Heating costs skyrocket during the cold weather months, especially in the northern parts of the country where temperatures can dip below zero. Heating via ductwork has been the stock approach for ages, but it can lead to gross inefficiency. According to the Department of Energy, heat loss through ductwork can drive up cost by as much as 30%. Heating with an electric furnace or baseboard heaters can cost you even more. Ductless heating offers a much more efficient approach to home heating that can dramatically reduce costs.
How It Works
A basic ductless system consists of a single outdoor unit, the heat pump, and an indoor unit located in the center of your home. The heat pump leaches warmth from the exterior air and the indoor unit distributes the heat into the home. Most ductless systems also provide cooling in the summer. If you install a system with a single interior unit, bedrooms or bathrooms may require supplemental heating from your existing heating system. There are, however, mini-split system that provide up to 4 interior units that allow you to heat in zones for additional temperature control.
Installing a ductless heating system can, of course, be handled by a professional, but the process is far less involved than a traditional heating system. Each interior unit must be connected to the exterior unit through a hole in the home wall, which averages approximately 3 inches. The hole provides space for the power cable and small tubes for refrigerant, suction and drainage to connect the exterior and interior unit. As most ductless systems include refrigerant, local regulations may require that portion of the installation or the entire installation be handled by a HVAC professional.
The primary benefit of a ductless heating system is the reduction in energy costs for heating and cooling. Many homeowners with electric heating see their heating costs drop by 30%-50%. The zoned heating approach that mini-split ductless heating allows for can also improve individual comfort. For example, if you prefer to work in a cooler environment, the heating zone that includes your home office can be set to a lower temperature. If your spouse prefers a warmer room, the living room zone can be set to a higher temperature. Ductless systems are also quieter than most furnaces.
The typical cost of a ductless system, as of 2014, ranges between $3000 and $5000. While this is a higher cost, up front, than a traditional system, it should be weighed against the potential savings. Additionally, installing a ductless system may qualify you for cash incentives and tax credits in some locations. These incentives can bring the cost of a ductless heating system into the same range as a traditional system.
A ductless system offers homeowners stuck with expensive electrical heating and inefficient ductwork a cheaper, more efficient alternative. Even with potentially higher installation costs, the savings over the lifetime of home ownership can be significant. In most cases, a ductless heat pump system pays for itself within 3-5 years.