A Ductless Mini-split system is an alternative to a traditional ducted HVAC system or options like window mounted ACs, baseboard heating units or cable ceiling heating. It consists of a small indoor unit and an outdoor unit, and operates like a regular HVAC system but without the ductwork. These systems are a great option for supplemental heating and/or cooling – whether it’s bringing heating and cooling to areas where none currently exists, or supplementing areas where comfort levels are less than desired.
Could a Ductless Mini-split system be the right solution for you?
Before we get into the Pros and Cons of Ductless AC and Ductless Heat Pumps, let’s first take a look at what kind of situations might warrant the use of a ductless system.
Rooms with a specific heating/cooling problem. Bonus rooms, rooms with southern or western exposures and large picture windows or small kitchens with a large stove can be difficult to keep cool. A ductless unit can help keep specific areas comfortable.
New Additions such as sunrooms, garage apartments or workshops. Ductless systems can provide heating and cooling without stealing air from other rooms or overloading your old HVAC system. Plus, you can size the system specifically for the new space.
Creating comfort “zones” in your home. Ductless is ideal for creating independent temperature zones in different rooms, and although you can install zoning in a traditional ducted system, ductless systems are more efficient. For people in larger homes this can be an ideal way to minimize heating and cooling rooms you are not using. Some people shut off their HVAC vents in empty rooms but this created pressure imbalance and possible mold problems. It is better to install a ductless system in a specific room such as a master bedroom and set the temperature in the rest of the house lower.
Adding AC to a house with no existing ductwork. If there is no ductwork in the house, ductless units can provide a less expensive option to retrofitting ductwork into an existing home. In many cases, adding ductwork may not be an option without a major remodel of the home.
Pros and Cons of Ductless systems
- Efficiency. In the average home you can lose as much as 25 percent or more of your energy to ductwork. Because there are no ducts, they don’t have air leaks, pressure imbalances or heat gains that undermine efficiency and comfort.
- Flexibility. Ductless systems can be designed for specific rooms and spaces.
- Safety. Window units and evaporative coolers can pose a safety threat to the home and residents, because they can easily be removed, allowing access to the home. They also eliminate the need for windows and doors having to be left open for air circulation. Ductless system requires only a small hole to be drilled through the wall and are less vulnerable to air leaks and do not present the potential security risk of window units.
- They are less visible and much quieter than window units
- Energy savings. Energy Star models can save you up to 30% on your energy costs and may qualify you for tax credit and local utility incentives.
- Upfront cost. They may be more expensive than replacing existing traditional HVAC units if you already have ductwork in your home, but if you are looking at having to add ductwork to your home a ductless system could end up being the more cost-effective option. Plus cheaper units like window AC or baseboard heating are not even close to providing the benefits of Ductless systems. Depending on your climate, system usage and local energy rates you will also be looking at substantial payback in lower energy costs.
- Installation: Sizing and proper installation are critical, so unless you are experienced in this type of work, this is not a DIY project. They will not work properly if they are the wrong size, wall penetration is not sealed correctly or if the delicate electronics are mishandled. Plus, you run the risk of voiding the warranty. Hiring a good contractor is highly recommended!
- Maintenance. Each unit’s filter needs to be washed monthly. This is critical because ductless fans can’t handle a build-up of debris.
- Aesthetics. Units come in standard white or beige and cannot be covered. To some homeowners, the units are not necessarily design friendly. However, many homeowners report that once the system in installed they quickly get to where they don’t even notice it.
Although frequently used for single room applications, newer outdoor units like some of the new Carrier systems have grown powerful enough to supply as many as nine separate indoor units, providing a customized, whole home zoning solution as well. In addition, some models can be fitted with extra features -- like set-back controls, WIFI controls giving the operator control from their phone or other device, and humidification and/or air cleaning and purifying options.
If you are considering Ductless Mini-split as an option for your home, our expert Project Managers at Western can provide you with the information you need to see it that is the right solution for your home. They can give you a no-risk, free estimate and help you design a custom system specifically for you needs and your home.