In much of the world, the ductless HVAC system is the preferred choice – and its popularity is growing in North America too.
So let’s explore the advantages of these efficient, economical heating and air conditioning systems.
Ductless HVAC System FAQs
This guide to the advantages of a mini split system begins with answers to common questions.
What is a ductless cooling and heating system?
A ductless cooling and heating system, also commonly known as a mini split system, is an alternative option to the traditional ducted HVAC system.
A mini split system has an outside unit called the condenser, and an inside unit called the evaporator. Sometimes, the evaporator will also be called the air-handler or simply the indoor unit.
The term “mini” is used because the outdoor unit of a mini split system is smaller than the outdoor unit of a typical split system.
“Ductless” means that this system does not require ductwork.
Did you know? Some mini split systems are designed with indoor units small enough to be hidden in ductwork – right at the grate, so they’re unseen but pump out just as much air into your home as a standard evaporator unit.
What’s the difference between single-zone and multi-zone ductless systems?
A single-zone ductless system has one outdoor unit (the condenser) and one indoor unit (the evaporator).
A multi-zone ductless system has one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units placed in different rooms, or “zones,” throughout the house. A multi-zone system can have anywhere from two evaporator units to five or more, depending on the owner’s needs. Generally, the larger the space that you wish to cool or heat, and the more rooms it contains, the more evaporator units you will need.
How does a ductless system work?
A ductless cooling and heating system cools a home in almost exactly the same way that a window AC unit does. To cool a zone, the ductless system uses refrigerant to move heat from the evaporator to the condenser, in other words carries it out of your home, until it has reached the desired temperature.
To heat a zone, a ductless system reverses this process. It reverses the flow of refrigerant so that it absorbs heat from outside at the condenser and carries it inside to the evaporator to heat up the zone. This is a very effective heating method as long as the outside temperature doesn’t drop too low. Most ductless heat pumps are a reliable heating method in temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, some units from Pioneer and other brands can collect enough heat in temperature well below freezing. The technology gets better with each new generation of equipment.
Advantages of Ductless Cooling and Heating Systems
Alright, we wanted to make sure all readers were acquainted with the basics of a mini split system. Now, here’s what many of you came to discover. Here are reasons to consider a ductless heat pump system.
1. Zone Control
Zone control means that instead of having one temperature control for an entire house, each individual zone can be controlled separately.
For example, if the basement of a house were going to be unoccupied for a period of time, the homeowners could turn off the heating or cooling in the basement while keeping the rest of the house comfortable.
In the same way, zone control allows for people who have different climate preferences to all be comfortable in the same house. So, if someone wants their bedroom to be cool and another person would prefer for their room to be warm, a ductless heating and cooling system can accommodate both people.
Zone control is a great advantage for those who live with someone who has particular climate needs, such as a more elderly person who may need a warmer temperature to be comfortable.
Here’s a huge bonus of zoned heating and air conditioning: Zone control makes ductless systems energy efficient. When you are able to heat or cool a particular part of the house while an unused part of the house stays uncontrolled, you save both energy and money.
2. Reduced Noise
Ductless heating and cooling systems are the quietest HVAC systems on the market right now. The condenser is outside, so its noise is kept out of the house, and the indoor evaporators run softly with quiet fans. This is a nice difference from a regular HVAC system that can be quite noisy.
3. Budget-Friendly Installation
The cost to install a ductless mini split system is usually thousands of dollars cheaper than the cost of installing a regular HVAC system. A big reason for this is that the mini split doesn’t involve any ductwork, so it is a relatively quick and simple installation.
Most ductless systems require pro installation; but there’s a new generation of DIY mini splits that are ideal for handy homeowners. We’ve written several articles about DIY options including this Best DIY Single Zone Ductless Systems and How to DIY a Ductless System.
4. No Ducts Required
A ductless mini split system not only helps to cut installation costs, but it can also be a huge advantage to someone who is working on a building that does not have a built-in duct system.
For example, if you are interested in building an extension onto your home, a ductless heating and cooling system can save you thousands of dollars and lots of installation time because you won’t have to worry about the ductwork. Mini splits can also easily be added to a space that ordinarily doesn’t have climate control, like a garage or attic, because you don’t need to install any extra ductwork.
This is also something to consider for anyone starting a new build. Does it make sense to install ducts and a regular HVAC system, or can you accomplish the same HVAC goals with a ductless mini split?
Another benefit of a ductless system is that you don’t have to worry about your ductwork collecting dirt and debris, or even mold. Instead, you can have peace of mind knowing that there is nothing unhealthy growing in or clogging up your ducts behind the walls where you can’t easily get to them.
5. Small Condenser Size
A ductless heating and cooling system brings the benefit of having a small condenser unit that does not take up much space outside. A mini split condenser is much easier to conceal than the much larger size of a regular HVAC unit, so your yard can be more of your own space, and less unsightly condenser space. Mini split condensers also have the benefit of a more sleek and modern look, so even if it is in a visible location, it won’t be an eyesore.
6. Remote Control Technology
Being able to control your cooling and heating system with a remote isn’t particularly new technology, but several ductless mini split manufacturers have taken it a step further. More and more systems are coming out with the ability to synchronize your mini split to your phone, using an app.
This newer technology allows you to control all the ductless units in your home from your phone, and even has features that allow you to schedule shut-offs or to set up alerts. This is a great advantage if you leave the house without remembering to adjust the heating and cooling settings, because you can do it straight from your phone, stress-free.
7. Air Conditioner and Heater in One
One of the benefits of a ductless mini split system with a heat pump is that it heats as well as cools, so you don’t need a furnace. Furnaces are well known to have certain safety risks, like a leaky gas line or the possibility of a house fire. With a ductless heat pump, you will never have to worry about these common furnace risks.
8. Better Home Security
A regular window AC unit creates the safety issue of having a window that is always partially open. This window makes an easy access point for potential home intruders. A ductless air-conditioner removes this safety concern by cooling the house from the inside evaporator unit, rather than through the window, so when you want your home to be secure, it truly can be.
9. Longer Life Expectancy
One obvious benefit of a ductless mini split system is that the average lifespan is longer than that of a regular HVAC system. A regular HVAC system life expectancy is about 15 years if it is a well-maintained system. A ductless heating and cooling system can last 20-30 years if it is well taken care of. This makes the mini split system a good financial investment, because you can count on it to last a long time before needing to be replaced.
10. Better Air Quality
Regular ducted HVAC systems are designed to cool or heat the inside air to the desired temperature, but not really to do more. Ductless systems, being a newer technology, are designed not only to maintain the indoor air temperature, but also to improve the quality of the air that is brought in from the outdoors. Ductless systems have high-quality filter cartridges that filter the air as it is brought in, removing harmful vehicle exhaust particles, smoke remnants, pollen, and dirt. The filter cartridges are easy to clean or replace as needed.
11. Aesthetically Pleasing
Everyone knows how unsightly a window AC unit looks hanging out of a window, or how inconvenient it is when a window AC unit takes up a whole window and blocks the natural light. A ductless air conditioner or heat pump solves this problem. Ductless systems don’t use windows at all, so you don’t have to worry about losing any natural light. Their sleek, modern design is easy to incorporate into any home.
The evaporator unit of a ductless system is a container that either attaches to a wall or ceiling, or sits on the floor. There are a lot of aesthetically pleasing options for what the evaporator container can look like, so you can make sure to choose one that fits your style.
12. Ducts Waste Energy
Regular ducted HVAC systems can be very inefficient when it comes to energy usage. Here’s why:
The ductwork in a regular HVAC system runs through the walls of the house, which allows for outside air to leak through the ducts. This means that in colder weather, when the HVAC system is working to heat up the house, warmed air will leak through gaps in the ducts and force the HVAC system to work much harder to bring the house up to the desired temperature. Similarly, in hot summer weather when you are trying to cool down your home, cooled air will escape the ducts, and this forces your air conditioner to use more energy to cool things down.
13. Excellent SEER
The energy efficiency of a system is called SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). The SEER is found by dividing the cooling output of an air conditioner over a typical cooling system by the energy it uses in Watt-hours.
Like gas mileage in a car, the higher the SEER, the better the efficiency.
A typical ducted HVAC system ranges from about 13-20 SEER.
A ductless air conditioner ranges from about 15-38 SEER. This is an excellent SEER, and means that a ductless system uses about 50% less energy than a typical ducted HVAC system. The heating rating is called HSPF, or the heating seasonal performance factor, and mini splits have much higher HSPF ratings than conventional split heat pumps.
If energy-efficiency and eco-friendliness are priorities for you, a ductless mini split may be the right choice for your space.
14. Cost Effective
Just like with most equipment, the higher quality mini split you buy, the more rewarding it will be in the long run.
The most energy-efficient ductless HVAC systems cost more than the cheapest models, but the investment will pay off over time by saving you up to 40% on cooling and heating costs.
Ductless cooling and heating systems are a sleek and sustainable alternative to a regular ducted HVAC system. They offer a quiet, efficient, and inexpensive option for houses, garages, basements, barns, home extensions, and more.
Responsible energy use and sustainability are becoming increasingly larger priorities for a lot of people, and technology is constantly improving to meet this higher standard of living. The ductless mini split industry is leading the charge towards a more responsible way to cool and heat our homes.
If you are looking for an HVAC system that is flexible, energy-efficient, and budget-friendly, a ductless cooling and heating system may be the best choice for you.
Interested in learning more? If you believe that a ductless cooling and heating system might be right for your home, check out this page full of helpful brand reviews and prices.