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You have a choice when it comes to heating and cooling your home. Centralized systems might have been the standard in Boston homes for decades, but ductless heat pumps are starting to gain some attention for their smaller size and improved energy efficiency. So, which is best for you? Here, we’ll weigh the advantages and downsides of each system to help Boston homeowners determine which HVAC system is ideal given their needs.

How are heat pumps and central air systems different?
If you’ve only lived in homes with central air, you might be wondering what a heat pump is exactly. The main difference these two HVAC systems is the way in which temperature is controlled and distributed.
As the name suggests, ductless heat pumps don’t rely on ductwork like their centralized counterparts. Instead, individual indoor handling units control the temperature in each zone or room where they’re installed.

How do these two heating and cooling systems compare?

Initial Costs
For most homeowners, cost is the first consideration when making a large purchase. Although it’s not the only factor that should be taken into account, it’s an excellent place to start. When it comes to upfront expenses, central air systems beat out their ductless peers. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that ductless systems can cost up to 30% more than centralized systems. However, these initial costs are more than made up for in the long run by a ductless system’s impressive energy efficiency and lower cost of maintenance.

Ease of Installation
The most obvious difference between central air and ductless systems is the presence of ductwork. Conventional systems rely on vast networks of ducts to transfer air throughout your home, making the installation process significantly more involved and time-consuming. Conversely, ductless heat pumps only require the installation of a single outdoor unit, at least one indoor handling unit, and a series of connecting lines between each to handle refrigerant and other essentials. This makes for a much quicker and less disruptive installation. Either way, it’s important to work with an installation specialist to ensure you’re getting the most out of your system.

Energy Efficiency
A primary draw of ductless heat pumps is their energy efficiency. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, centralized units can lose up to 20-30% of circulating air due to poor seals, holes, and leaks. Ductless systems avoid this problem altogether by relying on handling units instead of ductwork. If you’re looking to lower your electric bill, heat pumps are a great option.
The only scenario in which central air systems might be able to outperform a heat pump is when temperatures dip below freezing. In these extreme temperatures, ductless systems have to work overtime to keep your home comfortable, resulting in a higher electric bill. Working with a professional to create a hybrid system between your central air and heat pump can optimize energy efficiency in these cases.

The lack of ductwork isn’t just an installation advantage for heat pumps. Their decentralized functionality makes these systems much more flexible than conventional units. Central air systems are controlled by a single thermostat, meaning your home is limited to one temperature setting.
Ductless heat pumps, on the other hand, offer zoning temperature control. Every room, or zone, that has an indoor handling unit is programmable with its own thermostat. This makes it possible for homeowners to optimize temperatures within each room, saving you money on rooms that aren’t being used and making it more comfortable for each occupant.

Which system is better for homeowners?
As you can see, both ductless heat pumps and centralized systems have their strengths. In reality, there’s no clear winner between these two heating and cooling units. The best option for you won’t necessarily be the right choice for somebody else. That’s where a heating and cooling expert can help.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about ductless and central air systems or you’re prepared to make the switch, feel free to reach out to the HVAC experts at Boston Standard Plumbing. We’ve been helping Boston homeowners keep their homes comfortable and their energy bills low for decades. We look forward to hearing from you.

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