What is Ductless Air Conditioning, and is it Right for Your Home?

Ductless Air Conditioner

Are you still relying on power-hungry window unit air conditioners to cool your older home? Or, maybe you have a fully integrated central AC system that doesn’t cover that new sunroom you added on last year?

You don’t need to sweat it any longer! High tech ductless air conditioning systems can help you solve your most frustrating home cooling challenges. These systems are efficient, flexible for customization, and definitely worth homeowners’ consideration here in our Lancaster County service area.

Today’s post gives you an overview of mini-split system equipment, benefits, and things to think about as you decide whether to install these units in your home.

What is a Mini-Split Air Conditioner?

Ductless air conditioning systems, aka “mini-splits,” go by a variety of names. Different manufacturers and HVAC pros will use different terms to describe ductless systems, such as split systems, mini-split heat pumps, or multi-split systems. Our equipment partners at Rheem typically use the term mini-split heat pumps, for instance, even though that refers mainly to just one system component.

Ductless air conditioning involves the installation of two main pieces of equipment (though you may have multiples of each depending on your square footage—more on that in a moment): an outdoor compressor/condenser unit that cools (and can also heat) air and an indoor air handler that distributes the air. These components are connected via conduit that contains power and refrigerant lines through your home’s exterior wall or walls, eliminating the need for ducts.

Ductless AC System Benefits

Easy to install in older homes without ductwork

Arguably the most important reason our Comfort Aire customers have for considering ductless systems is how compatible they are with older homes.

It’s true that homes built before about the 1970s don’t have integrated ductwork because central air systems were not yet standard. That means a lot of Lancaster County homes were constructed without ducts. The choice for customers with older or historic houses then becomes whether to retrofit with ductwork—which can be a huge construction project—or install mini-splits in a few areas or throughout their homes.

Highly customizable

When mini-splits first came on the scene in the US just a few decades ago, it seemed that they might be limited in their ability to cool large interior spaces. This equipment was invented and popularized in Asia (namely Japan), after all, where most people live in smaller, urban homes that don’t require quite the BTU power to cool or heat.

Today, however, systems are available in an impressive range of power capabilities designed to make nearly any typical American residential space more comfortable—from a single bedroom to an entire suburban house.

And one of the biggest advantages this equipment offers versus traditional ducted systems is zone control. For instance, if you like one area of your home to be kept a different temperature than another, separate air handlers will help you achieve this.

High efficiency

Compared to ducted systems, mini-splits are incredibly efficient. Because ducted systems are not zoned, they tend to suffer quite a bit of energy loss—typically about 25%. While this is not a big problem in homes that are already set up for central air conditioning with ducts, you may want to think twice before having ductwork installed just to hook up to less efficient equipment.

More allergy-friendly than traditional ducted equipment

Once again, because ducted systems are not zoned, they have the unfortunate ability to spread allergens throughout your entire home—especially if your ductwork is dirty or you don’t change out your system filters often enough.

Mini-split systems also require filter changes on individual air handler units, but since they don’t blow air through your whole house (in most cases), you can more carefully control the spread of dust and allergens.

Sizing Considerations for Mini-Split Systems

As we touched on, mini-splits can be “sized” to accommodate spaces of less than about 400 sq. ft. (you’ll need around 9,000 BTUs for this) and up to about 1,500 sq. ft. Even larger spaces can be cooled/heated by adding more outdoor units and air handlers.

How many square feet can the system cool?

This is not an easy question to answer with definitive measurements. You should always consult a professional HVAC technician to size your system properly. Current sizing guidelines tend to break down like this, however:

BTU Chart

You can find equipment on the market today that provides even greater power (Rheem has some multi-zone system options that offer as many as 54,000 BTUs, for example). Again, determining your correct sizing should be left up to the pros because your overall space size isn’t the only thing you need to factor into the calculation.

Other considerations

So, are you thinking that ductless home comfort systems are sounding a little too good to be true? As the technology evolves, we assure you that they’re often a perfect solution for many homeowners’ needs.

There are a couple of drawbacks, though. The biggest one is the high initial cost of the equipment compared to ducted system mechanicals. Of course, if you have no ductwork in your home today, this won’t really matter, as the cost of installing ductwork can also be a major investment.

The second big “con” customers note is that the indoor air handler units are not beautiful. While they’re relatively unobtrusive in most rooms—and they don’t block your windows like bulky window units do—mini-split indoor units do not come in a wide variety of styles or designs. This “one size fits all” aesthetic may bother you if you’re very picky about your home’s décor.

Ready to Install Ductless AC Equipment in Your Lancaster County Home?

Comfort Aire Heating and Cooling is your local ductless AC resource. We can guide you through the purchasing process for a mini-split heat pump system that’s perfectly sized to fit your unique home, and expertly install and maintain all of your equipment, too! Contact us today to schedule a quote for your air conditioning installation project.

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