How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?

How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?
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How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?

Everybody wants to feel comfortable with the equipment in their home. You wouldn’t want to get a stove or coffeepot that you didn’t know how to use. Mostly, it’s easy to figure out how home equipment and appliances work. However, HVAC equipment can be a mystery. There are multiple types of furnaces and AC units that can change temperature using a variety of different methods. With the creation of heat pumps, those systems are no longer the only options. A lot of customers ask us to explain how their equipment works because they want to be comfortable with their purchase. So, how does a ductless heat pump work?

Let’s break it down before we get into the details. A heat pump transfers heat from one location to another. This means that it can pull heat from outside to heat your home or pull heat out of your home to cool the interior. Being ductless means that the pump transfers heat through a pipe connected to the outside of your home, as opposed to the ductwork.

Altogether, a ductless heat pump works by pulling heat from the outdoor or indoor unit, transferring it through a pipe, and then releasing it out the other end.

Now let’s get into the specifics and benefits.

What is a Ductless Heat Pump?

A ductless heat pump comprises three key components:

  1. The Compressor (Outdoor Unit) with the outdoor coil and fan.
  2. A Run of Pipes. One for liquid and one for vapor.
  3. The Air Handler (Indoor Unit. Sometimes called a “Head”) with the indoor coil and fan.


The compressor is the big rectangular piece that is installed outside your home. This device absorbs heat from the outside air by cooling the refrigerant in its coils below the temperature outside when you want to heat your home. It also blows the hot air that gets sucked out of your home when you want to cool your home.

How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?, Advantage Heating & Air Conditioning, LLC

Pipe or Lineset

The pipe connects your outdoor and indoor units together. Since you can have multiple indoor units, your outdoor unit can support multiple linesets dedicated to each indoor unit. The pipe transfers heat from one unit to another. Installing the pipe isn’t very invasive since it only requires a three-inch hole in your home’s wall, which is kept insulated and sealed.

Air Handler

The air handler is the device that gets installed inside your home. Some heat pumps can support up to 4 indoor units with only 1 outdoor unit. These devices will either suck heat out of the air in your home’s interior when set to cool, or blow heat pulled from outside when set to heat. You can also control most models of air handlers with a remote, like what you would use for your TV.

How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?, Advantage Heating & Air Conditioning, LLC

What Makes it Different from a Standard Heat Pump System?

What makes a ductless heat pump different from a standard system is the control offered by the air handlers. This means that you have better control over the temperature in each room, the configuration of the layout, and the filtration of the air in your home. We’ll get more into each of those benefits in the next section.

The key difference to keep in mind is that this system does not use your ductwork or a centralized air handler. A technician will install the individual air handlers in each room that you choose. This means that everything that one central air handler would do is instead being done at the specific locations you choose. This system also uses its own pipe system instead of relying on preexisting ductwork.


Let’s go over how not using ducts can translate to benefits for you.

Zone Control

First and the most noticeable in your daily life is the ability to control separate zones of your home. You can do this by simply having separate air handlers set up in the targeted rooms. You can keep each one of these handlers on a unique setting, meaning that you won’t have to deal with one thermostat trying to manage your entire home.

Keep in mind that your system will still only be able to in cool or heat mode and cannot do both. But you could keep zones colder than others in cool mode or warmer in heat mode.

This could be a significant benefit if you have an upstairs that it is hard to cool or have rooms that like to stay colder or hotter than the rest

How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?, Advantage Heating & Air Conditioning, LLC

Save on Energy

Heat pumps are incredibly energy efficient. By using minimal energy and no gas or oil to control the comfort of your home, a ductless heat pump system would be much more efficient than a traditional furnace system. This translates into savings on your energy bill and the possibility of energy credits.

Easy to Install

A ductless system is straightforward to install because of how minimalistic it is. The install crew places the outdoor unit, the indoor units, and then connects them with a pipe. They don’t need to worry about preexisting ductwork or compatibility with other equipment. This means that you should have minimal time without heating or cooling.


Because your home’s ducts do not constrain a ductless system, it is highly configurable. During the installation process, you’ll create a plan with your HVAC professionals that lays out where the indoor units go. Meaning that you can prioritize more frequently used rooms that may not have the best airflow from the home’s duct system.

Powerful Air Filtration

With a ductless heat pump, you’ll have more targeted air filtration. Each air handler has its own filter. That means that if you have four air handlers, you’ll have four points of filtration, each one in a room that you want the most airflow in.

Quiet and Discreet

These systems are barely noticeable when they’re running. The lack of a big blower fan means they are silent compared to a traditional furnace system. The installer can also tuck the indoor units into corners or locations where they blend in with the wall. That doesn’t mean they’ll be directly in the corner. They do have clearance requirements, but they are certainly less conspicuous than a full furnace.

That all means that your system shouldn’t distract you from your daily activities while it runs.

Great for Old Homes

Many old homes do not have ductwork. That means that if you wanted a traditional furnace and AC system, then you would also need to install a whole new set of ducts. That may not be possible depending on the layout of the house. A ductless system does not have that problem, since it uses a discreet pipe that can run along the outside of your home and through the attic or crawlspace. That makes a ductless heat pump a great fit for old homes.

How Do Ductless Heat Pumps Work?, Advantage Heating & Air Conditioning, LLC

Who Are Advantage Heating and Air Conditioning, LLC?

We are your local HVAC Experts out of Salem, Oregon. We hope that this post gave you the information you need to know if a ductless heat pump is right for you. If you have other questions about HVAC systems, check out our other blogs. To learn more about who we are and how we can help you, visit our website and follow us on social media – we’re here when you need us!