can also switch the direction it operates so that instead of removing heat from a house and cooling the indoors, it can transport heat from outside and warm the indoors. Because our winters are nowhere near as bone-cold as other parts of the country, a heat pump won’t struggle with extracting sufficient heat from outside during the winter. A heat pump provides winter time comfort that costs much less than using an electric furnace.

You may have also heard about ductless mini split heat pumps, which are common for both new homes and old ones where there’s no room for ducts. But is there a significant difference in how these two types of heat pumps work?

The Central Operation Is the Same

The simple answer is “Not really.” When talking about the basic way a heat pump works, it doesn’t matter if it’s a ductless system or one connected to a standard set of ventilation ducts. Both types operate through the principle of circulating refrigerant.

An outdoor unit contains a compressor that places the chemical refrigerant blend under pressure to change it into a hot, high-pressure gas. Depending on whether the heat pump is in cooling or heating mode, a reversing valve will either send the hot refrigerant through the outdoor coil first or send it to the indoors.

When the refrigerant moves first to the outdoors, the system is in cooling mode: releasing its heat outside and then moving to the indoors to absorb heat and provide cooling. When the refrigerant moves indoors first, the system is in heating mode, releasing warmth.

The Difference Is in the Indoor Unit (Or Units)

Where the two systems are different is in the number of indoor units. The standard heat pump is a split system with only a single indoor unit. The unit contains a refrigerant coil and an air handler. The refrigerant moves through the coil, either releasing or absorbing heat, and the air handler blows air around the coil to carry the conditioned air into the ventilation system.

With a ductless mini split, the refrigerant instead travels to multiple units inside the house. These are small, wall-mounted blowers with a refrigerant coil and small fan. The refrigerant reaches each of the wall units through a 3” hole drilled through the wall. The same action then occurs, with the fan blowing out the cooled/heated air around the coil—except instead of going into a ventilation system, the air flows right out of the unit and directly into the room. Each of the units can be turned off separate from each other, which prevents refrigerant flowing to it, so the system only needs to control the climate in rooms that require it.

We are the Albany, OR HVAC contractor to trust for any heat pump service you might need. We’ve served the Willamette Valley for more than 40 years!

Give Midway Mechanical Inc. a call today and experience our company’s exceptional customer service!

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