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Staying warm with a ductless heat pump.


It’s starting to get cooler out, especially in the mornings and at night, and your thoughts
may be turning to the pleasures of Autumn: colorful trees, sweaters, and hot mugs of cider.
Of course, you may also be dwelling on some less pleasant thoughts… namely, turning on
the heater and what it’s going to cost to heat this Winter. I don’t know if Mother Nature is
predicting as brutal a winter as last year, but we’ll definitely be running the heating system… and paying for the fuel to do it.

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) has picked NOW as the appropriate time to start promoting a technology that was new to me: the ductless heat pump. Their argument: this heating (and cooling) system is much more efficient and cost-effective than some of the decades-old technologies many of us still use, like baseboard and wall heaters. They’re having fun with their GOING DUCTLESS campaign by letting people know that “the 70s are calling, and they want their heater back,” They’re very serious about the technology, though, claiming that ductless heat pumps CAN SAVE CONSUMERS 25 – 50% on heating bills when compared to older systems.

What is a ductless heat pump?

Essentially, they’re smaller-scale versions of air source heat pumps. Also known as “mini-
splits,” they consist of “two main components: an outdoor compressor/condenser, and an
indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units.” The secret weapon of the ductless heat pump is in the use of inverter driven compressors!

What makes these systems so efficient?

The Oregon Department of Energy lists three advantages of ductless heat pumps:

They’re ductless (duh!): Since they’re not feeding heated or cooled air through
ducts, much more of that air makes it into the room – the US Department of Energy
notes that losses of heated/cooled air through ducts can account for as much as 30%
of the energy consumption of those systems.

Inverter technology: “Variable speed compressor models, usually labeled “inverter
technology,” avoid on-off cycling losses and are able to provide usable heat efficiency
on all but very cold days.”

Zoning: Ductless heat pumps heat and cool only your desired areas, it seems; that
means you can warm/cool specific areas of your home that you’re using, rather
focusing on the whole house.

Finally, there may be incentives available for you to make the switch: NEEA has a list of
Northwest-specific incentive programs, and the DSIRE database can help you in other US

Disadvantage of ductless heat pumps

The US DOE notes that these systems can cost more per ton of cooling capacity: about 30% more than a central (ducted) system (but that doesn’t count the cost of ductwork), and twice as much as window units. That appears to only take into account upfront costs. DOE also notes that these systems must be properly sized and sited in order to achieve maximum efficiency and cost savings (but that strikes me as a qualification that applies to nearly any heating/cooling system). Finally, because this technology is still relatively new to the US, you may have trouble finding an installer, that is why I strongly urge you to call AAA Heating & Cooling and I will put our team together to help you create the right home comfort system for you.

Michael C. Thoen
AAA Heating & Cooling Inc.