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Serving the South Puget Sound and Western Washington Areas Since 1976

Serving the South Puget Sound and Southwest Washington Areas Since 1976

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Sunset Air Blog

What’s The Difference Between Heat Pumps & Mini Splits?

We don’t get to say this very often, but it’s an especially exciting time in the world of HVAC! There have been so many innovations in technology and incentives being offered that you might’ve seen some HVAC headlines in the news recently.

If you’ve done any research lately about these “new” HVAC systems that are available, you might be incredibly confused by all the terminology. Central heat pumps, ductless heat pumps, mini splits, and geothermal heat pumps are just some of the terms you’ve undoubtedly encountered in your search.

Combine this with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the state rebates that are available and savvy homeowners will want to learn about their options and why there’s never been a better time to upgrade your HVAC system.

To be an informed consumer, you need to know all your options. Let’s break down the terminology you’ve been hearing about so you’ll have all your ducks in a row when it’s time to upgrade. 

Just the Facts

If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, it should be this. 

  • Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling
  • Heat pumps can be ductless or ducted systems
  • Mini splits are a type of heat pump
  • Mini splits are always ductless

Why “Heat” Pump If It Cools and Heats?

It might seem like a misnomer but it helps to know that “heat” in heat pump represents how it functions. Here’s another handy list.

  • A heat pump moves or “pumps” heat from one location to another
  • In the summer, it moves heat from inside your house to the outside
  • In the winter, it moves heat from outside your house to the inside
  • A heat pump doesn’t create heat, it moves or transfers heat energy

Get Your “Ducts” in a Row

So what about ducts? Why is a heat pump available in both ductless and ducted options and a mini split isn’t? Let’s clarify this now.

  • Heat pumps can be ductless or ducted (meaning they use the existing ductwork in your home)
  • Mini splits are always ductless (hence the name ductless mini splits)

Ducted Heat Pumps

Standard ducted heat pumps come in three types: air source, water source, or ground source. 

  • Air source heat pumps are the most common type of ducted heat pump. It usually consists of one outdoor compressor and one centrally located air handler. The conditioned air moves through the home’s ductwork.
  • Water source heat pumps are less common overall, but a viable option in the Pacific Northwest because they rely on a well, lake, pond, or another water source. They extract heat from a body of water.
  • Ground source or geothermal heat pumps tap into the constant temperature of the earth below ground. They extract heat from the earth.

Ductless Heat Pumps

The aptly named ductless mini split heat pump doesn’t need ducts. These systems consist of a single outdoor unit and multiple indoor air handlers. The air handlers are usually mounted on the walls of your home. These systems allow you to heat and cool only certain rooms of your house. With mini splits, the sky’s the limit when it comes to customizing your home comfort!

Count on the team with the most experience. Contact the team at Sunset Air for heat pump services today.

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