What is the Difference Between a Ducted and Ductless Heating System?

When someone decides to invest in a new heating system for their home, most of the time the first thing they will do is begin to research what type of heating system may work best for them.

Upon doing so most people are met with countless terms and options they have no understanding of. And two of the most common terms they will run into today are “ducted” and “ductless”.

The terms “ducted” and “ductless” refer to two different types of systems that someone can purchase, they both have their pros and cons, but some will work better in certain scenarios then others.

But how do you know which will work the best for you? if you have never done any research on the subject or worked in HVAC before you most likely won’t know this answer.

And that is why we are here, today we install more ductless heat pumps then traditional heat pumps almost 4-1, which is a far cry from where we started in 2004 when ductless heat pumps weren’t even around. However that doesn’t mean that traditional heat pumps are no longer needed. So without further adieu let’s break down the difference between ductless and ducted heat pumps and in what cases they work the best.

Main Differences

First let’s take a look at the main differences between a ducted and ductless heating system, as the title of the article would suggest the biggest difference is that ductless systems do not require any ducting to be run throughout the home, while traditional heat pumps do. The other main differences that pop up when talking about ducted and ductless heat pumps are the cost to run, how they look/ function within the home, and the cost to install.

Ducting is the variable sized tubing that runs throughout the home typically in the crawl space or in the attic that directs the air to each space within the home. Ductless heat pumps are able to do without ducting because they circulate the heated and cooled air through the home by way of a wall unit. Have you ever seen one of those white rectangular fans hanging on someone’s wall? Well that is a ductless heat pump!!

Mini Split AC

(Ex.1 Ductless Heat Pump Indoor/ Outdoor Unit)

One of the other defining factors of the ductless heat pumps is the cost to run. Ductless heat pumps are notoriously cheap to run and can cut your electric bill in half when compared to electric furnaces and cadets.

The next biggest difference between these two types of systems is how they look/ function within the home.

As we said previously a ductless system provides heating and cooling to the space via a wall unit that can be mounted almost anywhere in the home, and if positioned correctly these units can heat and cool large portions of your space.

While a ducted system heats and cools a home through vents on the floor or ceiling. Have you ever seen those rectangular grates that sit on the floor or ceiling? Well those are actually connected to the duct work the heating system uses to circulate the heated and cooled air.

Floor Vent For Ducted Heating System

Ex.2 Floor Vent for Ducted Heating System)

With this traditional heat pumps specialize in heating homes that have many individual rooms or homes that are very large with multiple stories and individual spaces.

Lastly one of the biggest differences between a ducted and ductless heating system is the cost to install. Due to how easy they are to install ductless heating systems can be very cheap in terms of HVAC systems. Costing anywhere from $4,000-$8,000 to install.

Obviously if you have a large home with lots of individual rooms and are set on getting a ductless it can be done but it will be more expensive. And in that case it is more cost effective to get a traditional heat pump which can cost anywhere from $12,000-$20,000 to have installed.

How the Layout and Size of Your Home Affects your Choices

As we have mentioned a few times throughout this piece certain units are going to work better then others when it comes to different homes, HVAC is almost never a one size fits all so it is important to get the system that will work best for you.

So let’s break down how ducted and ductless systems are affected by the layout, size and construction of your home and how they differ.

Ductless heat pumps specialize in heating small spaces or more modern open concept homes, with an open concept a ductless is able to push air from the wall mounted unit throughout a large portion of the space regulating the heat from end to end.

But when a home has many individual rooms and spaces the walls within the home end up cutting off the air flow from the wall mounted unit causing the unit itself to be less efficient. Ultimately stopping the unit from doing its job.

Ductless Heat Pump Comparison

(Ex.3 Open Vs. Closed Concept Floor Plans)

This problem is non-existent for traditional heat pumps, simply because of the way the system is designed. By pushing the air to each room or space through the duct work a traditional heat pump is able to heat many individual rooms and spaces.

These same principles apply for both types of systems when we are talking about a larger home, even if the home has a more open concept if a home is over 1500 -1600 sq. feet a single wall mounted unit will have trouble heating and cooling the entire space.

Whereas a ducted system can have as many vents as necessary to heat and cool the entire space.

Now this limitation for ductless heat pumps can be overcome by including more (zones) or wall mounted units throughout the home but that can make the price increase quite a bit simply by adding one more wall mounted unit.

Which One is Right for You?

Now that we have gone over the differences between ducted and ductless heating systems hopefully you have a better idea of what may work for you in your home.

The first step we would recommend in trying to assess what system may be the best fit for you is to look at your home, do you have a more traditional blocky floor plan? Do you have many individual rooms that need to be heated and cooled? Is your home 2-3 stories?

Once you have assessed what may work best for you, the next step on your journey to getting a new heating system is to call a local HVAC company and talk to them about the options they provide.

Here at Advanced Heating just like most companies, we offer free in-home estimates where a trained and seasoned technician will come out to your home, walk you through what may work best for you and why, ultimately providing you with 2-3 options ranging in price and value.