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Making the Right Choice: Ductless vs. Ducted Heat Pumps in Canada

More and more homeowners in Canada are adopting heat pump systems for their heating and cooling needs. The reasons behind this shift is to increased energy efficiency, improved indoor air quality, and the potential for long-term savings. However, when it comes to upgrading, here are a few things  homeowners should know before making a decision whether to choose a ducted or ductless heat pumps.

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Understanding Ductless Heat Pumps

ductless heat pump

A ductless heat pump system offers cooling and heating capabilities, ensuring year-round comfort. In a ductless mini-split system, the refrigerant lines connect one or more indoor ductless units to the outdoor unit. Each indoor unit has its own control to set the desired temperature, so you may adjust how warm or cold you need the space to be based on your preferences.

These indoor ductless units look modern and stylish and can be easily installed on walls, ceilings, or floors. This heat pump installation is typically done in just a few hours.

Understanding Ducted Heat Pumps

ducted heat pump

Unlike the ductless heat pump system, a ducted heat pump system comprises a single outdoor condensing unit and an air handler unit. This setup ensures airflow travels through the duct system to reach every part of the conditioned space.
Typically, a single thermostat sets the temperature for the entire system compared to having multiple controls when using the ductless design. Note: It’s crucial to note that ducted heat pumps tend to be less energy-efficient than their ductless counterparts. This is due to radiant energy losses and the energy needed to push air through ducts contribute to this reduced efficiency. Furthermore, ducted systems often operate at total capacity, lacking the continuous adjustment capabilities of ductless systems.

Ductless vs. Ducted Heat Pumps: The Key Difference

The primary distinction between these two types of heat pumps lies in their technology. Ductless mini-split heat pumps utilize inverter technology, enabling continuous operation with capacity adjustments to meet temperature set points. 

On the other hand, regular ducted systems, like the ones with air handlers and ducts, either work hard or don’t work at all. Ducted systems run at maximum capacity when temperatures drop to reach the desired set point.

Why Choose a Ducted Heat Pump?

  • Existing Ducts: If you're not planning to make big changes to your home that involve removing the existing ducts, it makes sense to go with ducted heat pumps and use the ones you already have.
  • Better Air Movement: Ducted systems make sure the air moves well, preventing the problem of air that doesn't move much, which can happen with ductless mini-split systems.
  • Aesthetic Preferences: If you prefer a concealed HVAC system and dislike the appearance of wall-mounted air handlers, a ducted system might align better with your preferences.

Why Choose a Ductless Heat Pump?

  • Renovation or New Construction: When remodelling your home or undertaking new construction projects, opting for a ductless system can provide greater design flexibility.
  • Asthma and Allergy Concerns: Ductless heat pumps mitigate dust and allergen circulation issues, making them an ideal choice for households with asthma and allergy sufferers.
  • Zoning Control: Ductless systems offer individualized temperature control in various rooms or zones, potentially leading to significant long-term energy savings.

Ducted Heat Pumps

Ducted heat pumps, also referred to as central heat pumps, seamlessly integrate into a home’s existing ductwork. These systems use ducts to send clean air all around the house in a very efficient way.

The heat pump is usually outside, and the indoor part is connected to the ducts so warm or cool air can go to all the rooms.


  • Whole-House Heating and Cooling: Ducted heat pumps can effectively maintain a consistent temperature throughout a home.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: With only the indoor unit visible, ducted heat pumps offer a clean and uncluttered appearance.
  • Quiet Operation: The noisy parts, like the compressor, are outside, so it's not as loud inside.
  • Enhanced Air Filtration: Ducted systems often incorporate advanced filters within the ductwork, leading to improved indoor air quality.
  • Zoning Options: Dampers in the ducts enable the creation of zones within the home, allowing for individualized temperature control in different areas.


  • Duct Losses: Ducted systems can experience energy losses due to leaks, holes, or inadequate insulation in the ductwork, diminishing overall efficiency.
  • Costly Installation: Installing ducted heat pumps can be more complex and expensive, notably if your home needs existing ductwork.
  • Limited Placement Options: The need for ductwork can restrict the placement of indoor units, potentially limiting flexible indoor unit placement and potentially limiting interior design flexibility-split heat pumps consist of an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units.
    Unlike ducted systems, they do not rely on ductwork for air distribution. Instead, we put each indoor unit in the room where it makes the room cooler or warmer, and we connect it to the outdoor unit using unique refrigerant lines.

Ductless Heat Pumps

Ductless heat pumps, also known as mini-split heat pumps, consist of an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units. Unlike ducted systems, they do not rely on ductwork for air distribution. Instead, each indoor unit is installed directly in the room it serves, connected to the outdoor unit via refrigerant lines.


  • High Efficiency: Ductless heat pumps bypass duct losses, making them more energy-efficient and cost-effective over time.
  • Easy Installation: Simplicity in installation makes ductless systems an excellent choice for homes without existing ductwork or for room additions.
  • Flexibility in Design: The absence of ducts provides greater flexibility in interior design and room layout, with indoor units mountable on walls, ceilings, or floors.
  • Zoning Flexibility: Each indoor unit operates seperately, allowing for customized temperature control in different rooms or zones.
  • Year-Round Comfort: Ductless heat pumps offer heating and cooling capabilities, ensuring comfort in areas.


  • Visible Indoor Units: Although relatively compact, indoor units remain visible within each room and may not align with everyone's aesthetic preferences.
  • Multiple Outdoor Units: Larger installations may necessitate numerous outdoor units, potentially impacting exterior aesthetics.
  • Noise Levels: While quieter than window air conditioners, indoor units can generate some noise during operation.

Understanding Efficiency

Heat pumps represent some of Canada’s most energy-efficient heating and cooling options. To meet the Department of Energy’s latest standards, it is advisable to target a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) score of at least 14, effective from 2023, for all new AC installations in Canada. Nevertheless, ducted and ductless heat pumps can surpass this benchmark, often achieving scores well above 20 on the SEER scale.

This efficiency translates to substantial cooling cost savings, with a shift from a 9 SEER unit to a 14 SEER unit potentially resulting in a 35% reduction in cooling expenses. Notably, ductless heat pumps excel in energy efficiency because they avoid duct losses.

The new standards, mandating a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) of at least 8.8. Modern heat pumps can reduce heating costs by up to 50%. While both types of units typically surpass the minimum required heating efficiency score, ductless systems maintain an edge in energy efficiency, mainly due to the absence of leaky ducts.

Pricing for Ducted vs. Ductless Installation

What factors contribute to the pricing of ducted and ductless heat pump installations in Canada? Both systems share overlapping pricing considerations, provided that the building for a traditional approach does not entail duct addition or extensive renovations.

The average cost range for heat pump installation falls between $6,050 and $12,350. In contrast, ductless systems may cost anywhere from $3,300 to $9,500.

  • Traditional Ducted Units: In a conventional setup, a single outdoor unit propels conditioned air throughout the home via a duct network.
  • Ductless Heat Pumps: In a ductless system, we put indoor units in your rooms, and there are outdoor units, too.

Typically, one outdoor unit can accommodate up to five air handlers. For homes lacking well-maintained ducts, ductless systems are the more economical choice.

Ducted heat pump installation may be more cost-effective for larger homes with ductwork, as it may require five or more air handlers. 

To determine the best heat pump installation for your home or office in Abbotsford BC, consider consulting one of our heat pump professionals. At Knowledge HVAC & Refrigeration we do heat pump repair, installation, maintenance and replacement of all types of heating and cooling equipment.

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Enhanced Air Quality

Over time, ducts accumulate layers of dust such as, pet hair, pollen, and other airborne particles that can harm indoor air quality. Regardless of how much you dusts your home’s surfaces, ducts can introduce a steady stream of airborne particles. In this regard, ductless heat pumps emerge as the clear winners regarding air quality. Without vents, there is no entry point for particles to infiltrate the system and circulate throughout your home.

  • Whole-Home Air Purification Systems: Installing a whole-home air purification system can effectively address particles that might otherwise travel through your ducts.
  • MERV Filters: Utilizing MERV filters rated at 13 or higher in your unit can reduce pollen and dust in the air. You can consult our knowledgeable technicians about adapting your heat pump to accommodate larger MERV filters, offering an affordable means of achieving comparable air quality to ductless systems.

Ductless vs. Ducted Heat Pump – The Best Choice for You

The ideal heating and cooling system selection depends on your budget, energy efficiency objectives, proper floor plan, and existing ductwork within your home or business.

While a central ducted heat pump may present a lower initial purchase cost, a ductless heat pump is often more economical to operate over time. In homes that require ductwork, opting for a ductless system is frequently the more cost-effective and less time-consuming choice, promising substantial long-term cost savings.

For expert guidance on which system best aligns with your specific needs, contact Knowledge HVAC & Refrigeration Ltd, your local heat pump installer in Abbotsford.

Which is More Recommended?

Ductless vs. ducted heat pump debate largely hinges on your circumstances and priorities. A ducted heat pump may be the right choice if you are:

  • Building a new home
  • Possess well-maintained existing ductwork.
  • Disinclined towards the appearance of a mini-split system

On the other hand, a ductless heat pump could represent the superior option if you are:

  • Heating and cooling a smaller space, such as an addition or outbuilding
  • Dealing with numerous neglected rooms in your home
  • Afflicted by dust allergies
  • Seeking a hidden heating and cooling system for a historic or older home
  • Yearning for precise control over individual room temperatures

Expert Heat Pump Installation Services in Abbotsford

heat pump installer abbotsford

When picking between a ductless or ducted heat pump for your Abbotsford home, your choice should depend on your needs and situation.

As a trusted heat pump contractor in Abbotsford, we have the expertise to help you make the right choice for your unique situation. Whether you need heat pump installation, maintenance, repair, or replacement services, our heat pump installer in Abbotsford is here to assist you. To discuss your heat pump needs further, please don’t hesitate to contact us at +1-778-522-5669.

We look forward to providing you with the perfect heating and cooling solution for your Abbotsford home. Make the call today and experience year-round comfort and energy savings like never before!

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