When you rent out various spaces within a multi-family home, it can be hard to coordinate the heating system. If you have the whole home on one heating system, then figuring out how the bills should be split between tenants becomes complicated. If you run a separate forced air or boiler-style heating system for each unit, then you have to make room for multiple sets of ducts or pipes within the walls and multiple furnaces or boilers in the basement. Luckily, there's another option that tends to work quite well for heating multi-family homes: ductless heat pumps. Here's a closer look at this style of heating system and its advantages.
What is a ductless heat pump system?
A ductless heat pump system is a type of air-source heat pump. What this means is that it gathers heat from the outdoor air and transfers it to the interior of the home. (Yes, even chilly outdoor air contains some heat for the pump to capture).
This type of system has two main components. There's a heat pump, which is located outside of the home, and an air handling unit, which is mounted on the interior wall. The heat pump gathers the heat and uses it to warm air, and the air handling unit blows that warm air into the home. For larger living spaces, there are sometimes multiple air handling units attached to a single heat pump. For instance, in a 3-bedroom apartment, you might have one air handling unit in the hall by the bedrooms and another in the living room.
Why are ductless heat pump systems such a good choice for multi-family homes?
The primary reason is that you can easily have a separate system for each unit. For example, if you rent out an upstairs and a downstairs separately, the upstairs can have one heat pump and an air handling unit, and the downstairs can have a separate heat pump and an air handling unit. The two tenants will have separate control over their heat, and each system can be hooked up to a separate utility account in the respective tenants' names.
Installing several ductless heat pump systems in a single building is a lot less cumbersome than installing multiple boiler or duct-style forced air systems since there are no interior pipes or ducts to accommodate. The pipes leading from the heat pumps to the air handling unit are all located outside the building where there is virtually unlimited space.
Residents will also appreciate that the wall-mounted air handling units give them greater flexibility when it comes to arranging furniture. It's easier to work around one unit on the wall than an entire system of radiators or vents.
Are there other advantages of ductless heat pump systems?
In a home of any kind, ductless air handling units save energy. Ducts are said to account for about 30% of energy loss in forced air systems, and ductless air handling systems cut out these ducts, so they cut down on energy loss, too. Your tenants will appreciate this if they're responsible for their own energy bills. Reducing energy use is also good for the planet. Offering ductless heat pump systems may help you attract more tenants who value green living.
Since ductless heat pumps run on electricity, choosing this style of heating system may allow you to bypass having your building hooked up to natural gas—assuming you also choose electric stoves and water heaters. This can simplify your processes, since you'll only be dealing with one utility company instead of two.
To learn more about ductless heat pump systems and whether they're a good choice for your multi-family home, speak with an HVAC contractor in your area from a company like Actionaire Inc.