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

July 21, 2013 | 12:00 pm
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 pros and cons 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 ductwork 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 ductwork 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 pros and cons regarding ductless air conditioning units:

PROS

  • 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 sunrooms, 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.

CONS

  • 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 difficulty 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 ductwork 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.

 


DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a reference guide only. A qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies should handle all interior design, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, metal fabrication, and restoration projects. 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.

All material Copyrighted (c) by the Tuckey Companies, 2018.

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