Ducted Vs. Ductless Heat Pump

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Ductless V Ducted heat pumps

If you’re looking into a new heat pump system for your home, then you might be a little overwhelmed with all the different battles that seem to be going on: air source heat pump vs ground source heat pump, monobloc vs split system heat pumps, and so on. And whilst we’re not in the business of adding more fuel to the fire, we do have another battle for you today – ducted vs. ductless heat pump. 

So, which is better, when might you need one over the other, and how can you find the right ductless or ducted heat pump installer? Let Heat Pumps UK guide you through all that and more below. 

Heat Pumps: A Quick Guide 

Before we look at ductless and ducted heat pump systems specifically, let’s get to grips with how heat pumps work first. 

All heat pumps will use the heat from outside air and transfer it to heat your room. This is done through a process of condensing and compressing air to make it warmer, which then heats your home. 

So what makes ducted and ductless heat pumps so different?

How Do Ducted Heat Pumps Work? 

It’ll probably not come as a surprise to you to learn that ducted heat pumps rely on ducts to transfer the heat from their system around the home. Some homes already have ducts built into the home and others will need ducts installing as part of the wider installation. 

A central indoor air handling unit is typically installed with a ducted heat pump system to distribute the heat through the ducts into the rooms via vents. An external air source heat pump collects the air from outdoors and transfers the heat to the central indoor air handling unit. You can also find an all-in-one ducted heat pump system that houses both the air handling unit and heat pump itself in one outdoor unit.

When heating the home, the heat from the outside air will be brought into the home, heated further, and then released. When cooling the home, the heat is removed from the air via cooling – essentially working in reverse. 

All ducted heat pumps are air source. 

How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work? 

Ductless heat pumps don’t use ducts at all – hence the name. That means even if you have ducts in your home already, they won’t be required for a ductless heat pump system.

A central indoor air handling unit is used again here, and an external air source heat pump will collect the air from outdoors and transfer heat into the rooms of your house just like ducted heat pumps will. The main difference? Rather than using ducts to transfer that heat around the house, the indoor air handling unit will do it directly, delivering heated air straight into the room. 

Your air handling unit can be attached to walls, floors, or ceilings as required, and they’ll serve either heated or cooled air to the room. 

For these systems, multiple indoor air handling units may be required – potentially one in each room of the house to better optimise your heating and cooling system. 

You may have heard of the term ductless mini splits – these are the same thing. Sometimes these systems are simply referred to as mini split systems instead. 

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Key Differences 

As you may have guessed, the main difference is that one system uses ducts and the other one doesn’t. It really is that simple – because in terms of what the two systems do for your home, they’re largely the same. 

Both can heat or cool your home efficiently, both rely less on fossil fuels, and therefore, both will help you cut carbon emissions and save money on your energy bills. 

Of course, there are some smaller differences between the two systems that might be worth considering:

  • Ductless systems have multiple air handling units – ducted systems only have the one
  • Ductless systems will usually have a unit in each room of the house (and some of them can be pretty large) – ducted systems won’t
  • Ducted systems will use one indoor air handling unit – but this one system is usually much larger than a ductless system’s one, and needs to be housed indoors 

Despite these differences, they’re similar in how they operate, and their external heat pumps will be almost identical. And ultimately, they’re much better options than heating/cooling your home with traditional fossil fuel based systems. 

Which Is Better Ducted or Ductless Mini Split? 

When it comes to ducted vs. ductless heat pump systems, there really isn’t one clear winner over another. The best system is really the system that will serve your house best. 

Maybe you already have ducts in your home, and therefore installing a ducted heat pump system will make more sense, since you already have a large part of the infrastructure in place, helping reduce the cost of installation and putting your ducts to use. 

Or perhaps you don’t have ducts, and the extra cost makes a ducted system less worthwhile. You might also prefer the idea of having multiple air handling units in your house – one in each room because it gives you a more efficient system that can target the temperature in each room better, making your home more comfortable for everyone. In which case, a ductless system is probably best.

Whatever the case, the best thing you can do is speak with heat pump installers if you’re unsure. Work with Heat Pumps UK today and we’ll find you a local heat pump installer with great deals to help you decide which system is right for your home. 

Is Ducted Or Ductless Heat Pump Cheaper? 

In most cases, despite the multiple indoor air handling units associated with the system, a ductless heat pump will usually be cheaper. Better still, because the air handling units are all indoors (and you can opt for a ducted system that uses an outdoor air handling unit that’s combined with the heat pump unit), they’re more efficient. You’ll have lower heating costs because an indoor air handling unit is much more effective at heating air than an outdoor one, because less heat is lost through the unit. 

Although a ducted system could still prove a better option for you if your home already has ducts that could be used. Remember, not all ducts are appropriate for a ducted heat pump, so just because you have heat pumps doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use them. 

On the whole, though, a ductless heat pump will usually be much cheaper than a ducted heat pump to install. 

Ducted Vs. Ductless Heat Pump Pros And Cons 

Ducted Heat Pump Pros & Cons 

Much cheaper to run than fossil fuel boilers etcDuctwork required – meaning if you don’t have any or the ducts you do have aren’t suitable, you’ll need to install some
Heating and cooling capabilities to make your home more comfortableLess efficient system due to loss of temperature throughout the system
You may already have existing ductwork that can be usedExpensive ducts (if required)
One system for your entire propertyDucts will need maintenance and cleaning to keep the system running
Reduced carbon emissions from your homeMore complex installation
Ducted Heat Pump Pros & Cons 

Ductless Heat Pump Pros & Cons

Much more cost effective option (in most cases)Multiple indoor units to find space for can prove difficult
Quick installation with limited disruption to your homeNot ideal for larger homes because of the number of units required
Heating and cooling capabilitiesSome air handling units are quite bulky
Great energy efficiency – target heat only in the rooms you’re usingHeating and cooling each room separately may not be ideal for your home
Greener heating and cooling system than fossil fuel options
Ductless Heat Pump Pros & Cons

When To Choose Ductless Or Ducted Heat Pumps 

A ductless system is a great option for those looking to switch from fossil fuels because they mostly use electricity to heat and cool your home. However, they aren’t ideal for every house. If your home:

  • is poorly insulated;
  • isn’t properly sealed; 
  • costs more than the average home to heat;
  • or is particularly large

then ductless heat pumps won’t be as effective as they could be, and therefore could cost you more to operate. But if you’re looking for a more individualised heat pump that can let you target each room you’re in to better optimise the temperature, then a ductless system is for you. 

Alternatively, a ducted system is usually a better choice when you’re looking for a fully integrated system that can operate behind the scenes. With ducts being hidden away in walls and ceilings, the only part of the system inside your home that will be in sight are the vents the warm or cool air enters your room through. Ducted heat pump systems will work best if your home:

  • already has ductwork installed (although you can still install them at extra cost if you don’t have any or the ductwork isn’t appropriate) 
  • is properly insulated.

If you want a tried and tested system capable of keeping your whole house warm or cool as you prefer, then a ducted heat pump system will work wonders. 

And if you’re unsure, contact a local heat pump installer through Heat Pumps UK today, and they’ll be able to provide you with advice based on your home. 

Ducted Vs. Ductless Heat Pump Summary

Both ducted and ductless heat pump systems have their place. Both will save you significant money on your energy bills, both are much greener than standard fossil fuel boilers, and both are incredibly efficient at heating and cooling your home – so they’re like having an air conditioner and a boiler all in one. 

Which one is best for you will largely depend on your home. To check, find a local heat pump installer through Heat Pumps UK today, and they’ll be able to provide you with better advice about which heat pump is right for you. 

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Ollie Creevy
Ollie has been writing content online about home improvements for over 3 years. With a real interest and in-depth knowledge of heat pumps and ECO home improvement measures you can use to save on your energy bills. Ollie also keeps up to date with all the Government grants available for you to take advantage of like ECO4 and the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.