Ductless vs. Ducted Heat Pumps? The Winner is Clear.

September 15, 2022

ductless vs ducted

To duct or not to duct? That is the question.

Ductless heat pumps and unitary ducted American-style heat pumps have less in common than one would think. While both systems use outdoor air to heat and cool homes, often cost less than traditional HVAC systems, and have long lifespans when properly maintained, there are significant differences to consider. Ductless systems are easier to install, preserve the integrity of your home, offer superior energy efficiency, provide significant noise reduction through high-tech Inverter Technology, can better heat or cool during extreme temperatures, and deliver delightful, purified air.


Because ductless systems require a simple 3-inch hole versus ripping apart ceilings, floors, or walls to place extensive ductwork, installation costs less and their ease of placement make them a match for any type of dwelling. Newly finished attics or basements, home additions, garages, and detached units are often very difficult and extremely costly to connect with existing ductwork, yet ductless systems have almost zero placement limitations.

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Preserved Home Integrity

Unitary ducted American-style systems have historically enticed buyers who worry about maintaining indoor home aesthetics, yet modern ductless systems now have many indoor unit options and a much smaller outdoor profile than the old style outdoor units with a large footprint. In some cases (especially historic or older homes), minimally invasive ductless heat pumps preserve the charm and integrity of the home. The new style ductless outdoor unit can be discreetly mounted close to your home’s exterior on a small pad, versus the larger American-style heat pumps that need to be at least 4 feet from the outside of a home and must be mounted on a poured concrete slab.

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, ductless systems reduce energy usage by up to 30% when compared with ducted systems. Also, manufacturer specifications reveal their energy efficiency to be 11-14 HSPF (heat), and 19-23 SEER (cooling), while less efficient ducted systems have 8.5-9 HSPF (heat) and 14-18 SEER (cooling). Because of ductless zoned technology, homeowners can keep certain areas comfortable without heating or cooling unused spaces or having to compensate for hot or cold pockets. Also, leaky ducts decrease the efficiency of ducted systems while increasing energy bills dramatically. We’re proud of our ENERGY STAR label systems, which earn our customers sizeable rebates. Going ductless means almost zero energy loss and, therefore, a reduced carbon footprint.

Inverter Technology

At Island Ductless, each of our systems comes naturally equipped with Inverter Technology, however, only the most expensive ducted systems bear this feature. Inverter Technology greatly reduces noise and helps mini-split systems remain quiet while also allowing them to heat and cool during extreme temperatures. Regarding noise level, manufacturer specifications report ductless systems to have an outside full speed operating sound of 55 dBa (running refrigerator) and an indoor sound of 20-40 dBa (soft whisper). However, unitary ducted American-style systems have an outside full speed operation sound of 75-80 dBa (shouting or loud argument), and an indoor sound of 50-60 dBa (similar to a furnace). Additionally, ductless heat pumps can heat down to 5° F without needing resistance backup, versus ducted systems, which often require backup below 30° F.

Air Filtration

Ductless heat pumps are highly desired for their proficient air filtration system, which ducted systems unfortunately don’t possess. People with allergies, pets, or those who experience seasonal wildfire smoke will appreciate crystal clear air in their homes. Sadly, ducted systems can act as an entryway for diseased rodents while also housing dust, debris, and pet dander that irritate allergies and cause costly blockages.

In Closing

Ductless heat pumps are the clear choice when considering a new heating and cooling system for your home. You’ll save energy and money, and enjoy whisper quiet Inverter Technology, continued heating and cooling during extreme outdoor temperatures, clean air, and the ability to maintain the integrity and design of your home. Please contact us with further questions or to discuss moving forward with your ductless heat pump installation today.