Homeowners in Portland have two options when it comes to heat pumps:
- Traditional heat pumps rely on a central outdoor unit to push air through the home via a network of ducts.
- Ductless (mini-split) heat pumps push air through the home using a series of air handlers, which are in turn connected to a central outdoor unit.
Based on those two options, then, do homeowners have a clear answer to which system is better? The best answer we can give you is, “it depends.”
Traditional ducted heat pumps may be better if:
- Your home already has ductwork and it’s in relatively good shape.
- You want to keep your HVAC system equipment out of view. Or you simply don’t like how ductless air handlers look.
- You’re building a new home and have the option of installing ductwork right from the start.
Ductless mini-split systems may be better if:
- You own a home without ductwork
- You own a historic home and would like to avoid the heavy renovation that a new ducted system would entail.
- You or a family member suffers regularly from allergies
- You have electric heat such as cadets/ceiling heat
- You are doing an addition to the home
Four key factors tend to decide which system will be right for a homeowner: price, the efficiency of the unit, air quality and appearance. We’ll look at all four of these factors in more detail in this article. By the end of it, you should have an idea of which option best suits your home.
Alternatively, you’re welcome to get answers directly from the team here at Four Seasons. Simply give us a call at (503) 538-1950, or schedule a visit from us online.
Factor #1: Price
On average, ductless heat pumps cost less to install than traditional ducted systems.
Based on our experience installing both types of systems:
- Ductless heat pump installations average out to around $4,000. The lowest we’ve seen an install go for is around $3,500. The highest we’ve seen is $11,000.
- Traditional heat pumps average out to about $7,500, although we’ve installed them for as low as $5,000 and as high as $11,000 depending on the unit and labor hours.
Traditional heat pump installations are especially pricey for homes that don’t have ductwork. The same could also be true for homes that have such old ductwork that it needs to be patched up and cleaned or worse, gutted entirely. When a home has no ductwork or very old ductwork, it’s worth considering a ductless system.
On the other hand, a ductless system can outpace the price of a traditional system if more than one outdoor unit is required for the home. On average, one outdoor unit can handle anywhere from 1 to 5 indoor air handlers. If more air handlers are required to cool the home however, it may be more cost-effective to install a traditional system.
Factor #2: Efficiency
When it comes to efficiency, both ductless systems and traditional systems in theory can reach very high efficiency scores for both heating and cooling.
- A SEER score is a measure of cooling efficiency. Both traditional and ductless heat pump units can reach SEER ratings in the mid to high 20s (considered very good for a residential unit).
- An HSPF score is a measure of heating efficiency. Both traditional and ductless heat pump units can reach HSPF ratings of 8.2 to 10+, which is considered excellent for residential units.
Despite the systems themselves being equal in efficiency, one factor tends to make ductless systems more efficient in the long run than traditional systems: a home’s ductwork.
According to the Department of Energy, duct losses can account for more than 30% of the energy consumption for conditioning the average home. In other words, unless a home has above-average ductwork, the most efficient system is a ductless system.
Factor #3: Air Quality
Ductwork tends to accumulate dust, bacteria, pollen and other nasty things year after year. That has an effect on air quality. Ductless systems, on the other hand, have no ductwork. That means when it comes to air quality, ductless systems have the upper hand.
There are two ways a traditional system can get around this issue:
- Install an air purifier to eliminate dust, pollen and microbes which enter the home through the vent system.
- Install a media filter to better catch dust, pollen and dirt as it circulates through the air system.
Factor 4: Appearance
The choice between a traditional system and a mini-split system may ultimately come down to appearance.
- Ductless systems require air handlers to be installed on the walls of a home. Some homeowners see these air handlers as bulky and unsightly. Others think they look modern and sleek.
- Traditional systems run air through a home’s ductwork. Because ductwork is hidden behind the walls and in the ceiling, there’s nothing to see except the air vents.
Which one you choose will come down to personal taste. We’d definitely recommend walking through a home with air handlers to see whether they’d be a good fit for your home.
Still not sure what type of system you want? Give Four Seasons a call!
The Four Seasons team has been installing heat pump systems in Portland homes for over 30 years. Not only are we experts at both traditional and ductless systems, we also offer the best pricing on the best brands, period.
Call us today at (503) 538-1950, or schedule a visit from us online.