The recent polar vortex was a brutal reminder of just how cold it can get in Pennsylvania. As we experienced one of the most frigid periods on record, many locals thought about their residential heating system. Some homeowners considered upgrading their furnace. Others were caught unprepared and worried that a lack of regular maintenance might result in a breakdown when they needed the heat to function the most. And yet another group considered switching to a more efficient heating system for future Pennsylvania winters.

The freezing temperatures might have got you researching other heat system options for your home. As HVAC techs, we get a lot of questions from homeowners in the area about ductless heating systems, also called heat pumps. They often ask, “Is ductless heating effective for the climate in Pennsylvania? Will it keep us warm throughout the winter?”

What is Ductless Heating?

These heat systems go by a few different names: ductless heat, mini-split and heat pump. All of these names describe an efficient way to heat and cool a home using electricity as the energy source. A ductless mini-split heat pump works to transfer heat using refrigerant in the compressor to move air. During the summer, the system moves hot air out of the home and pushes cooled air in. Then, during the colder months, the system reverses the flow. In heating mode, it transfers cold air to the exterior of the home and warm air inside.

Is Ductless Heating Efficient?

Furnace systems function by generating heat and pushing hot air through ductwork to warm the different areas of the house. But, some energy is lost as the heated air travels through the ducts. Ductless mini-splits don’t have this problem. Air is transferred from the unit outside, but it is heated by the split unit mounted on the wall. That means that the air pump pushes warm air directly into the room.

Electricity is used to run a mini-split unit for both heating and air conditioning. Systems available on the market today have good energy efficiency ratings. And the compressors adjust their speed in order to optimize energy use while maintaining a stable temperature inside the space.

For certain homes, this makes a heat pump more efficient for heating during the fall and spring than running the whole gas furnace unit. Plus, ductless systems require 25% – 50% less energy than electric zonal heaters or electric furnaces, they can be a very efficient option. Additionally, each zone is controlled separately, allowing homeowners to cut energy costs for heating unused areas of the house.

Are there More Advantages of Ductless Heating?

Ductless systems are safe, quiet and quick to install. In fact, it usually takes a technician less than a day to get the heat pump installed and running.

Both the outdoor unit and indoor, wall-mounted split are activated by a remote control. This makes turning the heat or air conditioning on and setting the right temperature extremely simple.

Where Are Ductless Systems Most Effective?

A ductless system is sized to fit the heating or cooling needs of each space, making it a flexible solution. Here are the residential situations in which we would recommend a ductless mini-split:

  • For heating and cooling smaller homes or single zones.
  • For heating and cooling older homes – of any size – without an existing duct system.
  • As supplemental heat or cooling sources for the main areas of the house or larger rooms with inconsistent temperatures.
  • For home additions or retrofits of spaces that aren’t serviced by the HVAC system, like a patio, basement or attic.

When Is Ductless Heating Is Less Effective?

Ductless heating systems are not the best solution for every house. They don’t provide whole-house air conditioning or heating the way an HVAC system with complete ductwork does. Heat pumps are challenged to keep consistent temperatures throughout larger homes and between zones.

Ductless heating systems struggle with the extreme winter weather that we can experience in Pennsylvania. Below 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat pump will be less effective for heating a home. For the coldest periods, we recommend either a gas or electric furnace to help keep you comfortable.

Furnace systems are extremely efficient when the winter temperatures plummet and, because natural gas is relatively inexpensive in Pennsylvania, they are a popular choice in this area.

Learn about What to do If a Heat Pump Ices Up in the Winter.

Feeling the Chill? – CALL AQM

It’s time to warm up. Contact AQM if you’re considering a new generator, heat pump, furnace or HVAC equipment. Plus, we can help you get cozy with a gas log fireplace. Request a free quote or call us today at (610) 363-3940.

AQM, Inc.