Ductless (Mini-Split) Heat Pumps for Your Home

Since the housing market is still finding its bottom, many homeowners  looking for an upgrade or for more room are turning to renovations and additions in the face of flat or declining home values. This is especially true here in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA areas.

Given that, I thought it would be good to take a look at a key consideration in renovating: HVAC. Specifically I wanted to take a closer look at ductless (aka mini-split) heat pumps.


An example of a wall-mounted ductless heat pump.

An example of a Sanyo wall-mounted ductless heat pump.

If you are not familiar with these, remember the last time you stayed in a relatively modern hotel. Chances are the HVAC system in your room looked like (although did not operate like) a type of ductless heat pump. They are mounted in a wall or in the ceiling and you set them to a temperature and forget them.

There are similar systems available for your home. Here’s how they work:

A compressor sits outside the home and does the HVAC heavy lifting. It is connected via thin refrigerant lines to “head units” which use fans to blow across the refrigerant to cool or heat the home. The head units can be mounted in the wall or in the ceiling and create “zones.” We call this system ductless because you don’t need to run large ducting to vents throughout the home. You simply cut a hole in the wall or ceiling, run the appropriate lines and you’re done with installation.

The Pros for this type of system include:

  • Ease of installation – We don’t have to install ducting and the lines are small enough to be easily installed.
  • Efficiency – Heat or cool only the rooms you use and lose less energy because hot or cold air is not running through ducts.
  • Noise – Compared to a window-unit air conditioner, these systems are quiet.

Cons include:

  • Air Quality – You won’t get fresh air into the room via the head units.
  • Styling – Depending on the application, the head units could be considered eye sores.
This image illustrates how a ductless heat pump system works.

This image, from the Sanyo company, illustrates how a ductless heat pump system works.

I’ve installed several of these systems and like them for specific applications. They are good for renovations and or additions, especially in older homes where there is no existing ducting.  They are also great in commercial applications where zones can be good for different offices.

As for cost, I think that’s pretty even. You can save money installing them because you don’t need ducting, but the head units can be fairly expensive.

If you don’t mind the intrusion of the head unit in a room and you don’t want to go through the time and expense of adding ducting, then this is a great solution to keeping your heating and cooling costs low and your comfort level high.


If you live in Clark County, WA, and have cable ceiling heat, baseboard or wall heaters in your home you will probably qualify for a $1,500 rebate on the cost of the system from Clark County PUD.

If you live in Oregon, then you may qualify for up to $400 in incentives if you install a ductless heat pump system.

The systems are available through many manufacturers, including LG, Fujitsu, Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Daikin and many others.  Last year we installed a single Mitsubishi system in an addition in Washougal, WA and 4 Daikin systems in a commerical project in Vancouver, WA.

For those of you in the Vancouver, WA area – specifically Clark County, MetFab Heating, Inc. has a great site full of useful information.  MetFab installed more ductless heat pump systems through the NW Ductless Heat Pump Project through September 2009 than any other heating and c0oling company in Washington state.

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