Ductless Heat Pumps vs. Ducted Heat Pumps in Northwest Washington State

As with any investment, it’s important to conduct research when it comes to replacing or installing a new heating and cooling system on a property. A quick Google search of popular types of heating and cooling units will produce millions of results, but there’s no need to weed through all those articles and websites! Read on to learn the difference between ductless vs ducted heat pumps in northwest Washington state.

Ductless Vs. Ducted Heat Pumps, What’s the Primary Difference? 

The two main types of heat pumps are the ductless mini-split heat pump and the ducted heat pump. Both of these heat pump systems work by transferring heat energy. The primary difference between the two is that mini-splits (ductless) use inverter technology, while ducted systems do not. Inverter technology allows the system to run continuously, adjusting capacity constantly to meet the temperature set point. A standard ducted system (such as a furnace with an air handler and ductwork) either runs on full blast or is off. When the temperature drops, the furnace or ducted system will operate at full capacity, trying to get the temperature back up to the set point. 

What Is a Ductless Heat Pump? 

Contrary to what the name implies, a ductless heat pump system has both cooling and heating capabilities that can keep your house comfortable year round. In a ductless mini-split system, refrigerant lines run from one or more indoor ductless units to one or more outdoor units. Each indoor ductless unit controls the temperature of a zone, so a larger property may require more than one indoor unit. Since each indoor unit is responsible for a specific zone, heating and cooling can be adjusted based on occupant comfort to save on energy consumption. The modern design of the indoor ductless unit can be installed in a wall, ceiling, floor within a few hours.

What Is a Ducted Heat Pump? 

In a ducted heat pump system with standard technology, there is one outdoor compressor and one centrally located air handler. The heat pump and air handler work together to heat or cool the air, which is then pushed throughout the home’s ductwork. The entire system is typically controlled by a thermostat in one location. Ducted heat pumps are less energy efficient than ductless heat pumps because of radiant energy losses and from pumping losses from pushing air through ductwork. As aforementioned, they also run at full blast when on, which is not the most energy efficient. In addition, air leaks in ductwork are another source of energy losses.

What Are the Different Types of Energy Sources for Heat Pumps?

All heat pumps, whether they use energy from the air, ground, or water, transfer heat rather than generate it. They function the same, but differ in where the energy source originates. The three most common types of heat pumps include air-source, geothermal, and absorption. 


The most common types of heat pumps use air as an energy source, where the system transfers energy between your house and the outside air. A ductless heat pump can lower electricity costs by 50% compared to traditional heating systems such as baseboard heating or furnaces. Recent advancements in air-source heat pumps have made them an option for those that live in areas with temperatures that drop below zero.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

A geothermal heat pump (otherwise known as a ground source heat pump) uses heat obtained from the ground or a water source near a property. The consistently available energy source makes geothermal systems 30-60% more energy efficient than other heat pumps. These systems are reliable and well suited to regions that are subject to severe weather conditions. However, there are limitations to the property size and proximity. 

Absorption Heat Pumps

Absorption heat pumps are essentially heat pumps that use a fuel source other than electricity to run the compression cycle used for heat transfer. They are also referred to as gas-fired heat pumps since they use natural gas in most cases. They are a relatively new type of heat pump. 

Heat Pumps vs. Air Conditioners

There is little difference in functionality between a heat pump and air conditioner when a heat pump is in cooling mode. The main difference between heat pumps and air conditioners is that a heat pump can deliver both heating and cooling, while an air conditioning unit is simply a cooling system. The winter climate of the Pacific Northwest would require an air conditioner to be paired with another system, such as a furnace, to keep the home comfortable all year long. Since ductless systems don’t experience the 25-30% heat losses associated with ductwork, they are the more energy efficient option. Learn more about the difference between ductless heat pumps and air conditioning units here.

Ductless Vs Ducted Heat Pump – Which Is Best? 

The right heating and cooling system for you depends on your budget, energy efficiency goals, the floorplan of the property, and whether there is existing ductwork within your home or business. A central heat pump may be less expensive to purchase, but a ductless heat pump will almost always be more economical to operate. However, in most homes without ductwork, a ductless system is far less expensive and time consuming to install, and will provide greater cost savings over time. Contact Alpine Ductless, your local heating and cooling contractor to get input on which system will suit your needs.

Request An Estimate to Install a Ductless Heat Pump In Your Home

f you’re ready to install a ductless heat pump in your home, contact us to get a free estimate. Our professional mini-split installation team will meet with you to determine the best system for your home or business. 

Want to learn more about ductless mini-splits? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Ductless Heating and Cooling.

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