A: A ductless AC system is an energy-efficient heating and cooling solution that provides versatile indoor air conditioning without requiring standard HVAC ductwork to operate. Like a conventional ducted system, your ductless HVAC system can heat and/or cool multiple rooms in your home. This is sometimes referred to as zone heating and cooling.
The system consists of an outdoor unit (compressor) that is connected to one or more indoor units (evaporators) by refrigerant lines that run through a three- to four-inch hole in the outside wall. The number of indoor evaporator units used will depend on how many zones, or rooms, you need to heat or cool. Each outdoor compressor can operate up to four evaporators, letting you target the specific areas inside your home. When more than one indoor evaporator unit is used with a single outdoor compressor unit, the system is known as a ductless mini-split system.
Indoor units are attractively designed so they won't clash with your home décor. Units are typically installed high on one wall, though some models consist of a recessed ceiling unit. Free-standing floor units are also available for those who prefer them.
A: While your ductless AC system is intended to be used as your main air conditioning method, you may choose to hold on to your current system in case you should ever need additional, backup cooling. In particularly hot climates, or when weather conditions are extreme, some parts of your home may not be adequately cooled. Your ductless system can be used with zone or space heating and cooling equipment, heat pumps, and radiant floor heat.
A: Like a conventional heat pump, a ductless AC system provides both heating and cooling. Using similar reversible technology but without the need for ductwork or a separate indoor unit, ductless air conditioners move warm air indoors from outside when in heating mode and move warm air outdoors from inside when in cooling mode. They use like components as well, with each inside unit containing an evaporator and fan to treat and distribute the air and each outside unit consisting of a variable-speed compressor condensing coil, fan and expansion valve.
The cooling process:
The heating process:
Inverter technology built into the variable-speed compressors increases comfort by keeping indoor temperatures more uniform. This state-of-the-art technology also makes the system more energy-efficient while continuously monitoring and adjusting temperature, rather than controlling it through repeatedly cycling on and off, as conventional systems do.
A: Units can be operated either by wireless remote control or by a wall-mounted control unit. Remote controls that use batteries make it easy to control the system from anywhere within the zone. Ductless systems allow users to control a zone's precise temperature rather than limiting them to low, medium and high settings. Controls also feature the option of switching between heating and cooling mode, either remotely or by using the wall control. A number of programmable features are also built into the system's controls, including separate day and night settings that can provide greater convenience and greater energy savings.
A: Ductless systems are very versatile and have a wide range of uses. Discussing your needs with a trusted HVAC specialist can help you determine whether a ductless system is the right option for your home or business. This experienced professional can let you know whether your ceilings are high enough to install air ducts and your insulation sufficient for use with a conventional HVAC system or whether a ductless system would work better for your space.
The following are several situations that would warrant installing a new ductless AC system:
A: Ductless systems have an excellent reputation for energy efficiency, using 25% to 50% less energy than central air conditioning systems. Because they use variable-speed compressors, zoned operation and duct-free performance, they use less energy than conventional systems. The consistently high SEER ratings ductless systems earn for air conditioning performance and the high HSPF ratings they earn for heating performance attest to the efficiency of these systems, with these ratings often far exceeding the minimum performance requirements for energy efficiency. Ductless system SEER ratings have exceeded 22, and the HSPF ratings on these systems have topped 10.
Ductless systems save energy in the following ways:
A: Ductless systems were developed in Japan in the 1970s. They were intended to be improvements on window air conditioners. The Japanese are well-known for their great respect for efficiency, so it's no surprise that they would have developed such a highly energy-efficient system — and one that made life more convenient by getting air conditioners out of windows and creating a quieter-running unit. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case that was true. Because of severe restrictions on building that were commonly experienced in Asia, this innovative invention helped provide a badly needed climate control solution.
Soon, this innovative technology was embraced in North America, Europe and the rest of the developed world. As the natural evolution process brought new ideas to this segment of the industry, new features were added and improvements made, and a whole set of benefits emerged. System capacities increased, programmable controls were introduced, wider temperature ranges became feasible and distances that were possible between compressors and evaporators grew. Various types of ductless systems emerged — including mini- and multi-splits, bringing more versatility than single systems and accommodating a variety of building sizes and needs.
A: The price of a ductless AC system will vary based on manufacturer, model, system capacity and a number of other factors. Generally speaking, a ductless system can cost anywhere between $1500 and $5,000, depending on the area you need to cool and the energy efficiency of the specific product. Other factors that impact overall cost include how far refrigerant lines and copper tubing must be run to connect the indoor and outdoor units, the labor charges of the contractor you choose and the degree of complexity of your install.
A: Various incentives, such as tax credits and cash rebates, are available from state governments and HVAC manufacturers to reward consumers for making energy-efficient choices in heating and cooling products and installing these systems in their homes and businesses. Your location will determine which of these incentives are available to you. The internet is a helpful resource for locating the incentives that are available in your state.
Three types of incentives are described below:
A: Ductless heating and cooling systems will last for decades, providing home and business owners with dependable indoor comfort and convenient, cost-effective, energy-efficient operation. If you keep it well-maintained, your ductless air conditioning system should give you over 20 years of reliable service.
A: One of the most important items of routine maintenance a ductless heating and cooling system owner should perform is cleaning or changing the system's air filter once each month. Some systems offer washable filters, and others will require a filter change. Whichever type of filter your system uses, taking proper care of it will ensure that the dust, dirt, pollen and other allergens that become trapped in the filter are removed, providing better indoor air quality and more efficient system operation.
Another key maintenance task for your ductless system is cleaning the evaporator (indoor) and condenser (outdoor) coils once every season (four times a year) using a damp cloth. Periodically scheduling a system check and tune-up by an HVAC professional is also always a good idea. Conscientiously completing the maintenance activities described above should help your system function more efficiently, providing even more dependable service.
A: Many different size systems are available to accommodate various customer needs and living spaces. Because the zones that each homeowner needs to heat and cool vary greatly, ductless systems are rated based on capacity, using a measurement known as a BTU rating, which helps a buyer estimate the size of the area the system can effectively heat or cool. Indoor unit BTU ratings can range anywhere from 9,000 to 30,000. If your home is large, you could potentially need more than one ductless system for adequate heating and cooling, or you might require another type of heating or cooling equipment to supplement your ductless system.
Because indoor and outdoor units each have a separate BTU rating, if you own a multiple-zone system you should carefully compare these capacities to ensure that the compressor can handle the combined capacities of all the evaporator units it will be required to run at the same time. This rule may be adjusted somewhat by ensuring that not all indoor units are running at maximum capacity at the same time.