When it comes to keeping your home cool in the dog days of summer, you have several options. You could set up a window-mounted air conditioner, but these units are not particularly powerful or efficient. Plus, they can compromise your security.
Alternatively, you could choose a central air conditioning system. These are more powerful and efficient than a window unit, but they can be costly, and installation can be quite a chore if ductwork needs to be added or updated.
This leaves you with a third alternative, the ductless HVAC system. Sometimes called min-split systems, this equipment is incredibly efficient while also providing consistent temperatures from room to room.
More About Ductless AC Systems
An air conditioner or heat pump that does not require ducts will consist of an indoor unit that usually is mounted on the wall and an outside compressor. Homeowners who would otherwise consider a window-mounted air conditioner and baseboard heating are most likely to be attracted to a ductless HVAC system.
When compared to window air conditioners, a ductless system is quieter and more efficient. It also is less susceptible to air leakage. This also is true when comparing a ductless system to a central system. Frequently, the ductwork that is an inherent part of a central cooling system is responsible for a great deal of energy loss. This means that you might save a lot of money on your energy bill by switching to a ductless system from a central system.
What You Need to Know About Ductless AC Systems
Here are some of the most critical things to consider before deciding whether or not a ductless AC system is right for your home:
- Installation: You’ll want an experienced professional to handle installation for you. This ensures that both the outdoor and the indoor units are correctly mounted and that the complicated collection of electric cables and refrigerant lines are appropriately connected.
- Noise: Most ductless AC systems promise whisper-quiet operation thanks to their DC motors, which last for years. You can expect a noise level of about 25 dB, comparable to the sound of leaves rustling.
- Maintenance: Monthly removal and cleaning of the indoor filters keeps everything operating as it should. Once a year, ask a trusted technician to flush the condensate lines and check the refrigerant pressure.
- Rebates: Some utility companies offer rebates for homeowners who install new ductless AC systems. Visit the Energy Star Rebate Finder to see if you qualify.
- Warranty: You can expect anywhere from a five- to 12-year warranty, but most of these systems will perform for 15 to 20 years before requiring replacement.
Choose the Right Size with the Help of a Pro
Never trust a contractor who decides to choose your ductless AC system based on “eye-balling” your house or using a general “rule of thumb.” Instead, insist on having a comprehensive Manual J heat load calculation performed. Using a complicated equation that takes into consideration many factors that may affect the temperature in your home, a Manual J Calculation is the professional standard by which the appropriate size of your ductless AC system can be determined.
Without having a Manual J Calculation performed, the technician’s guesswork will leave you with an AC unit that is underpowered or overpowered. Either way, it’s costing you extra money and not keeping your family as comfortable as they could be.
How Efficient Should Your New System Be?
If you look closely at any ductless AC system, you’ll soon see a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, rating. This number is a comparison between cooling capacity and the amount of electricity that is used over the range of an ordinary cooling season.
Currently, SEER ratings range from 13 to 33. A ductless AC system with a 33 rating will cost you more up front, but it will save you a great deal more money when the weather heats up. Basically, you can expect better energy efficiency based on how high the SEER rating is.
Does a Split AC Unit Cool Just One Room or the Whole House?
A few years ago, a ductless system really only worked in one room, so it was necessary to buy several systems if you wanted to cool multiple rooms.
Today, far more powerful outdoor units are readily available. Rather than only providing cooling for one indoor unit, these larger outdoor units can serve up to nine indoor units. It’s worth knowing that each indoor unit in such a multi-split system operates independently of the others. This means that each room can have its own customized zone according to its use or the time of day.
What Does the Indoor Unit Look Like?
Traditionally, this has been one of the biggest drawbacks with a ductless AC system. Some indoor units can be pretty intrusive, and there are homeowners who simply don’t like having the aesthetics of a room spoiled by a piece of machinery that is conspicuously mounted on the wall.
However, there are a lot of options for indoor units these days, and when placed thoughtfully, even wall-mounted units can blend into the scenery in almost any room.
Because the wall-mounted indoor unit remains the least expensive and the easiest to install, it is still the most commonly chosen indoor unit. These models are equipped with motorized vanes that control air flow direction. Most wall-mounted components operate at about 26 dB.
Other homeowners will choose ceiling recessed indoor units. Sometimes referred to as cassettes, these ceiling recessed units push air in four directions at once, making them ideal for open, oversized rooms. Operating at about 36 dB, this is a slightly noisier option, and you do need a 10-inch clearing above the ceiling to accommodate the cassette.
Operating at a similar noise level, the floor-mounted unit is another workable option that some people like because it can be less obtrusive than a wall-mount. These indoor units are designed to direct air toward the ceiling and are especially accessible and easy to maintain.
If you really prefer to have the indoor unit for your ductless AC system hidden, then you may want to go with the concealed option. Typically placed above the ceiling or soffit, a concealed indoor unit can feed air to different rooms through a maximum of 12 feet of concealed ducts. The grilles are the only visible system components, and these units operate at about 30 dB.
When Is a Ductless AC System the Perfect Choice?
Ductless AC systems are not for everyone. However, there are certain situations in which a ductless cooling system is the ideal way to go. These may include:
- Downsizing within the existing home: If you have an empty nest, you may not be using all of the rooms in a larger house any longer. Simply shutting the HVAC grills in unused rooms can create pressure imbalances in the existing HVAC system and can even be responsible for mold problems. The better, more efficient solution is to install a ductless AC system.
- No one can agree on the “right” temperature: Are you always overheated while your partner is freezing? Do the kids think that their rooms should be a different temperature altogether? If so, then a multi-split ductless AC system is perfect for you. Independent temperature zones make it possible to please everyone.
- You don’t have ductwork: Adding a ductless AC system to your home is far less expensive than adding ductwork;
- Correcting temperature problems: A tiny kitchen with a powerful stove is always too hot, especially if it also has large windows and faces the southwest. A ductless unit is exactly what you need to make summertime cooking a pleasure rather than a burden.
- Making an addition to an existing structure: Is it finally time to add a sunroom, a man cave or a home theater? If so, then the most sensible option may be a ductless system that’s perfectly sized for that bonus room.
Upgrades to Consider
As with most things, ductless AC units come with all sorts of bells and whistles. Of course, you can always opt for the simple and straightforward, but you may discover that some upgrades are well worth the cost.
For instance, consider choosing a unit that gives you the option for wireless controls. This means that you don’t need a separate wall thermostat. Instead, you can use a remote, and some ductless AC systems even have Wi-Fi capability so that you can control the system even when you’re not at home.
You also might want to consider a variable-speed compressor that is capable of calibrating refrigerant flow to meet your home’s cooling needs. This means no more of the temperature swings that frequently are associated with one- or two-speed units.
Find Out More From Delaware Heating and Air
Is a ductless AC system right for your house? Frequently, these units are a great solution for creating custom zones, cooling a new addition or avoiding the expense and hassle of having ductwork installed. Call Delaware Heating and Air to learn more.