Is a Mini Split the Same as a Heat Pump?

With a new year underway, you’ve spent considerable time going over your bills and budget for last year to see where you’re spending excessively. You’re not thrilled about your energy bill, and you know why it’s as high as it is. You have a very old air-conditioning unit or an ancient heater, maybe even both.

That’s caused you to reconsider your heating and cooling options for the year ahead. One such option that you’re strongly thinking about is a ductless mini split system. You’re trying to learn as much about these systems as possible, which definitely means you’ve come to the right place.

Your question is this: is a mini split the same as a heat pump?

Heat pump is a technology which means a mini split can be the same as a heat pump, yes. However not all mini splits are heat pumps as mini splits can be cooling only.  It’s important to differentiate between a ducted versus a ductless heat pump, so let’s start there.

If you have a ducted system, your home or commercial building will have had a central heating unit installed either on the roof or just outside your home. To provide heating beyond that one centralized area, ducts connect and travel intricately throughout.

When you run a ducted heater, a fan sends the air in the desired direction. Natural gas heaters within the central unit begin to warm up the air. The heated air travels to its destination and is released so you feel warmer.

The main problem with ducted heating pumps is the high potential for heat loss. Sure, many such pumps will come insulated so as much heat can’t drain out. Even still, with their very design, you can guarantee that some heat will be lost each time you run a ducted heat pump.

Another issue with a ducted heating system is that the installation is quite intensive. This can drive up costs, causing you to spend more money initially.

Ductless heat pumps, such as a ductless mini split system, can provide cooling as well as heating, despite the name. Your mini split system includes indoor air-handling units and the outdoor condenser or compressor.

How many air-handling units you need varies based on the size of your home or commercial building. Each space the indoor air-handling unit cools or heats is referred to as a zone, which can be an individual room but doesn’t have to be.

Refrigerant travels from the condenser to the air-handling unit where it becomes a gas, then a liquid again. Heat exchanger coils within the ductless mini split system can evaporate or condense the refrigerant. If you’re using your ductless heat pump for generating warmth, the previously evaporated refrigerant that’s still warm is absorbed, spreading and releasing the heat through the indoor air-handling unit(s).

You have the freedom to select the precise temperature range you want when using a ductless mini split system, something that you don’t get when using ducted heating and cooling. Beyond that, the ease of installation is a standout for ductless systems, as is the much more reasonable monthly utility bill. Since your ductless mini split system is a heater and air conditioner in one, you can ditch the outdated HVAC.