What’s All This Talk About Ductless AC Systems?

Man repairing mini-split systemAnyone who has lived outside of the great state of Texas can tell you that not all air conditioning systems are created equal. The swamp coolers and attic fans that are staples in arid, cooler climates do not provide the constant temperature homeowners with central heating and air conditioning enjoy. Within the past 20 years or so, the United States has learned to appreciate what some Asian countries have understood since the 1970s: the benefits of ductless AC systems.

What is Ductless Air Conditioning?

The terminology describes the process rather well. Ductless air conditioning involves cooling an area (or zone) in a building without the use of ductwork. A mini-split ductless unit involves two components: the condensing unit, which is outside the building, and the air-handling unit, which is inside to provide the cool air. Instead of transferring the air through a system of air ducts, ductless systems use a conduit-type wiring that can be installed in almost any wall.  A multi-split ductless system works the same way, but instead of the condensing unit serving only one air-handling unit, it services up to four indoor units.

Common Applications

Ductless air conditioning is ideal for buildings without central heating and air conditioning (a rare find in the Austin area but still found in older, historic structures); room additions; attic, garage or basement conversions; new construction; and any facility that would benefit from supplemental cooling in specific rooms or zones within the building due to different comfort levels or different sun exposure. Unlike window unit air conditioners, ductless AC systems can be installed in a room without windows or exterior walls.

Benefits

The primary benefit of ductless air conditioning is in the name itself: no ductwork. Air ducts impact building structures, taking additional space in the framework that ductless systems don’t require. Other benefits include:

  • Ducts are notorious for cracks and leaks where valuable cool air escape unused. In fact, the average home loses approximately 30 percent of the energy required for cooling through ductwork due to leaks and the unconditioned areas through which the ducts transport the air.
  • A ductless system provides zoned comfort solutions not possible with other systems. Instead of one temperature for the entire home, rooms can be adjusted to the comfort level of the person who spends the most time there. In the same way, rooms that tend to stay warmer than others can be cooled independently. A ductless system offers cooling flexibility without the use of ductwork.
  • Because the compressor is outside, ductless systems provide quiet cooling.
  • For security measures, ductless air conditioning is safer than window units because the compressor connects to the air-handling unit through conduits small enough to fit through a three-inch diameter opening.
  • Refrigerant lines and the accompanying power lines are significantly smaller than an air duct system and, therefore, provide easier installation than adding ductwork to a current system.
  • Ductless systems are more energy efficient because the inverter technology keeps the air handlers running constantly but at various power levels rather than powering up and down multiple times in a day.
  • Most brands of ductless air conditioning use air conditioning filters that can be removed and washed, lasting up to ten years.

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