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Heat pumps are quickly becoming one of the most highly-adopted and efficient sources of home heating and cooling. In fact, a study by IESO found that residential heat pumps can help reduce heating costs by up to 60 percent. With even more importance placed on energy savings these days, it’s no wonder why an increasing number of homeowners have started to look for more information on which heat pump option suits their home best.

You know mini-splits are a popular option, but could a ducted heat pump system work for you as well? With so many models, types and configurations out there, it can be hard to know which is the ideal fit for your house, as well as your heating and cooling needs.

Several factors will determine which heat pump solution is right for you. For example, is your house a bungalow or does it have a very open concept? Do you have a duct system currently in place? Do you want to cool or heat specific rooms within your house at the same time? These factors (along with your budget, of course) will help dictate whether a ducted system or a ductless (mini-split) heat pump is right for you.

The basics: How do mini-splits and ducted heat pumps work? Top

Although there are two primary configurations of heat pumps (and several types of heat pump energy sources), it’s important to note that both ducted and mini-split heat pumps operate using the same fundamental principle of transferring heat from one place to another, as opposed to creating the heat itself, like a traditional furnace or electric baseboard.

For example, your air source heat pump takes the hot air inside your home and moves it outside by running it through a set of coils (one on the inside unit, another in the outside unit) which contain a refrigerant liquid. It then changes the refrigerant liquid from liquid to gas, and back again, to continually move warm air from inside to outside—cooling your home in the process. To warm your home, it would just reverse the process.

Using this natural process of “heat transfer” is a big reason why heat pumps are so efficient compared to conventional means of home heating. Plus, their versatility to both cool and heat the air makes for an ideal solution for both the sweltering summer heat and our frigid Atlantic Canadian winters.

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Download The Guide On How to Stay Cool This Summer Using a Heat Pump

What are ducts, anyway? Top

When evaluating whether to go with a mini-split or a ducted heat pump system, it’s critical that you know if your home has air ducts, as well as what their purpose is within the home.

Air ducts are the sheet metal passages that connect your central HVAC system, whether a furnace or a heat pump, to the rest of your house through vents in the floor and walls your house.  Air ducts act as the arteries and veins of your home, spreading heated or cooled air through the home and potentially allowing you to heat your whole house at once. Ductwork can sometimes be a drawback for efficiency as, without proper zoning functionality, you could be heating a part of your home that does not need to be heated.

As you might have guessed, houses with ductwork are immediately good candidates for ducted heat pumps as they have that infrastructure already in place.

Why is zoning important for heat pumps? Top

Zoned heating is another commonly-used HVAC term that is important for you to know. Having a zoned system means that you’re able to control the temperature of individual areas of your home at once. For example, you can keep your bedroom cool, while having your kitchen at a warmer temperature, or only heating or cooling certain rooms at specific times of the day.

Zoning allows for a vast amount of control over your home heating so that you don’t always have to be heating or cooling your whole house at once, and each room can be at your ideal temperature.

As you’ll see, both mini-splits and central ducted systems have the capacity for single and multi-zoning. However, it’s important to consider a few things as you decide which approach you want to take. Which areas of your home do you spend the most time in? If you find yourself spending lots of time in one central region of the house, then perhaps a single zone is right for you. By contrast, if your home is relatively segmented, busy, and you’d like to offset the heating cost for several high-traffic areas of your home, then it would be wise to consider a multi-unit system.

How to measure the performance of heat pumps Top

As you evaluate different heat pump units, it’s important to keep in mind that heat pumps are typically judged on several performance categories. These criteria are used to measure heat pumps regarding energy efficiency and performance of cooling and heating.

HSPF

The “Heating Seasonal Performance Factor” is used to measure the heat pump’s efficiency when it is in heating mode, similar to how the SEER rating measures efficiency in cooling mode. Because Atlantic Canada can experience freezing temperatures during our frigid winters, this can limit the effectiveness of some heat pumps during cold periods. With that in mind, you should look to invest in a heat pump system with a high HSPF score, as that means it will perform better during cold snaps. The minimum HSPF in Canada is 6.7, while some Daikin models can go up to 16.5.

SEER

“Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio” is used to measure the efficiency of a heat pump when it is in cooling mode. The higher the SEER, the higher the efficiency rating. The minimum SEER Rating required for equipment in Canada is 13. SEER is calculated by taking the total cooling output of a heat pump in its air conditioning mode and dividing that by the total electricity input during the same period. While knowing a heat pump’s SEER is useful, HPSF is the more important measurement when looking at heat pump efficiency in Atlantic Canada.

COP/EER

The terms COP “coefficient of performance” and EER “energy efficiency ratio” describe the heating and cooling efficiency of air conditioners. They indicate the ratio of heating or cooling provided by a unit relative to the amount of electrical input required to generate it. Thus, if an air conditioner creates 5kW of heat from a 1kW electrical input, its COP is said to be 5.0. Similarly, if an air conditioner generates 5kW of cooling from a 1kW electrical input its EER is also 5.0. The higher the COP and EER, the more energy efficient the equipment is.

Air source heat pumps must reach several benchmarks for the above categories to attain the coveted “Energy Star” certification. They include ≥ 8.5 HSPF, ≥15 SEER, ≥12.5 EER for mini-splits and ≥ 8.2 HSPF, ≥15 SEER, ≥12 EER for central units.        

Now that you have a better understanding of some of the important factors that go into assessing the right heat pump system, you’ll be in a position to choose the right mini-split or ducted heat pump for your home, as you look into each option in more detail.

Get the Daikin Atlantic Heat Pump Product Catalogue Today!

Mini-split heat pump (ductless) Top

Mini-split heat pump systems are often best suited to homes that have traditional ductless heating systems such as electric baseboard or in-floor heating, that’s because they allow you to circumvent retrofitting your house to accommodate a central ducted system. Mini-split systems offer the most versatile and customizable home heating solution because several indoor units can be strategically placed to heat where it is most cost-effective, or provide a complete home heating solution.

Compared to their ducted counterparts, mini-splits have a few notable advantages in that they tend to be cheaper in their upfront cost (thus resulting in a quicker return on investment). They’re also often more straightforward to install because the installation of ducted units can involve replacing older, heavier furnaces.

There are two different approaches to using ductless heat pumps. As discussed in the previous section, much of how you use mini-split systems come down to zoning, with single and multi-zone systems.

Multi-zone heat pumps

Multi-zone ductless heat pumps consist of one outdoor unit and two or more indoor units. This option allows you to control the temperature of multiple rooms independently. Multi-zone heat pumps make an ideal choice for family homes, where the entire house could be used all at once, keeping everyone happy and comfortable.

Multi-zone units are also cost-effective because they have a cheaper upfront cost compared to installing multiple single zone heat pumps. They are also a better option than ducted systems when it comes to efficiency. They tend to have much less energy loss, as heat can sometimes be lost when traveling through the duct system of a home, particularly in older houses.

Single zone heat pumps

Single zone heat pumps are among the most economical solutions—mainly because many homeowners typically only need to serve the main living areas with a heat pump, especially for open concept or small houses. Using only one unit reduces costs compared to other solutions, as you’d otherwise be paying to heat or cool more than one area of your home.

You can also use single zone heat pumps to supplement areas of your home such as your garage or workshop that tend to get cold in the winter, or bedrooms that get overly hot in the summer, all without raising your energy bill to an outrageous amount.

Installing a single heat pump is among the simplest of processes for HVAC systems as they only comprise a single outdoor unit and one indoor unit. This installation is often quite quick, lasting less than a day, and with minor disruption to your home.

VRV Life

Another option is a system like Daikin’s VRV Life that is able to handle both ducted and ductless indoor units in combination with a furnace. VRV technology provides a premium HVAC solution that gives you the ultimate flexibility for how you heat and cool your home.

Mini-Splits offer an efficient heating/cooling solution: Read on at What Are Ductless (Mini-Split) Heat Pumps?

Ducted heat pumps Top

The next option available to homeowners is ducted heat pumps. As the name suggests, these are ideal in homes with ductwork currently in place, which often use inefficient oil or electric-powered heat. A ducted heat pump would then connect an outdoor unit to a central indoor unit which then spreads heated or cooled air throughout your home using your air ducts.

Because you can extract heat from various sources, there are several types of central and ducted heat pumps available, along with different configuration options. Below you’ll see the three most common options.

Air source

Air source heat pumps are the most common types of heat pumps in Atlantic Canada because of their relatively low cost, ease of installation, and technology improvements which have made them much more suitable for warmer climates. They work by transferring heat between the air in your home and the outside air.

Hybrid source

Hybrid units are used to work together with your traditional source of heating, such as an oil furnace. With this configuration, the heat pump would produce all of the cooling power during the summer as well as the heating power during the majority of the winter. The furnace would then only kick in once the temperature outside becomes too cold for the heat pump to function effectively.

Ground source

A fascinating, but less common heat pump variation uses geothermal energy to transfer heat in or out of your home. In fact, ground heat is often more reliable than heat from the air as it stays much more stable than you’d think. To tap into a stable heat source, ground source heat pumps have their refrigeration lines laid under the frost barrier, where the temperature stays more consistent.

Get the Daikin Atlantic Heat Pump Product Catalogue Today!

Which option is right for you? Find a Daikin dealer today Top

The best way to determine which heat pump configuration best suits you is to find the nearest Daikin dealer and book a no-obligation home assessment. Our experts will assess your home and goals and walk you through everything you need to get started with the heat pump system that keeps you comfortable and helps you save year-round.

Click here to find a Daikin dealer near you!