FAQ: Ductless Heating and Cooling

 

A lot of our customers in Portland and Bend have questions about ductless heat pumps. Here is an overview of the most common questions. Please peruse, and feel free to drop us a line anytime.

What is a ductless heat pump?

A ductless heat pump is a highly efficient heating and cooling system that does not require ductwork. Ductless heat pump systems consist of an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor units, linked by refrigerant lines. Using a refrigerant vapor compression cycle - like a common household refrigerator - ductless heat pumps collect heat from outside the house and deliver it inside on the heating cycle, and vice versa on the cooling cycle.

 
 

Ductless heat pumps use variable speed compressors to continuously match the heating / cooling load, avoiding the on / off cycling of conventional electric resistance and central heating systems. This eliminates uncomfortable temperature variations and high-energy consumption. An indoor unit contains a quiet oscillating fan to distribute air into the space. It is mounted on a wall covering a three-inch hole where the refrigerant lines pass through to the outside unit, which can be mounted up to 66 feet away. Each indoor unit heats and cools its own zone and can be controlled independently. 

Why consider a ductless heat pump?

Ductless heating and cooling typically saves 25-50% on electric heating costs.  The Northwest Heat Pump Project gives a nice overview of different heating sources in the Pacific Northwest.

 
Heat Pump Cost
 

Ductless systems also provide multi-stage air filtration that can drastically reduce dust, bacteria, pollen, allergens and other particulates in the air. So you'll breath cleaner at home.

What are common applications for a ductless heat pump?

A ductless heat pump is an excellent replacement for existing electric baseboard or cadet units, wood stoves, or other space heaters. In Portland, one of the most common applications is heating and air conditioning for an upstairs bedroom or living space. Portland homes often have a converted upper floor that never seems to cool down in the summer or heat up as well as the first floor in the winter, even with proper insulation, air sealing, and ventilation. 

 
Portland Upstairs Bedroom
 

We've found that a ductless heat pump is the optimal solution for an upper floor of a 1.5 level home. With zonal heating and air conditioning, you're guaranteed a comfortable living space. The installation is easier and more effective than extending the ducts on an existing HVAC system, and you'll benefit from the air filters that deliver clean air for occupants.

What rebates / tax credits are available for ductless heating and cooling?

Here in Oregon, we have strong incentives. The Energy Trust of Oregon offers an $800 cash rebate. Moderate-income homeowners can also qualify for an increased cash incentive through the Savings Within Reach program. Oregon’s Residential Energy Tax Credit can add an additional credit of up to $1,300.

At no additional cost, GreenSavers handles all of the paperwork that you need to qualify for your incentives. We are proud to be a 3-Star Trade Ally with the Energy Trust of Oregon and a partner of Enhabit.

 
 

What size system do I need?

When it comes to choosing a ductless system, options abound. Your consultant at GreenSavers will walk you through the options and recommend a solution that best fits your home and your budget. GreenSavers is the only contractor in the Pacific Northwest recognized by the US EPA for outstanding professionalism, strong customer service, and a commitment to improving homes with building science solutions.

How much does a ductless heat pump cost?

Fully installed and permitted, ductless systems typically cost between $4K and $6K. We begin by creating an opening in the exterior wall of the home, then running refrigerant and electrical lines into the rooms where the air handlers will be installed. The bulk of our labor goes into running the lines, so costs can increase if, for example, attic or basement space is constricted or if special effort must be made to get the supply lines to the air handlers. What you get is the most efficient heating / cooling system on the market.

 
Efficiency of Heating Sources in the Northwest
 

How long will a ductless heat pump system last?

With proper maintenance and care, a ductless system should perform for over 20 years. Many of the systems installed during the 1980s are still functioning well today.

What’s the difference between a ductless heat pump and a mini-split system?

A ductless heat pump is the same thing as a ductless mini-split. In Portland and Bend, we tend to talk about a “ductless heat pump” system. But manufacturers and installers in and other parts of the country may refer to a “mini-split” or “ductless mini-split” system.

How is a ductless heat pump system controlled?

The system is controlled by a remote control that also functions as a programmable thermostat. Most systems offer various modes of operation such as quiet, high, or timer. Wall mounted controls are also available.

 
 

What kind of maintenance does a ductless heat pump require?

Ductless heat pumps require basic maintenance to deliver high performance. In most cases, keeping the filters and coils clean is the maintenance required and can be done easily by most homeowners.

How long have ductless heat pumps been used?

Ductless heat pumps were developed in Japan in the 1970s and have become the preferred heating / cooling system in Asia and much of Europe. In the US, ductless heat pumps have been used commercially for over 20 years and are becoming more common for residential applications.