A ductless mini-split air conditioning system is an economical, efficient way to cool your home or business. As the name suggests, ductless heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems do not use ducts to distribute conditioned air into a living space. Instead, individual blower cassettes installed in rooms or zones connect to an outdoor compressor by a conduit routed through a wall. The cassettes blow air into a room without the need for ducts. These devices are quiet, energy efficient, and relatively simple to install.
If your home, apartment, or office does not have a ducted HVAC system, ductless configurations solve the problem. Ductless mini-split systems are also used to air condition places that are difficult to connect to an existing ducted system, such as room additions, outbuildings, attics, and garages.
What Is a Ductless Mini-Split System?
Ductless HVAC systems are available as units that provide heating and air conditioning or as air conditioners only. Instead of delivering conditioned air through ducts, mini-split systems deliver conditioned air to individual rooms or zones. An outside compressor connects to one or more indoor air handlers through a conduit that passes through a small hole in a wall. The conduit houses the tubing of refrigerant, wiring, and the condensate drain.
The simplest ductless configuration is one compressor and one air handler. However, depending on the brand and model, one compressor can support up to six indoor air handlers. Air handlers can be mounted inside on walls, the floor, or ceiling or be concealed in the ceiling.
Unlike standard HVAC systems that have large, noisy compressors that often affect outdoor entertainment areas and bother neighbors, ductless outdoor cabinets can be strategically installed to minimize noise, such as on exterior walls, rooftops, or pads on the ground. Some are made for tight spaces, offering even more flexibility in placement. The maximum distance between indoor blowers and outdoor compressor cabinets depends on the length of the conduit, which can be as much as 100 feet. However, longer spans may reduce efficiency.
Each air handler has its own remote control that sets the temperature, angle of the fins, and fan speed. Some models have humidity controls to remove excess moisture from the air, which increases comfort.
Ductless systems operate with the same principles as standard air conditioners and heat pumps. The compressor pumps liquid refrigerant through tubing to the evaporator coil in the indoor cassette. Air blowing over the coil facilitates the transfer of humidity and heat to the refrigerant. As it gains heat energy, the refrigerant turns from liquid to gas. Fans blow cool, dry air into the living space. The refrigerant cycles back to the compressor. The heat energy is released, and the cycle repeats.
Heat pumps operate according to the same principles. Refrigerant flows through the system, absorbing and releasing heat. During the summer, heat pumps absorb heat from the building’s interior and release it outside. During cooler months, the direction of refrigerant is reversed so that heat pumps absorb latent heat energy from outside and release it inside. Flipping a switch reverses the flow of refrigerant. Heat pumps are more energy efficient than air conditioners because they move heat from one place to another instead of using energy to produce heat.
How Are Ductless Mini-Split Systems Installed?
Ductless systems have three main components: an outdoor compressor, an indoor air handler, and a conduit. Because no ducts are required for ductless systems, they can usually be installed in a single day with minimal disruption.
The outdoor component can be mounted on an exterior wall with special brackets, on a rooftop, or on a pad on the ground. The compressor should be level and have adequate airflow around it.
The placement of the indoor cabinet should allow easy access for cleaning and maintenance and ensure that air circulates freely around it. Experts recommend installing cabinets at least six feet above floor level. Cabinets should not be in direct sunlight or near electronics that produce heat to facilitate accurate temperature readings. The cassette must be level, placed on a vertical wall, and fastened to studs. The condensate drain must have a direct path to the outdoors.
To connect the two units, technicians will drill a hole approximately three inches in diameter through an exterior wall for the conduit to pass through.
What Are the Benefits of Ductless Systems?
Ductless systems offer many benefits, including better energy efficiency, quiet operation, and enhanced convenience.
Ductless air conditioners are more energy efficient because air is not lost through ducts. According to the Department of Energy, ducts can lose up to 30% of the conditioned air flowing through them. Many ductless systems operate with variable-speed inverter compressors that use less energy. Cassettes can be switched off when rooms are not in use, unlike a ducted system that blows conditioned air into all the rooms connected to the ducts regardless of use.
Because cassettes are controlled independently, you can define precise temperatures for each room. If you like a warm bedroom and a cool office, you can set each room to a different temperature. Inverter compressors reduce fluctuations in temperature, which increases comfort while using less energy. If you have a ducted system but want extra cooling power for a room, such as a sunroom or a kitchen, a ductless air conditioner can cool just that space. If you have rooms with hot or cold spots, ductless systems even out the inconsistencies and increase comfort.
Mini-split systems are quiet, too. Inverter compressors do not make as much sound as standard air conditioners. Longer conduits allow placement farther away from the living space or outdoor entertainment areas. Indoors, you only hear the air blowing through the cassette.
Because ductless systems do not transfer air through ducts, the air in one room is not blown into another. Each cassette has its own filter, which confines biological contaminants, dust, and other airborne pollutants and can enhance indoor air quality.
Ductless air conditioners and heat pumps can be configured as single-zone or multi-zone systems. Single-zone systems cool one room with one compressor. Multi-zone systems connect multiple indoor blowers to one outdoor compressor. Each indoor unit has its own wireless controls. If you are planning an expansion, you can add indoor units when you are ready to do so. And you can add up to the maximum number of connections.
Is a Ductless System Right for Me?
There are several factors to consider when deciding if a ductless system is right for you, including cost, convenience, comfort, architectural limitations, and lifestyle. They also offer flexibility in design. However, some people do not like the intrusive look of the cabinet. Others prefer the sleek look of the cabinet instead of duct grilles in a room.
If your Orange County, CA home or business does not have ductwork, ductless mini-split systems offer a convenient, simple solution. If you are adding on to your home or would like to install air conditioning in a garage or outbuilding, ductless units are a convenient way to do so.
Although ductless systems can cost more, some people feel the convenience, enhanced comfort, and better energy efficiency offset the cost.
For optimum performance, ductless systems must be correctly sized and installed by trained HVAC professionals. Refrigerant must be properly handled and integrated into the system.
Our Professional Services
The experienced, licensed technicians at Sano Heating & Air Conditioning train with state-of-the-art equipment. We install, repair, and maintain leading brands of ductless air conditioning and heat pump systems.
Sano Heating & Air Conditioning offers comprehensive HVAC services, including new installations of air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces. We provide repairs and maintenance for all leading brands. Our annual maintenance plan includes two tune-ups each year and other benefits. We also provide sheet metal services and duct installation and repair services.
To find out more about installing a ductless mini-split air conditioner or heat pump, call Sano Heating & Air Conditioning today. We offer free estimates for replacements. Our customer reviews tell the story of our service, attention to detail, and customer satisfaction.