Split vs Integrated hot water heat pumps

Fast read

The main differences between integrated and split heat pump hot water systems are efficiency, cost, maintenance, environmental effect, installation, and structure.

Split heat pumps have a separate, bigger compressor that allows faster hot water generation, making them more efficient. Integrated systems can look attractive and are space-saving. 

Split systems are generally cheaper but require longer install times, while integrated systems are more plug-and-play. Integrated systems also are smaller and therefore use less refrigerant. Some split models, such as the one from Reclaim, now use CO2 as a refrigerant which is not damaging the ozone layer and is less toxic than other refrigerants. 

Beware of cheap hot water heat pumps

Hot water heat pumps are a very good idea for your home. This is especially true if the equipment’s electricity is generated via a residential solar system. There are two main options when it comes to this technology, so this raises the question ‘Should I get a split or integrated hot water heat pump’.

Unfortunately, since there are decent Federal Government rebates available, very cheap gear is on the market so make sure you do your research before making a purchase. So environmentally, this Federal Government rebate – designed to help the environment – actually harms the environment with all the waste of cheap crappy gear – it creates.

Unfortunately, the second time around, you will not be getting the rebate again – so you will need to fork out the big bucks. We, therefore, recommend getting a decent heat pump hot water system in the first place and paying some funds in addition to the rebate to secure better long-lasting gear. Better quality means less time wasted looking for installers, being out of hot water and, from an environmental perspective, a longer-lasting, better outcome.

Key advantages

Hot water-generating heat pumps have many advantages over traditional hot water tanks, be it gas or electric, such as:

  • Higher energy efficiency than older-style electric or gas hot water systems;
  • Lower running costs than traditional units;
  • Reduced coal-fired electricity or gas use means positive environmental outcomes; and
  • Ongoing hot water supply due to big tank options.

They can cost more than a standard electric tank hot water system, and their installation is more complicated than a standard tank. Nevertheless, the cost savings regarding running costs over time and the environmental benefits outweigh these disadvantages.

Now that you have decided to get a heat pump, one might wonder if the integrated hot water heat pump (all in one) or a split hot water heat pump (outdoor unit and tank are separated) is the better option. The main differences between the two systems are in efficiency, cost, maintenance, environmental effects, installation and size.

reclaim heat pump being installed

Efficiency

Split system hot water heat pumps have a separate, bigger compressor than integrated heat pumps with the compressor on the tank. The larger the compressor for a hot water system, the faster the system can generate hot water. By default, a split heat pump generates more hot water in a shorter period.

However, this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily your better option. If your household has a high usage of hot water, then it’s recommended that you consider a split heat pump system. However, an integrated system with a smaller compressor will do the job if your household is relatively small.

Cost

Split system hot water heat pumps are a technology that has been around a little longer than integrated systems. Often they also come with a lower price tag. Integrated systems tend to have advanced technology, which aims to use the available space as efficiently as possible to streamline hot water production.

Maintenance

Like an air conditioner, split system hot water heat pumps require maintenance after a few years. This could include refilling the refrigerant and replacing the seals. Integrated systems claim they require less maintenance as their technology makes refrigerants less likely to evaporate. On the other hand, any electronic equipment can benefit from a check-up after 3 to 5 years. Therefore both technologies will need this support.

Both systems also require homeowners to clean out their compressor filters at least once a year which is a simple process.

Environmental effect

Many refrigerants in heat pumps can be toxic to our environment. Although there have been improvements to decrease their impact on the environment in recent years, they are still harmful.

Some more modern hot water heat pumps, such as the Reclaim model, use CO2 as their refrigerant. As CO2 is a naturally occurring gas, the environmental effects of this particular product are superior to heat pumps using greenhouse-generating or ozone-depleting gases.

Integrated system hot water heat pumps, as they feature smaller units, use less refrigerant than split systems.

Installation

Since the system is ‘split’, there are extra steps to install all the components to work seamlessly together. Firstly, the compressor and the tank are installed. After the connection work has been completed, a refrigerant pipe is installed to connect the tank and the compressor. After this, the refrigerant is then placed in the pipe.

In contrast, integrated systems are more of a plug-and-play variety and often only require the installer to connect the water pipes correctly.

The integrated units require a little less space, as one is installing only one unit, similar in size to a tank, instead of the separate hot water tank and the outdoor unit. On the other hand, the integrated units are usually a little taller, as they have the heat pump sitting on top of the tank.

Set up

Both systems offer the flexibility to install your hot water systems close to your water supply. They can have different-sized compressors and tanks, meaning families of many sizes can use both types easily.

Split system heat pump
Heat pumps can also be used to generate hot water in flat buildings when several systems are combined

In summary

Both integrated and split heat pump systems offer unique benefits, and we have created a summary of both types below.

Integrated system hot water heat pumps

  • Compact and space-saving;
  • All parts are contained in one unit, making installation easier, including indoors;
  • Ideal for small homes or buildings with limited indoor space;
  • Usually higher upfront cost compared to split systems;
  • It may be less efficient than split systems due to limited temperature control;
  • Repairs and maintenance may be more difficult due to all parts being housed in one unit;
  • Potentially less flexible in terms of installation location;
  • While the heat pump and tank are supposed to have a similar lifespan, as it is an integrated system, if one component reaches the end of its life or breaks down permanently, the whole unit will likely be disposed of.

Split system hot water heat pumps

  • More efficient than integrated systems due to separate components and precise temperature control;
  • More flexible in terms of installation location;
  • It may be easier to repair and maintain due to separate components and easy access to the inside;
  • Some models use environmentally friendly refrigerants – such as CO2;
  • More expensive upfront compared to integrated systems;
  • Requires a little more space for installation, as there are two separate units;
  • Requires additional refrigerant lines and wiring, which can increase installation time, costs, and the risks of leaks.

Ultimately, deciding between an integrated or split system hot water heat pump will depend on your specific needs and budget. If you have limited space around your building and want a visually pleasing solution, an integrated system may be your best option. A split system may be the way to go if you want maximum efficiency, lower cost and flexibility.

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