A Guide to the Basics of a Ductless Heat Pump System

As temperatures start dropping, it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming heating season. One great option for efficiently heating your home is a ductless heat pump. If you’re unfamiliar with this heating and cooling system, now is a great time to learn more.

So, how does a ductless heat pump work? Read on to learn the basics and benefits of a ductless heat pump system

What is a Ductless Heat Pump?

First of all, what is a heat pump, ducts, or no ducts? Simply put, it’s a system that pumps heat in or out of your home. It follows the basic thermodynamic principle that heat will always travel toward the cold.

A heat pump exploits this principle, drawing heat out of the air, no matter how cold the air is. Despite the name, heat pumps also make great air conditioners. The process of drawing heat from the air is applied both inside and outside of the home.

Heat pumps facilitate this transfer of heat without burning any fuel, making for highly efficient heating and cooling. They run on electricity, powering a cycle of refrigerant between two heat exchanger coils.

The Ductless Difference

A traditional heat pump draws heat from the outside and sends it through your home via a duct system. A ductless heat pump, also known as a ductless mini-split heat pump, or ductless mini-split system, works differently.

Instead of sending the heat through the system of ducts, a ductless heat pump uses a blower that’s part of the indoor unit. It directly pumps the heat into the space where the indoor unit is installed.

This doesn’t cover the same amount of territory as a system of ductwork, but it has its advantages. The reason why these systems are also called “mini-splits” is that you can use multiple indoor units throughout the home.

Typically, up to four indoor units can be connected to the same outdoor unit. These units can be set to different temperatures to accommodate their respective spaces. It’s a great way to efficiently heat your home, targeting areas where you spend the most time.

Pros & Cons of Ducts

Ducts are a standard part of traditional central air systems. Ducted systems have their advantages. These include the convenience of having one unseen indoor unit, and the relative quiet of heat coming through registers.

The fact that you don’t see the duct system is a plus for many people. If your home has existing ductwork that’s in decent shape, using it for central air is still more efficient than many fuel-burning alternatives.

However, if your home doesn’t already have ducts installed, it may not be the best investment. Likewise, if those ducts aren’t cleaned, maintained, and properly sealed, energy efficiency will not be ideal.

Ducts can lose a lot of energy through cracked or broken seals, poor design, or ineffective insulation. Even insulated ducts will inevitably lose heat on their journey through the home.

To ensure maximum energy efficiency, ductless heat pumps are your best bet. But exactly how does a ductless heat pump work?

How Does a Ductless Heat Pump Work?


A ductless heat pump works similarly to air conditioning in general. When heating your home, it operates on the same principle – but in reverse.

Key components include:
  • Indoor Unit(s) / Evaporator Coil / Air Handler / Blower
  • Outdoor Unit / Condenser Coil
  • Power Cable
  • Refrigerant Line
  • Condensate Drain Line

Evaporating & Condensing Heat

Heat is transferred through a cycle of condensing and evaporating refrigerant. In heating mode, the outdoor heat exchanger coil draws heat from the air outside. Even if it’s extremely cold, there’s still enough heat in the air that can be extracted.

That heat is absorbed by the refrigerant, as long as the coil remains colder than the air outside. The condenser pressurizes that heat, making it warmer and pumping it through the refrigerant line into your home.

Inside, it reaches the other heat exchanger coil, which is at a significantly higher temperature. When the heat from the outside air passes over that coil, it is dumped into your home via the blower.

The same thermodynamic principle applies throughout the cycle. If the outdoor coil is colder than the air, it will draw heat from the air. If the indoor coil is hotter than the heat traveling through the refrigerant tubing, it blows that heat into the home.

It simultaneously draws the cold air out of your home, back to the condenser. This keeps the cycle going, as the evaporated refrigerant is drained back through the condensate line.

Advantages of a Ductless System

So, how does a ductless heat pump work in terms of its advantages? A ductless system has many benefits, despite its steeper upfront cost. Here are some of the returns you can expect from investing in a ductless heat pump system.

Energy Efficiency

Unlike fuel-burning alternatives, heat pumps are highly efficient. That energy conservation translates into lower energy bills. There are also tax credits, rebates, and other incentives that help you save even more. Ask your HVAC contractor to learn more.

Long Lifespan

Ductless heat pumps can be expected to last fifteen to twenty years. Each year of use increases the value, further justifying that upfront expense.

Easy Installation and Operation

The indoor units are compact, easy to install and offer unique versatility. This system allows you to control different temperatures throughout your home for ideal convenience and efficiency.

Is a Ductless System Right for You?

If you’re interested in learning more about how a ductless heat pump work in your home, reach out to your local HVAC contractor. If you’re in South Jersey, Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing are your local experts on ductless heat pumps! Call today to find out how to lower your energy consumption while keeping your home as warm and cozy as ever.

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