A heat pump uses fuel to move heat from a cool space into a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. During the winter, a heat pump moves the heat from the cold outdoors into your warm house while during the summer, a heat pump moves heat from your cool house into the warm outdoors.

Yes it is. Here in BC, we often don’t need a separate system for cooling in a home – a heat pump will do the same job and also double as an efficiency booster for heating your home in the winter.

When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. This is possible because a heat pump moves heat rather than converting it from a fuel, like in combustion heating systems.

One of the most common, the air-source heat pump transfers heat between your house and the outside air. If you heat with electricity, a heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30%–40%.  High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months. The efficiency of most air-source heat pumps as a heat source drops dramatically at low temperatures, generally making them unsuitable for very cold climates. However, new systems with gas heating as a backup are available to overcome this problem.

For homes without ducts, air-source heat pumps are also available in a ductless version called a mini-split heat pump. Ductless, mini-split-system heat pumps make good retrofit add-ons to houses with “non-ducted” heating systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). They can also be a good choice for room additions, where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible.

Like standard air-source heat pumps, mini splits have two main components: an outdoor compressor/condenser, and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units.

The main advantages of mini splits are their small size and flexibility for zoning or heating and cooling individual rooms. Many models can have as many as four indoor air handling units (for four zones or rooms) connected to one outdoor unit. The number depends on how much heating or cooling is required for the building or each zone (which in turn is affected by how well the building is insulated). Since each of the zones will have its own thermostat, you only need to condition that place when someone is there, saving energy and money.

Ductless mini-split systems are also often easier to install than other types of space conditioning systems. For example, the hook-up between the outdoor and indoor units generally requires only a three-inch hole through a wall for the conduit. Also, most manufacturers of this type of system can provide a variety of lengths of connecting conduits. If necessary, you can locate the outdoor unit as far away as 50 feet from the indoor evaporator. This makes it possible to cool rooms on the front side of a building house with the compressor in a more advantageous or inconspicuous place on the outside of the building.

Since mini splits have no ducts, they avoid the energy losses associated with ductwork of central forced air systems. Duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for space conditioning, especially if the ducts are in an unconditioned space such as an attic.

In comparison to other add-on systems, mini splits offer more flexibility in interior design options. The indoor air handlers can be suspended from a ceiling, mounted flush into a drop ceiling, or hung on a wall. Floor-standing models are also available. Most indoor units have profiles of about seven inches deep and usually come with sleek, high tech-looking jackets. Many also offer a remote control to make it easier to turn the system on and off when it’s positioned high on a wall or suspended from a ceiling.

Split-systems can also help to keep your home safer since there is only a small hole in the wall. Through-the-wall and window mounted room air-conditioners can provide an easy entrance for intruders.

The primary disadvantage of mini splits is their cost, approximately 30% more than central cooling systems (not including ductwork) and may cost twice as much as window units of similar capacity.

The installer must also correctly size each indoor unit and judge the best location for its installation. Oversized or incorrectly located air-handlers often result in short-cycling, which wastes energy and does not provide proper temperature or humidity control. Too large a system is also more expensive to buy and operate.

Some people may not like the appearance of the indoor part of the system. There must also be a place to drain condensate water near the outdoor unit. And while less obtrusive than a window room air conditioner, they seldom have the built-in look of a central system.

From lower utility bills to tax savings, there are many things that consumers should keep in mind. Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is a standard measurement of efficiency, similar to miles per gallon ratings on a car.

Buying an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating can help you save money each month on your utility bills. Some systems can even qualify you for a government tax credit. Since 2006, the minimum efficiency available on new air conditioners is 13 SEER with some companies offering up to 20 SEER and above.

R&B will help you determine what system is right for your home.

To help keep your family’s air healthy, look for a high-quality, high-efficiency, whole-home air purifier to add your heating and cooling system. The right device can clean and protect the air you breathe by filtering and/or killing potentially harmful indoor pollutants.

If you live in an older house, your cooling system probably uses a coolant or refrigerant called R-22, commonly known as Freon® which is an ozone-depleting refrigerant scheduled to be phased out beginning in 2010. Today, there are environmentally sound alternatives like Puron® refrigerant that won’t deplete the ozone layer. If you are in the market for a new air conditioner, you will want to be sure you’re getting Puron refrigerant in your new system.

Air quality improvement can be divided into three broad categories:

Source control: Doing what you can to eliminate contaminants by being careful of what products you bring into your home.

Ventilation: Which involves various methods of bringing fresh outside air into your home, and;

Air Cleaning: Which involves cleaning the air that is circulating inside your home.


At R&B, we will help you choose the product right for your home taking into consideration budget, energy use, maintenance, and filter costs.