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Hide that ugly ductless heat pump head with cool LED

Nab a gnarly ole fence board.
Nab a gnarly ole fence board.
Joe Lamy

Energy efficiency has come a long way with ductless heat pumps, also known as mini-splits. Today’s SEER rating of 30.5 on Mitsubishi’s line of residential ductless mini-splits outpaces the industry standard in the traditional ducted version by a factor of 2 or 3 in most American homes. But the technology that brings us quiet comfort at less than half the operating cost also comes with a visual penalty in some eyes.

Hidden by the light
Joe Lamy

LED sandwich adorns corner lightly, allows free air-flow

An ugly ductless head pokes out of a wall delivering conditioned air unseen and unheard. The LED fixture dangles from the ceiling and splays a soft glowing light hiding the ugly head while accenting all surrounding features in a variable hue of light.

Although ductless heat pumps have flourished in Asia and Europe in the last 40 years, fewer than 10% of Americans have even heard of them. For roughly half the population here, the first response runs something like “Gosh, honey, it might be efficient and quiet and all, but it sure is UGLY!”

Designers have concocted a plethora of boxes, shades and covers to hide the heads, usually located high on a wall roughly the height of the top of doors and windows. Some have even embraced the issue with an ‘art face’ to disguise the head as a framed painting. For a slight penalty in efficiency, a modified ducted ductless uses short ducts and sweeping elbows to minimize static pressure while maximizing options in delivery.

The split system heat pump requires an unobstructed flow of air in order to operate well; any restriction - as in the designers’ article showcased above - will have consequences several ways, depending on location.

If the unit operates with input from an internal infra-red ‘eye’ that sweeps the area searching for anomalies, then any restriction in line-of-sight will hinder key operating technology and hamper delivery. If we are not careful, we could end up dropping a monkey wrench into the works.

Adjustable, available, arty

It’s easy to accurately fit the LED fixture to dangle above the ‘eye’ and between the intake at the top and the outflow at the bottom. LED strip lighting comes with handy self-sticking surface on the strip along with adaptable sizing options.

My local West Seattle Tool Library supplied the planer, and the old 1942 fence boards gave it all up and lost their knots along with decades of weathering, stains and spots. The brand new 1942 remnants have such character that their destiny includes hanging out and swirling amber waves of grain by the twilight’s last gleaming.

Varnished back to gnarly splendor, these fancy fencers moved indoors. They no longer rule the far-flung perimeter, holding the dogs in or out, at bay or bayonet. Tonight they rule the roost, gracious and grand and gentle.

The ‘Ah Been Knotty’ series – bringing the outside in

With a soft new light fixture splaying chosen colors, a simple strategy in hiding the ugly heat pump can take on a new look. When knotty pine meets the LED light strip, the future becomes endless rainbows flowing through those olde-timey knots, through the dusty cracks of twisted time, and points of light in nail holes. In an ever-changing fade of soft lights, nobody even notices the comfy warmth. What heat pump?