There’s a lot of market hype surrounding ductless heating and cooling. Touted for extreme efficiency, is a ductless system everything it’s cracked up to be? We’ll take a closer look, examining the pros and cons of ductless heating and cooling to help you determine whether a ductless is right for your home.
First Things First – What is a Ductless System, Anyway?
A relative newcomer to the American market, ductless systems have been in use overseas for quite some time. Mechanically, they operate similarly to split system hence their alter ego: ‘Ductless mini split system.’ Like split systems, there are two parts: A larger, outside compressor, and one (or more) wall-mounted or recessed ceiling units within the home. As the name suggests, these systems require no venting or ducts. How do they cool? A few small, 3-inch holes and tubing are required to accommodate refrigerant lines which facilitate the delivery of cooled or heated air throughout your home via fans in the interior unit(s). Each interior unit houses its own adjustable thermostat, allowing for zoned heating/cooling with multiple interior units.
What Makes Ductless Systems So Great?
There are many benefits of ductless mini-splits:
- Ductless Systems are Easy to Install
Ductless systems do not require ductwork or an air handler and drainage, just a few small holes to accommodate refrigerant lines. Interior units mount quickly and easily to the wall/ceiling, making installation a breeze.
- Ductless Systems are an Efficiency Superstar
Unlike the typical split system, with SEER ratings in the 14-17 range, today’s top performing ductless systems boast efficiency ratings pushing 30 SEER, offering savings of up to 50% on your monthly heating and cooling costs.
- There is No Heat Loss with a Ductless System
Unlike traditional ducted systems, which can lose up to 25% of heating/cooling via leaks and heat loss through the ducts in unconditioned attic/crawlspaces, ductless systems offer substantial energy and monetary savings. No ducts = no heat loss.
- Mini Splits are Great for Individual Room Temperature Control
Ductless systems offered improved comfort control with the installation of multiple interior units, providing varying temperatures at each unit location for more efficient ‘zoned’ temperature control. Not using a space? Adjust settings for savings.
- Ductless Systems are Quiet
Unlike the noisy drone of a split system or window unit, ductless systems are quiet as a whisper, and outdoor units on par with the noise level of your kitchen fridge.
- ‘Mini’ Splits Take Up Little Space
Making them a great choice for older homes, and those with limited attic/crawlspace/closet space necessary to accommodate ductwork and air handler components.
Okay, But How About the Not-So-Great Parts?
Ductless systems are not for everybody. The main things that scare homeowners away from mini split systems include:
- Bulky Looks
People overlook vents, which are common. However the larger interior components integral to a mini split can be a major eyesore for some homeowners, appearing like a massively long printer suspended on the wall.
- A Higher Up-Front Cost
Ductless systems do have a higher up-front cost, though this may be easily recouped in energy savings over the life of the system given their far higher efficiency and SEER ratings.
- Increased Regular Maintenance
Like traditional systems, ductless systems require professional maintenance service at least annually. However the air filters of ductless systems require frequent cleaning – at least monthly (more with kids/pets). Ductless fans can’t tolerate accumulated debris, and if you fail to clean the filters, costly professional cleaning will likely be required, or the performance and lifespan of your system could be severely impacted.
- Heating Options are Limited
Though ductless systems do provide heating, heating capacity is limited to certain climate zones. In addition, only certain ductless models provide both heating and cooling, so if you need both and don’t have a backup heat source, shop carefully for a properly sized system for your climate.