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Ductless vs. Ducted Heating: Is One Better?

blue-question-markIn the world of HVAC, there are two approaches to heating your home: with or without a duct system.

If you’re not familiar, the ducts are the passages that transport heated air through the home. In a sense, they’re the middle-man between you and your heater. But not every system requires ducts, so that begs the question:

Is it better to have ducts, or not to have them?

We’ll spoil you now and admit that the real answer is “it depends.” But if you keep reading, we’ll walk you through that reasoning.

What Types of Systems Are Ducted and Ductless?

First off, let’s look at where different heating systems fall into the debate.

Ducted Systems

  • Furnaces: These electric or gas-powered heaters are very common across the country. Statistically speaking, you probably own one right now!
  • Heat pumps: Your normal heat pump uses the ductwork just the same as a central air conditioner. Heat pumps have both a cooling and a heating mode, making them a good alternative to both the central AC and the furnace.

Ductless Systems

  • Boilers: Essentially a water heater that heats your home through radiators and the process of convection.
  • Radiant heating: Heating systems that are installed beneath the floor or behind your walls. They can be powered on their own with electricity or with the help of a boiler, in the case of hydronic power.
  • Ductless heat pumps: These heat pumps circumvent ducts through the installation of several indoor air handlers, one for roughly every room of the home.

How Do They Perform in Winter?

If you’re asking which one heats the home better, you’ll find that either system is sufficient for heating in Colorado Springs, CO. Instead, you should look at categories like indoor air quality and comfort.

Indoor Air Quality

There’s a bit of a trade-off here. Indoor air quality is an issue in any home, regardless of the HVAC setup, but the ducts can have an effect.

Duct systems have the unfortunate side effect of inviting more indoor air quality issues. That’s simply because dust and dirt can collect in a duct system, especially if there’s a leak or hole in the duct somewhere.

Ductless systems won’t have this particular issue, but the downside is you won’t be able to address air quality concerns as easily as you could with a duct system. Air purifiers, air filters, humidifiers, energy, and heat recovery ventilators… these pieces of equipment can go a long way in improving air quality and raising efficiency, but they work best when installed in the duct system as whole-house solutions.

General Comfort and Evenness of Heating

A common difference felt between these two systems is the comfort and overall evenness of heating.

In a duct system, it’s not uncommon to find that some rooms have trouble being fully heated. That can be due to the way that air circulates through the room, the conditions of the ducts, or the insulation. It can be fixed, fortunately.

With a ductless system, you’ll often get more even heating since they use convection or radiant heating to heat the room. The ductless heat pump would be the exception, but since these systems are directly installed in the room they’re meant to heat, uneven heating won’t be a problem as long as it’s properly sized for the room.

We hope that clears up the air. If you need help deciding on a new heater, contact Happy Heating & Cooling to speak with an expert.

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