Ask Our Experts: What’s the Deal with Ductless Air Conditioning?

Wall / Ceiling Mounted Ductless System – Interior
Photo: http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/ductless-mini-split-air-conditioners

Question for Our Experts: 

What’s up with ductless air conditioning?  A friend of mine tells me that it’s better than traditional air conditioning because it doesn’t waste energy cooling the ducts in the home or office.  Plus, it seems like a much cheaper option.  Can you share some pro’s and con’s of ductless air conditioning?  Is there a “catch” or significant drawback to ductless air conditioning?  Does Tuckey sell, install, and service ductless air conditioning units?  Thanks for your help!”

Our Experts’ Answer:

The short answer – Ductless air conditioning is a legitimate option that may be more suitable than traditional whole-building air conditioning systems in specific circumstances.  However, keep in mind that ductless systems are intended for spot-cooling/heating only – they are not a cost-effective option for cooling an entire building.  Installation and operation costs are not necessarily less expensive than a well-maintained traditional system with ducts.  It all depends on the building design and needs of the customer.  A trained Tuckey technician can survey your home or office and discuss the best options for your unique building design.  Tuckey does indeed sell, install, and service both types of system (traditional and ductless).

The detailed answer – Ductless air conditioning may be more suitable than traditional air conditioning in certain situations where running duct work is not feasible. Ductless units are normally interior, wall-hung units with an outdoor partner unit linked with refrigerant piping.  They are similar in concept to window A/C units but operate much more quietly and efficiently due to more advanced technological design.  Additionally, interior ductless systems do not block off a window. We are assuming that the duct work mentioned in the question above is the conventional type, which is installed either in a basement and/or attic space. Sometimes, there just isn’t the space to install this kind of behind-the-scenes equipment.  In such circumstances, ductless air conditioning may be a good solution.

As requested, here are some pro’s and con’s regarding ductless air conditioning units:

PRO’S

  • The units can be installed on an individual basis from room to room, offering the ability to cool or heat each room as desired and thereby saving energy.  One feasible application includes office areas where individual needs come into play from one area of the building to another. Other great applications would include sun rooms, Florida rooms, and three- or four-season rooms.  The extra bedroom or office located over the garage is also an excellent application for a ductless system.
  • Normally the installation of a ductless system is not as intrusive as a standard ducted unit. This varies, however, with each unique home design.
  • Today’s ductless units are often remote-controlled, allowing you to adjust the temperature from anywhere within eyesight of the unit.
  • Ductless systems have been installed for years without much trouble.

 

CON’S

  • There may be situations in which a ductless system would seem obtrusive in a living room, dining room, or kitchen.  Similarly, a ductless system may conflict with the established décor of the room or home.  Traditional air conditioning systems are more easily hidden – all you see is the vent!
  • The refrigerant and drain lines need to be able to penetrate walls to get outdoors to the outside unit and/or drains. This requires running the pipes, etc. in what is called “slim duct”. This will hide the lines; however, you may have to have the piping on a finished home exposed on the outside (depending on the home and installation). Normally it can be worked around but could be less than pleasing to the eye depending on the specific circumstance. To some, this is a big concern, especially when it comes to the aesthetics of the home (both interior and exterior).
  • Unless the home or office has a wide-open floor plan, you need multiple ductless units to cool or heat the entire area. This necessarily increases the cost of installation.
  • Always remember that ductless units are built for “spot cooling” – not intended to maintain temperature equally throughout the home (especially in a large home) unless multiple systems/zoning are installed. At this point, however, ductless systems may become cost prohibitive – traditional systems are preferable.
  • The technology used in ductless systems is often proprietary. Therefore, there are no universal parts that will fit the equipment. Replacement or spare parts necessarily must be purchased via the manufacturer alone. This may lead to difficultly finding replacement parts.

 

We would not agree that ductless units are more efficient because they “don’t have to cool ductwork like a traditional unit.” If the traditional unit is installed correctly, the duct work will be insulated against loss. Indeed, protection against loss is substantially better than years ago when there was a greater loss to the system due to poorly insulated ducts.

Additionally, many of the new traditional-style air conditioning systems are much more efficient than prior models; thus, “whole-house” air conditioning will not necessarily cost much more to operate than ductless split systems.  However, cooling specific areas at a time (spot-cooling) would require less energy with ductless systems as zoning is much more efficient with this type of system than traditional systems.

Yes, Tuckey does sell, install, and service both types of systems. A home survey performed by a Tuckey sales representative is recommended to determine which system will best fit your needs.

The bottom line: Ask yourself two questions before making the decision between ductless and traditional air conditioning systems:

  1. Do I need to cool the entire building (home, office, etc) or just certain spots?
  2. Is there room for ductwork and related equipment in the walls, attic, and/or basement?

If there is room for the ductwork and you are looking to cool an entire building, then traditional air conditioning systems are most likely the way to go.  If not, then consider a ductless system.  Either way, Tuckey Mechanical Services can help you select the most appropriate system for your home, office, or industrial plant.  Visit us at www.tuckey.com or call (717) 524-1136.

If you have your own question to “Ask our Experts,” please visit http://www.tuckey.com/ask_our_experts.html.  We look forward to hearing from you!

***

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a reference guide only.  All mechanical, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, metal fabrication, and restoration projects should be handled by a qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies.  Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

(Text Copyright 2013, The Tuckey Companies)

Comments

  1. Adam Marshall says:

    Interesting blog. Ductless units make up such a large percentage of modern day indoor units. Without the ductless approach today’s standardised design that has proved so popular would not have been possible.
    Air Conditioning Services

  2. air conditioning moorpark   says:

    That would be a huge advantage, less cleaning and less maintenance of air ducts, but, by the way, how that kind of AC able to diffuse cold air across the large area?

    air conditioning moorpark

    • Tuckey says:

      Greetings! Many thanks for commenting. In regard to your question: keep in mind that all capacity sizing is based on a professionally-conducted heat loss/gain calculation. A very large area of space would most likely require multiple units or zones. Alternatively (and depending upon the results of the heat loss/gain results), multiple systems may be required in certain applications. When the right number of systems and/or zones are implemented properly, efficient diffusion of cold air would not be a concern.

  3. Mike Krause says:

    A good way of getting suggestions on ductless air conditioning installation in new york and surrounding. It would be great if you can share some tips on ductless air conditioning repair.

  4. Everett Hill says:

    A lot of people are still not aware that with ductless air conditioning, you can actually set different temperatures for different rooms. Similarly with ductless heating, we can for instance turn up the heat in the living room when you’re just sitting around and relaxing, but you can leave the heat off in other parts of the house that aren’t being used at the moment. This alone will save you money on your monthly heating and cooling bills.

  5. Everett Hill says:

    I was wondering if you can mix different brands inside units with different outside units , say , LG inside with a Gruinaire outside and vise versa ?? I have not heard of people mixing indoor and outdoor units with ductless mini-splits. Any Suggestions?

  6. Davy says:

    Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.
    http://www.getductlessac.com/

  7. Jake White says:

    My wife and I just got married and are looking to get air conditioning set up in our new home. The house is super small, and we aren’t planning on staying there forever, but we definitely would like to get some air conditioning in there. I was going to install just a traditional duct system, however my wife thinks that we don’t need that and we would be more suited to have a ductless system since the house is so small. From the article, it seems as if we might be able to save money by doing a ductless system, so I will have to pass this information on to my wife. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Eric Blaise says:

    A ductless air conditioning unit is basically a split unit meant to keep a single room at optimal cooling temperature. it can either be placed in the living room, kitchen or some other common area to keep your home cool, or be kept in a single room. whatever the need may be, ductless air conditioning should be considered. If you do not plan on cooling all your rooms, a split system is the perfect solution.

  9. getductlessac says:

    It’s a nice blog to provide a good information. Hope more people reaching your blog because you are sharing a good information. A lot of people are still not aware that with ductless air conditioning, you can actually set different temperatures for different rooms. This alone will save you money on your monthly heating and cooling bills. Actually I have purchased ductless air conditioning, it’s an awesome product. It would be great if you can share some tips on ductless air conditioning repair.

  10. john says:

    This is an excellent post. Thanks to share it. It is really what I wanted to see. Hope in future you will continue for sharing such an excellent post. Yes, i agree your Experts’ Answer and all advantage & disadvantage point are good.

  11. Fastel Ectrical says:

    Great post full of great pointsI m new here.i was looking for this list in google but didn’t anythink worth trying.Fortunately i visited this Blog and find what i wanted.Thanks for sharing it.So much inspiration! Thank you for all of the time it took to put together this great resource.

  12. Ryan says:

    Great points! Mini splits are great options for heating and cooling individual rooms. More and more people are considering this as an option over window air conditioners because newer mini split models are becoming more efficient and effective.

  13. Justin Knox says:

    Thank you for the help. I am needing to add to my cooling somehow this summer and I think installing a split system unit could help. I love that the installation is not too intrusive, as you mentioned.

  14. Natalie says:

    My favorite feature of my ductless systems is being able to set different temperatures for different rooms!

  15. KK says:

    Very useful article. Very interesting to read this article. I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.

  16. Bob Lowe says:

    Thanks for the post. I really like the idea of a ductless air conditioner. I like that it can target a spicific room that you may need cooled. However, like you said they are not a cost effective way to cool a building. I think a traditional unit would be ideal for that. I think consulting with a HVAC contractor would be able to tell you what they best option would be.

  17. retractable says:

    Nice to read this article will be very helpful in the future, share more info with us. Good job!

  18. Steve Smith says:

    For room additions, which are a big market for HVAC companies, a ductless system works really well. Much easier than having the main HCAC system work harder than it needs to to keep with the additional load.

    • Tuckey says:

      Agreed! There are indeed certain applications for which ductless systems simply make the most sense. That being said, every project is unique – there is no cookie-cutter answer for “what’s the best way to heat/cool my new/renovated space.” That’s why we encourage customers to consult with an HVAC pro before making a buying decision. Thanks for vising our post!

  19. split ac repair in hyderabad says:

    I am impressed with your site, It’s very helpful me and also to all. I got useful and important information and suggestion from, what you mentioned in an article that’s very nice. Thanks for sharing this post.

  20. jack says:

    Please, please, please remember 90% of the installation of HVAC equipment is all about how it is installed, set up and if it is properly tested, measured and adjusted. All most all manufactures make good equipment and a majority use a mix of the same internal parts. It is all about the company who is doing the installation weather they complete the manufacturing process as dictated by the manufacture or not.

    • Tuckey says:

      We agree that the single most important factor in a heating and cooling system installation project is the quality of the installing contractor. Thanks for your comment!

  21. San Diego Moving Company says:

    This is a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more … good luck.

  22. italian marble supplier says:

    I really love the quality writing as offered on this post, cheers to the writer.

  23. affordable luxury holidays europe says:

    This is a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more…good luck.

  24. Angel investors for startups says:

    Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.

  25. Lillian Schaeffer says:

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that ductless air conditioning can be installed in individual rooms that need it. My kids love to play computer games, so we have an office area set up with several different computers. Between all of the bodies and machines running in there, it can get much hotter than the rest of the house. I’ll definitely look into having a ductless AC installed in there to keep it cool. Thanks for the great post!

  26. CHCP says:

    There are still lot of people that are not aware that with ductless air conditioning, we can actually set different temperatures for different rooms. This alone will save us money on our monthly heating and cooling bills.

  27. Action Duct says:

    Avoiding and decreasing inside air contamination can have several health advantages and is well worth the work to achieve it. Sustain Healthy Indoor Air.your article give a such a good informative idea.

  28. Larry Saffran says:

    Great blog article! I see though that this was originally written in July of 2013. Would you say your general points; pro’s/con’s of ductless vs. traditional still hold true now (Dec. 2016)? Or has the ductless technology advanced further?

    • Tuckey says:

      Greetings and thanks for reading this post! You have a great question. Yes, ductless technology has indeed advanced since 2013 in certain ways. That being said, the general considerations and conclusions of our 2013 post still hold true today (December 2016). Based on your feedback, we’ll put this article on our list for updating in the near future. Until then, though, we still stand by our original article. Thanks again for visiting our blog and posting your question!

  29. Robert Simpson says:

    Mini Splits!

    Why you should buy small units!

    First of all you must understand that you are going to turn the unit on and let it run for 10 years. Keeping this in mind and keeping the temp at 47f (inside and out) a 9k or 12k unit will use a minimum of 150 watts per hour or 3.6 Kilowatts per day or 1314 Kwh per year at .25¢ per Kwh then which will cost you $328.00 unit per year. Ten years $3280.00 !
    An increase or decrease in either temp. (inside or out will change this base figure).

    If you go to a larger unit 15,000-18,000 unit then the smallest amount of watts the unit will run on is 520 watts per hour , which is 12.5 kwh per day or 4562 kWh per year.
    At .25¢ per kwh this equals $1,140 per year just for a base price. ($11,140 ten year base)
    An increase or decrease in either temp. (inside or out will change this base figure).

    Conclusion : Mini Splits are great, just stick to using the smaller units in well sealed rooms! If I need to use another form of heat to maintain comfort then I have $1140-$328= $812 dollar per year to buy warm slipper or a nice house coat or invest in a supplement heat source.

    • Tuckey says:

      Thanks for taking the time to post your comment! We appreciate anyone who’s willing to run the numbers as you have. For the benefit of our readers, we should remind everyone that sample numbers are helpful – but you should always turn to a professional HVAC contractor to help you evaluate your specific scenario given your specific building (home or office) and your specific comfort needs. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to heating and cooling a building!

      Additionally, please keep in mind that mini splits use inverter technology – unlike a standard a/c or heat pump which turns on and off in cycles. Inverter technology is like cruise control for your heating or cooling system. Compressors only run as fast as they need to handle the cooling or heating load. A 9,000 btu mini split system can run from 3,100 btu’s to 12,000 btus (depending on the specific unit and manufacturer). Many name brand systems are capable of heating your indoors to 70 degrees when it is -15 degrees outside, which we’d submit is better performance than a slipper in the coldest months of winter.

      And, again, it’s a good point that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to heating and cooling. The best solution for your home or office may be a traditional system, a ductless system, or a combination thereof.

      Thanks for your comment! As always, please keep in mind that our comments here are provided as a reference guide only. All mechanical, plumbing, electrical, remodeling, and restoration projects should be handled by a qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

  30. lenny strin says:

    How i choose AC for single room.

    • Tuckey says:

      Thanks for your comment. If you’re only trying to cool one room, a ductless system may very well be the best fit for you! Generally speaking, no window units comes close to the efficiency of a mini split. Before making a final decision, however, your first step is to have a heat loss/gain done by a professional HVAC contractor (like Tuckey Mechanical Services), and then choose the best system for your room. The indoor unit can be a high wall, floor console, ceiling cassette, or a ducted indoor evaporator. It all depends on how your room is built, and your preference. A professional HVAC contractor should be helpful in guiding you through the system selection process!

      Hopefully this has been helpful! Please keep in mind that our comments here are provided as a reference guide only. All mechanical, plumbing, electrical, remodeling, and restoration projects should be handled by a qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

  31. Sarah says:

    I’m really glad I came across this article. I have a few questions. I just moved into a small 900 sqft home in Kansas (which can get decently hot) It had window units but I just put in all new windows and I despise window units. Might this be a better route? a mini split 3 zone combined with a current wall unit in the kitchen. I don’t have the 8,000 to put in an whole new hvac system. My dad is dead set against these new systems, mostly bc its so foreign to him. I feel like this might be a great option for just the front room and 2 small bedrooms. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Tuckey says:

      Great comment – thanks for posting it! Generally speaking, mini-splits are much more efficient than window-unit air conditioners – sometimes as much as 4-5 times more efficient. Given your budget constraints, you may wish to consider starting with one unit in the area of your home that is used the most (and is the largest). You can then build upon or expand the system in the future from that starting point – or address others areas of the home differently, if appropriate.

      Thanks for mentioning the misperception that mini splits are new / foreign concepts in the heating and cooling industry. It’s comforting for many people to realize that these types of system have been successfully implemented in many areas of the world since the 1960’s. In general, they just keep getting better – and more appropriate for more and more homes and businesses across the country. There are many years of experience and testing behind quality ductless/mini-split systems!

      When considering any new HVAC-related project, your first step is to call a reputable contractor (like Tuckey Mechanical if you’re in South Central Pennsylvania). Have a correct heat loss/gain done and talk with them about your needs. They will be able to help you decide what is best for you house. Perhaps you’d consider one outdoor unit with 2 indoor units to start, then add 2 more to the same outdoor unit when you have the requisite budget in the future? Again, please discuss the specifics with a professional before embarking on a project.

      Also, don’t forget 95% of the new mini splits come with heat. Some units heat down to -15 degrees. Though it may not be pertinent in your neck of the woods, this recognition is helpful for many people in colder or milder areas of the country.

      Hopefully this general information in response to your question is helpful! Thanks again for posting your comment! And, again, please keep in mind that our comments here are provided as a reference guide only. All mechanical, plumbing, electrical, remodeling, and restoration projects should be handled by a qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

  32. carol says:

    Looking for info on maintenance of ductless split system. I have six indoor units and two outdoor–Mitsubishi. The guy who did the installation really does not seem knowledgeable about cleaning and maintenance. I see all sorts of systems using a bib and low pressure sprayer for indoor units. Heaven knows about outdoor units. No one I know does more than clean the filters and squirt some water on the outdoor unit. What is necessary? What is overkill.

    • Tuckey says:

      Greetings, and thanks for taking the time to submit a question on our blog! First off, please keep in mind that our comments here are provided as a reference guide only. All mechanical, plumbing, electrical, remodeling, and restoration projects should be handled by a qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies. Now on to the good stuff:

      When it comes to maintenance routines on ductless systems (or any equipment, for that matter), you should follow the manufacture’s instructions in your owner’s manual. Most of the new mini splits have two filters – one is a seasonal replacement filter and the other is a seasonal washable filter, replaced every 3 years.

      As far as the heart of indoor unit, the coil (which has a lot of contact with dirty air compared to the outdoor unit coil), most manufactures recommend a cleaning every 2-3 years (but, again, check with your manufacturer). But cleaning them requires a professional (like Tuckey Mechanical), because the indoor unit needs to be disassembled, power-washed correctly, sprayed with certain chemicals, power-washed again, sprayed with a mold inhibitor, then reassembled. A few other things are done, but that is a brief summary.

      To correctly clean a mini split indoor coil, the right tools, chemicals, and practices are required. For example…
      -It’s generally good to utilize a “bibb kit”, which funnels water, chemicals, and the gunk off the coil into a bucket, instead of onto your carpet, sofa, or whatever else is nearby.
      -It’s generally good to utilize a power washing machine that only uses 120-130 PSI – any more will bend the coil fins and any less will not cut through the coil. Just spraying an aerosol can of coil cleaner will shine the face of the coil, but that’s it.
      -Be sure to utilize coil chemicals that do not hurt the coil. This is very important for a clean coil (and if you don’t want to replace your system).
      -Using a mold inhibitor that is FDA safe on the coil when finished is important so mold doesn’t grow back as quickly and you have longer intervals between cleanings.

      Hopefully that gives you an idea of what proper maintenance looks like – generally speaking – on a ductless. Thanks again for posting your comment! And, again, please keep in mind that our comments here are provided as a reference guide only. All mechanical, plumbing, electrical, remodeling, and restoration projects should be handled by a qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

  33. John says:

    That amazing. I would have never considered a ductless ac till now. Thanks for the info.

  34. Air Conditioning Repairs Melbourne says:

    A very interesting post to read!! Awesome points are quoted in this.It is of great help to all of us. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  35. Heating and Cooling Scarborough says:

    such a Really Nice post written by you thanks.

  36. Anderson says:

    I agree. In addition to that, always check your breaker. If the unit won’t come on at all your breaker could have tripped. If you have several appliances, lights and other things on the same breaker often it will trip and the air conditioner will not operate. This is a quick check that can save you money, frustration, and even embarrassment.

Leave a Comment

  • *

Sign up to receive new posts right from your inbox!