How Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps Work

Ductless mini-split heat pumps are one of the latest innovations of the modern revolution in home heating and cooling technology. Instead of replacing a malfunctioning heating system with a centralized unit that simultaneously services your whole house, you can independently deliver fully controllable heating to as many (or as few) rooms as you wish. Here’s a brief rundown on the way that ductless mini-split heat pumps get the job done.

What Does a Heat Pump Do?

First, let’s look at how a heat pump operates. A traditional furnace in a centralized system generates heat internally by doing one of two things: burning a fuel source (e.g., natural gas or propane) or activating an electric component called a heating element. A heat pump does not produce its own heat. Instead, it pulls heat from one of three sources (outdoor air, the ground or nearby water) and passes that heat on to the interior of your home. During warmer parts of the year, a heat pump can function as an air conditioner by reversing itself and pulling heated air out of your household’s interior.

What Is a Ductless System?

A traditional heating and cooling system with a central heat pump relies on tubing called ductwork to carry conditioned outdoor air to the rooms in your home and pull air that’s too hot or cold back outdoors. In this type of system, space must be made available for the passage of the entire ducting network above ceilings, under floors and/or behind walls. In contrast, a ductless heat pump system does not rely on interior ductwork. Instead, the heating/cooling unit installed in each room is attached to a small conduit that travels directly outside through a floor or wall. Once outside, this conduit travels to a cabinet that holds the heat pump.

What Is a Mini-Split?

The term “mini-split” is used to describe the ability to individually adjust the temperature output of each ductless heating/cooling unit in your home. If you want, you can use a mini-split system to make parts of your home notably warmer or cooler. You can also completely turn off the heat or AC in specific areas if you want to lower your energy usage or your energy costs. The most complex mini-split systems let you individually control the temperature in eight separate household zones.

So, as you can see, a ductless mini-split heat pump is the heart of a system that lets you separately control the temperature levels in different parts of your house. As a rule, this type of system does an excellent job of heating and cooling unless you live in an area with very low winter temperatures. For people living in Southern California and other regions with relatively mild winters, a ductless mini-split system may be just the ticket for combining excellent temperature control with top-notch energy efficiency.

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