The Pros and Cons of Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems
Window air conditioners, space heaters, and baseboard heating systems were once popular for smaller spaces. Nowadays, ductless heating and cooling systems have become a more popular alternative to traditional air conditioners. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of what a ductless HVAC system is and its pros and cons.
What Are Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems?Also called ductless mini-split (or mini-split) systems, ductless units split the parts of the HVAC system between indoor air handlers and an outdoor condenser/compressor. Each air handler each serves a single room. There are no ducts; the air handler units are each connected directly to the outdoor condenser. They are typically mounted high on a wall, sometimes on the ceiling, but sometimes installed low to the floor. Each air handler is controlled by a separate thermostat or remote control. This enables improved temperature/humidity control for each room; some may be warm and others can be set to cooler temperatures. Some units can be installed on outside walls to reduce the length of refrigerant lines.
Advantages of Ductless Heating and CoolingA ductless mini split air conditioner is best suited for homes heated by hot water or electricity. In addition to overall cost savings and flexible control over individual room temperature, other advantages include:
- Better efficiency: Less power is needed to run the system. You can turn off units in unoccupied rooms and none will be colder or overheated because of an overworked HVAC system.
- Simpler installation: A single-zone setup is easy to install; for the most part, ductless systems can be set up in a day, compared to ducted systems that can take weeks to install.
- Improved air quality: Humidity control and air filtration provide a safer indoor environment, so there’s less moisture, dust, particulates, pollen, bacteria, and allergens in the air.
- Quieter performance: Window A/C’s are notorious for producing noise. A mini-split system is barely audible, as it runs continuously without cycling on and off.
- Security: The conduit needed for a ductless system is less than three inches wide. By contrast, a window-mounted air conditioner creates a vulnerability where potential intruders can access your home.
Disadvantages of Ductless Heating and CoolingDespite its benefits, a ductless heating and cooling system does have disadvantages. For one, it is many times the cost of a window A/C or supplemental baseboard heater. The cost-effectiveness of the system depends on local climate and electricity rates. Here are some other disadvantages:
- Maintenance: Air exchangers require significant maintenance to provide effective climate control. Filters must be removed and cleaned on a monthly basis; more often if you have pets or smokers at home.
- Appearance: The size of indoor air exchangers makes them prominent, especially when they’re mounted high on the wall. Ceiling-mounted units are more visually appealing.
- Better for cooling: Mini-split systems are less effective at heating and generally not suited for colder climates. The heat pump has a limited ability to extract warmth from cold air, possibly requiring a fuel-based backup system.