If you’ve ever replaced an air conditioner, you probably know the scene – working with all these long, metal cylinders and cutting holes in your walls and ceilings. It’s not always the cleanest, easiest process.
Most people don’t know that there are in fact alternatives to installing ducts for AC. In fact, the alternative is used all over the world and it isn’t exactly a new technology.
So what can you do instead of installing ducts? Use a ductless AC, of course!
Curious about how ductless AC works, what the advantages are, and how to start cooling your home with this technology? That’s why we’ve created our handy guide with the 9 essential things you need to know about these convenient wall HVAC units.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump in.
What Is Ductless AC?
First, let’s talk about what ductless AC is in the first place.
Typical HVAC systems work using an indoor and outdoor unit – there’s the outdoor cabinet which most people recognize as the “air conditioner,” as well as a series of ducts and vents on the inside that connect to the furnace (for heating) and the air handler (blower and evaporator coil system).
Typically, though, when installing an HVAC system that uses ducts, especially if a home doesn’t have existing ductwork, the process can be expensive and time-intensive.
It also depends on the amount of space the home has – some smaller apartments and homes, particularly if they weren’t built recently, may not even house the required space for a duct system.
That’s where ductless AC comes in because the system doesn’t need ducts at all. That makes it ideal for smaller spaces or for homes where new ductwork isn’t feasible.
Where a traditional HVAC system hosts one singular air hander for the entire home, a ductless AC uses an air handler per room of the home. This means that each area is heated or cooled individually.
The ductless system (sometimes called a mini-split system) still uses an outdoor pump, but there are no ducts for air to run through. Instead, the outdoor pump connects to the indoor air handling systems via something called a line set, which contains the electrical wiring used to link each individual air handler.
You might be wondering how the actual cooling and heating dispenses into the room – after all, in a duct system, you have fairly unobtrusive vents that blow the air.
For a ductless AC, typically the cooling and heating units are mounted on the wall. This means it’s possible to control the heating and cooling on a room to room basis.
9 Things to Know About Ductless AC
Now that you’ve got a little background on the ductless AC system, we can take a look at the benefits of these systems.
That’s right – they provide a few more positives than just cooling down a room in the heat of the summer.
1. They’ve Been Around For A While
While it seems like some kind of new-fangled technology, ductless AC has actually been around for quite some time, seeing heavy use in Asia and Europe.
In fact, it might surprise you to learn that ductless AC has been around since the 1970s. For the most part, though, it’s not as popular in the American market as around the world.
There are a few reasons for this, but one of the most prominent ones is space – for example, in many Asian countries, apartments and houses are typically smaller, especially high rise apartments in places like Japan and China.
This makes ductless systems a good choice: they are rather inexpensive, easy to fit into a smaller space and open up possibilities for cooling a much smaller area more efficiently.
2. They Are Energy Efficient
Think about it like this: when you have a duct system and you choose to cool your home, not only are you dispensing cool air to your entire house, but you are also losing some cool air to imperfect duct systems (especially in older homes).
With a ductless AC system, your cooling and heating needs are met efficiently in more than one way:
- Only cool/heat the rooms you are currently occupying
- No lost energy to inefficient ducts (nearly 30% energy lost)
- High-efficiency parts mean less energy loss and less cost to you
- Ductless AC might not be the right choice for huge mansions, but they are particularly energy efficient in nearly all their applications.
3. They Are Easy To Install
With a traditional duct system, it can be a difficult choice to justify – you need to purchase the system and get it installed, which sounds simple enough until you must reckon with the lack of existing ductwork in your home.
This is an extra installation cost and timeline, as you are not only installing an AC system but the ducts and vents as well.
For a ductless AC unit, the installation process is a lot simpler because the connections themselves are simpler. No ducts, no pipes, and very little behind-the-scenes work.
4. They Are Usually Cheaper
A ductless AC system is typically a more affordable choice to put in as opposed to ductwork.
To put it into perspective, depending on the home, quotes on ductwork alone can cost $2,500, with the price skyrocketing depending on the size of the home and how complex the floor plan is.
On the other hand, a ductless AC system usually costs around $3,000 all said and done. It can even cost less depending on the needs of the home – if you only need to heat or cool certain areas, you can skip adding wall units to specific rooms or entire areas of the house.
5. They Are Quiet
Ductless AC systems are particularly quiet when compared to traditional HVAC systems.
Because they don’t use ducts, a mini-split system minimizes the sound of air running through your walls. Duct systems can be fairly loud, especially if they are a bit older or if the home itself is older.
6. They Avoid Hot Spots
Ever experienced that frustrating pocket of air in a room where it simply will not get cooler? Maybe the hot spot is placed directly on your prime relaxing position, which can make it even more frustrating.
Ductless AC systems manage to get rid of traditional HVAC hot spots by more evenly distributing air throughout a room.
7. They Can Personalize A Home
If you’ve ever lived with a large group of people, you quickly realize not everyone has the same temperature preferences. A mini-split system seeks to solve that issue by providing area-specific zoning.
If one person is cold in their room and wants to heat up the home but everyone else is warm enough, a ductless AC would allow that one person to heat up their room without disturbing the rest of the household.
Likewise, this helps to save on energy costs because you’re only using the cooling and heating functions in the places they are needed the most. If everyone is in the living room, why heat the bedrooms upstairs?
Instead, you could just heat the living room and create a nice, toasty environment where the people are.
8. They Are Versatile
Ductwork depends a lot on the home layout, but ductless AC doesn’t suffer from a lot of the same floor plan woes as a traditional system.
Say, for instance, that you want to put in a ductless AC, but there’s no space for a drain hose to drain condensate in your proposed area. With a normal system, this might be a make-or-break issue, but with ductless AC, you can get around it with a condensate pump.
Due to their smaller size and overall smaller footprint, they are much easier to fit into a wide variety of home layouts.
9. They Are Modular
What does this mean, exactly?
When something is modular, it means you can freely add or subtract parts from the whole. Ductless AC systems offer the advantage that they are modular, meaning it’s easy to add or subtract units from the overall system.
Let’s say, for instance, you want to convert a basement into a living space or a den. Normally, it would be costly to add to the ductwork, but with a mini-split system, it’s easy to add another line and install another wall unit.
This is true in the reverse direction as well: if a room doesn’t get much use and doesn’t need to be heated/cooled often (like a basement or trophy room), it’s a fairly simple process to remove the wall unit and take out the wiring.
In this way, ductless AC offers the ultimate customization in a home, allowing the homeowner to choose exactly where and how much air conditioning and heating they need.
Now that you’re an expert on the ductless AC system, you can make an informed choice about whether or not it’s the right decision for your home or apartment.