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  • Writer's pictureRob Mitchell

Ductless Heating and Cooling

What is a ductless mini-split?

A ductless mini-split system works like a regular central air conditioner but without the ducts. Both systems have an outdoor compressor. A central air conditioner has a single indoor evaporator coil and a fan connected to long lengths of ductwork to distribute the conditioned air throughout your home. Instead, a ductless a mini-split system places small units in different “zones”, each with their own individual evaporator coil and fan. Each indoor unit is connected to the outdoor unit by thin lines of refrigerant, power, and drainage. Most residential systems will allow up to six indoor units to be connected to a single outdoor unit. Mini-splits with heat pumps are becoming increasingly more common. A heat pump allows your mini-split to both heat and cool your selected zones.

Mini-Split indoor unit

Following are some of the areas where you might see a mini-split in action.


Ductwork supplies and returns are not allowed in garages due to safety issues. However, many garages are used year-round for more than car storage. When it is extremely cold or hot outside it is not comfortable in them. A ductless system allows you to heat or cool your garage all year long.


In many homes, bedrooms are the furthest rooms from a central heating and cooling system, they often suffer as a result. If your master suite isn’t being properly heated or cooled, sometimes a ductless solution is preferable to trying to modify the home’s ductwork or replacing the existing system.


Ductless systems are also ideal for homes with additions. Adding a ductless system can be an excellent way to heat and cool a new space without extending your existing ductwork.


Did you just turn your basement into the perfect party room? It’s probably too cold most of the time, and too hot when you have a large group of people down there, even in the winter months. A ductless mini-split might be the easiest way to resolve this problem.


Similar to the basement, if you have a usable room in the attic or upper level of your home, but it lacks a heating and cooling system, a mini-split can be used to fill the void.


When you install a mini-split, you decide how many zones you want it to be. You can install just one indoor unit to cover a single room or zone. Or you can install five or six indoor units to provide cooling and heating to a larger area.


You’re probably familiar with the wall-hung variety of a mini-split indoor unit. These are generally mounted on an exterior wall 4 to 6 inches from the ceiling. In addition to wall mounted units, floor-mounted units are available for homes where windows or ceilings prevent easy wall-mounting. Floor-standing units are an option for rooms with even less usable wall space. In some applications, ceiling cassettes may be used for a more subtle look and better downward airflow.


Several advantages of ductless mini-split systems.


One of the biggest advantages of a mini-split system over traditional central air is the ease of installation. If you have an older home without ducting, installing an entire ductwork system can be impractical or maybe impossible.


In the heating and cooling industry, SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. For a cooling system, the higher the SEER rating the more efficient the equipment. High efficiency central air conditioners rate about 18-20 SEER. The cooling in a ductless mini-split can be in the 25-30 SEER range. For heating, the acronym is HSPF, or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. The same is true for HSPF, where ductless systems are among the most efficient machines on the market.


The primary reason for this is that mini-splits use inverter technology and a variable-speed compressor. Much like a dimmer on a light, it has more than an “on/off” switch. What this means is that it’s only using as much energy as it needs. By contrast, most standard air conditioning units have only one or two speeds, so the machine turns on and off more often.


Finally, according to the Department of Energy, since mini-splits have no ducts, they avoid the energy losses associated with ductwork of central forced air systems. Duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for air conditioning, especially if the ducts are in an unconditioned space such as an attic.


Disadvantages of Ductless Systems.


The primary disadvantage of mini-splits is their cost. Single-head units start between $5,000 to $8,000 per zone. If you have more than two zones, you can expect to pay $11,000 and up.


Ductless systems need regular maintenance and service, just like a full HVAC system. Their smaller size does not mean there is less need to maintain the equipment.


Some people may not like the appearance of the indoor part of the system. While they're designed to be compact and discreet, they still need to be installed on walls or ceilings throughout your home, which some people find unattractive.


Ductless mini-split systems come with advantages over traditional ducted HVAC systems and are ideal for a wide range of applications. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have or make a visit to evaluate your situation for the installation of a mini-split system. Just give us a call.

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