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Singing the praises of ductless heat pumps

Is your heating system meeting your needs? Is it clean, inexpensive and effective?

In our last blog we compared a variety of different heating systems and noted the pros and cons of each. Those we discussed included baseboard heaters, heat pump/ air handler with ductwork, gas, pellet stove and wood stove. We also mentioned the ductless heat pump.

In this blog we are concentrating on our favorite choice – the ductless heat pump. We really can’t say enough about this effective, inexpensive option to heating your home.


After you finish reading this blog, consider if you might be interested in installing a ductless heat pump. It’s a good choice for many different living situations. And, it might be a terrific choice for you, especially if you happen to be eligible for a program that installs free ductless heat pumps in the homes of people who qualify.

We will discuss the details of the free program in our next blog. For now, read up on why we especially like this form of heating and cooling your home.


In this climate, a regular outside heat pump and inside air handler furnace with ducts is an efficient way to heat a house. The technology of any heat pump basically recovers heat from the outside air and transfers it via a closed-loop refrigerant gas to the inside air handler – furnace inside your house. The air handler blows circulating air through the air handler’s radiator coil that was heated by the gas and delivers warm air throughout the house in your ducts and floor vents.

In the summer, it will do the reverse – drying out the indoor air and pulling the heat out of the air from inside the house and blowing it off outside at the exterior heat pump. The returning air feels cool, providing you with a nice air-conditioned space.

Ductless heat pumps are just as they sound, not needing any duct work to convey the heated or cooled air. Their benefits are many. Here are a few:

  • They do not pollute.

  • They are relatively easy and inexpensive to install and sometimes come with a rebate from the PUD.

  • They provide filtered air – better for folks with allergies and health concerns.

  • No ductwork in or under your house, saving you money on installation cost.

  • They are inexpensive to operate – paying for themselves in just a few years and lasting 20 years!

  • They are easy to maintain.

  • They help to keep your home’s air healthier, but they don’t clean your house or do your chores!

We think the drawbacks are few, but we do need to mention them:

  • The heating units are visible so the location of both the exterior and interior units might initially be a practical or aesthetic concern.

  • If the electrical power goes out, you lose your heat – unless you have a compatible generator or another backup source.

  • They may not heat the whole house. We will talk about that below.


To be most efficient, you will want the inside ductless heat pump unit located where it can see the most main living areas possible – living room, dining room and kitchen – where the space is more open and where you spend most of your time. If it can also see down a hallway it may also heat it and the rooms connected when doors are left open.

A house that’s chopped up with lots of little rooms will not benefit as much as one with a more open concept. However, either way you may want to have some kind of backup heat in the bedrooms.

Figuring ways to recirculate the air back to the unit is worth it. One little trick to help heated air get to where you want it is to open a window a crack in the room which relieves pressure and draws in heated air. Some homes benefit from multiple indoor units or more than one setup. Your contractor will know which is best for what you want to achieve.

The ductless air heating units are about 3 feet wide and a foot tall and protrude from the wall about one foot. Using the remote control, they have control features so the air flow can be pointed just the way it is needed in your house.

While you may not have conceived of having a nice looking heating unit on your wall, after about a week of clean, consistent, cheap heat, you won’t even notice it’s there.

To maintain a ductless heat pump, you just need to open the unit and rinse the reusable filters in the sink, dry them and put them back in the unit. If treated correctly the filters shouldn’t wear out. Can you tell we really like this heating device?


Maybe your oil or gas furnace, cadet wall heaters, electric baseboard or pellet stove or ducted heat pump is nearing retirement age. If that’s the case, before you replace it with the same, try researching a ductless heat pump.

In our experience, most homes need just one unit and the cost runs about $4,000 for a 1-ton unit installed and goes higher for bigger units or complicated installations.

Most heating contractors on the Harbor can install a ductless heat pump. We suggest that you get three bids before choosing which contractor to go with – like you would on any major home-improvement project.


A ductless heat pump will provide most of what you need to keep your home a comfortable temperature 90 percent of the time.

However, if we get a long-lasting, deep cold snap, there simply isn’t enough heat in the air for it to extract, so some sort of backup heat is suggested. Keeping your old system as backup could make up the difference for short term needs.

You may want to have something like a furnace rated propane or gas fireplace or pellet stove for those very, very cold days instead. Regular fireplaces are the last resort and never heat with a BBQ or other non-vented appliance.

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