Duct Tales: A Homeowner's Guide to Ductless AC Systems
You expect to sweat it out at the gym during an intense workout, but you don't want to feel hot and sticky in your home.
A ductless air conditioner is an option for homes without ductwork or in areas that aren't part of your current HVAC system.
A ductless mini split is a cooling system that has separate indoor and outdoor components. The outdoor unit is the condenser, and the indoor air handlers mount to the wall and have individual controls. The system cools your home like other forms of air conditioners, and many systems also offer heating for a year-round solution. You can connect multiple air handlers to a single outdoor unit.
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A mini-split AC works somewhat like a traditional split system. The main difference is that the cooled air goes directly into a room via the air handler instead of from the central air unit and through a network of ducts to individual rooms.
The outside condenser unit connects to the indoor air handlers with copper refrigerant tubing and wiring. It pumps the refrigerant into the air handler, where it turns to gas and removes heat and humidity from the air. The gas returns to the outdoor unit, where the heat energy is released, and turns back to liquid. This cycle continues to keep your room cool and comfortable.
A mini-split AC system can be a good alternative to a traditional heating and cooling system, but there are some potential drawbacks that you should consider. Explore the following pros and cons of having a ductless air conditioner to decide if it's right for you.
Some reasons to consider a ductless mini-split system include:
- Duct-free cooling: If your home doesn't have ductwork, a mini split offers an effective way to cool without the expense of installing ductwork.
- Zone cooling: With ductless air conditioning, each area gets its own air handler with individual temperature controls. It's easier to adjust temperatures in different areas. For example, you may choose a higher temperature in a room that doesn't get used often.
- Energy efficiency: Ductless air conditioners are energy efficient because the cooled air goes directly into the room. Ducts can be highly inefficient, with gaps and leaks that cause the cooled air to escape before reaching the destination.
- Air quality: Each air handler has an air filter, which helps remove impurities from the air in the room.
- Quiet operation: Mini-spit air conditioners are quiet, especially compared to window air conditioners.
- No window blocking: Ductless air conditioners allow you to keep your windows accessible without blocking the view or light.
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There are some potential drawbacks to consider before installing a mini split, including:
- Visible air handlers: This system requires mounted air handlers that either go on the wall or ceiling. While they're not huge, they do stand out, and some people don't like the look of a bulky unit out in the open.
- Cost: A mini-split system is cheaper than a traditional split system, but it costs significantly more than a window air conditioner.
- Less effective in extremes: This type of HVAC system typically offers heating and cooling. However, it's not always as effective in extreme temperatures, especially in frigid temperatures when you need heat.
- Maintenance: Any type of air conditioning and heating system needs some type of maintenance, but you typically need to change or clean the air filters in a mini split monthly. This is a little more frequent than other systems.
A ductless air conditioner can be a good alternative when traditional systems aren't ideal. For example, if you have an addition or an area that isn't connected to the rest of your ductwork, a mini-split AC could be a cost-effective solution.
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