Traditional central air conditioning systems aren’t the only game in town when it comes to effective and efficient cooling. The ductless mini split system is an excellent alternative to packaged and split-system air conditioners, especially in cases where traditional systems can’t fit or where portable or window-mounted units aren’t enough for your home’s cooling needs.
How Does it Work?
Like the typical central air conditioning unit, the mini split system uses an outdoor condenser/compressor, but that’s where the comparison ends. Instead of refrigerant from the outdoor unit being pumped to a centrally located evaporator coil and blower fan unit, it flows to an indoor air handler fitted with an evaporator coil. A built-in fan helps distribute cool, conditioned air throughout the area it’s installed in. The indoor unit is mounted directly to the wall, suspended from the ceiling, or recessed into the ceiling in cassette form (so that it mimics a central cooling/heating vent).
Depending on the unit’s BTU capacity, a single air handler can deliver conditioned air to several rooms. Nevertheless, multiple units can be installed in multiple areas, creating climate zones that can be individually adjusted according to your preference. Most manufacturers offer single, dual-zone, tri-zone or quad-zone setups for this very purpose.
Why Would You Need One?
Whereas packaged and split-system air conditioners rely on ducts to deliver conditioned air throughout the home, a ductless mini split system uses multiple indoor units to deliver the desired home comfort to individual spaces. If you own a home that wasn’t built with central air conditioning in mind, ductless mini split systems can be the best way to keep it cool and comfortable throughout the year, and without undergoing the expense of retrofitting your home with ductwork.
Pros and Cons
Ductless mini split systems offer a variety of advantages that make them an excellent alternative to central air conditioning:
- Ductless systems are quicker, easier and less costly to install than a typical central air conditioning system. In most cases, it only takes a matter of hours for contractors to complete a typical installation.
- Going with a ductless system means you can cool your home without undergoing the expensive and time-consuming renovation work needed to install ducting for a typical central air conditioning system.
- Individual air handlers let you create multiple comfort zones that can be adjusted separately – allowing occupants to set their own individual comfort levels and maintain different temperatures throughout the home.
But as with any cooling solution, ductless systems do have a few drawbacks:
- Unlike window air conditioning units, ductless mini split systems must be permanently mounted.
- Although less expensive than a central air package, ductless systems cost more than most window-mounted or portable air conditioners.
- Whereas most window air conditioning units can be installed yourself, a ductless system requires the expertise of a skilled contractor for a proper installation.
Efficiency and Cost
Not surprisingly, ductless mini split systems don’t cost much to operate. Most units offer an industry-standard Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of 14 or more. Most contractors recommend a 16 SEER system, especially for use in parts of the U.S. with hotter climates. It’s not uncommon to find advanced ductless systems with SEER ratings of 20 to 22.
Most ductless systems are heat pumps, which combine cooling and heating (though some are A/C only). The heat pump mini splits usually have a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) of 8.5-11. This translates into lower annual costs on energy consumption as well as greater energy efficiency throughout the system’s lifetime.
Choosing the Right System
Air conditioning systems come in a broad range of sizes, so it’s important to know which can effectively cool your living spaces without wasting energy or developing excessive wear and tear. This is where British Thermal Unit (BTU) capacity comes in.
Since ductless mini split systems are capable of cooling larger areas than the average portable air conditioning system, knowing how many BTUs you need relative to area size is essential. For example, a 12,000 BTU system is ideal for cooling a 450-500 square foot area.
Purchasing and installing a system that has an oversized or undersized BTU capacity relative to area size can lead to higher energy costs, greater wear and tear on the units themselves, and problems maintaining overall home comfort. A seasoned contractor can help you figure out what sizes work best for your home comfort needs.
If you’re ready to give ductless mini split systems a place in your home, contact us to find a Mitsubishi Electric Contractor in your area.