13 Jun What is a Ductless Air System? Benefits, Disadvantages, and More(Last Updated On: June 12, 2017)
A Definition of Ductless Air System
A ductless air system, sometimes called ductless HVAC systems or mini-split systems, are efficient solutions for homes or businesses that do not have air ducts. In many cases, homeowners and business owners also opt for ductless air systems when they want to save on ductwork installation costs for traditional HVAC systems or when they want to heat or cool certain portions of their buildings in a more energy efficient way. Generally, a ductless air system consists of a wall-mounted indoor unit and an outside compressor. Ductless air systems are known for their energy efficiency and quiet operation.
Benefits of a Ductless Air System
Ductless air systems commonly are used in areas of buildings that would be appropriate for a window or wall air-conditioning unit or baseboard heating system, including new additions to a house or areas of a building that are warmer or cooler than the rest of the building. People who own older businesses, houses, churches, and offices opt for ductless air systems because their structures do not have air ducts, and it can be very costly to add the ductwork necessary for traditional HVAC systems.
There are many benefits of a ductless air system. For example, ductless units require one small hole drilled into the wall, unlike window or wall units that rest in a hole a little larger than the unit itself. As a result, ductless air systems leak less air and are more secure than traditional wall or window units. They are much quieter than wall and window AC units, too.
Ductless air systems also are more energy efficient than traditional HVAC systems. On average, homes and businesses can lose approximately 10-25% of their energy to ductwork. Ductless systems feature inverter-driven compressors that speed up and slow down as needed, so they do not turn off completely like HVAC compressors do. When compressors repeatedly start up and turn off, they consume a great deal of energy. Most ENERGY STAR ductless units save owners up to 30% on heating and cooling costs.
Another benefit of a ductless air system is that it delivers cooling and heating. People who own older homes and businesses especially appreciate ductless systems because they can hire professionals to install one unit that keeps them comfortable year-round. They also have only one system to worry about maintaining and cleaning.
Disadvantages of a Ductless Air System
Ductless air systems are not an ideal solution for everyone. When comparing whole-home HVAC solutions to ductless systems, homeowners can expect to pay nearly three times the cost of replacing an existing HVAC system with another ducted system. For homeowners who have ductwork and an HVAC system, it makes more financial sense to repair leaky ducts and replace an HVAC system with another traditional system. For homeowners with drop ceilings and multiple stories, a top-of-the-line ductless system may cost more than having ductwork installed and purchasing a whole-home HVAC solution.
While ductless systems save on energy costs, they hit owners in the wallet in other ways. Specifically, ductless air systems carry hefty upfront costs and require regular maintenance that can be costly. People living in especially cold climates should note that most ductless systems are not designed to operate when the temperature falls below zero, which means you will need a fuel-based backup heating system that also can cost a pretty penny.
Other disadvantages of ductless air systems include
- Upfront costs per zone typically run higher than whole house, ducted systems
- Indoor units are large, and their colors and designs often are limited
- It is difficult to hide indoor units because they cannot be covered; they are much more visible than air registers for ducted HVAC systems
- Ductless systems are intended to cool or heat specific zones rather than a whole house
- Regular maintenance is time-consuming; it is recommended that you wash each unit’s filter at least once a month but more frequently if you smoke or own pets
Ductless air systems are ideal solutions for heating and cooling new additions, creating independent temperature zones, heating or cooling specific areas of a home that tend to be cooler or warmer than the rest of the house, and adding air conditioning to a portion of a home or business that does not have existing ductwork. To get the most out of your ductless air system, you should clean the filters regularly and keep the indoor unit uncovered so that it can work efficiently. It is in your best interests to contact a professional HVAC company to discuss your needs and find the system that best fits your budget and your specific situation.