If you are looking for an alternative way to cool down your home other than the central cooling systems, a ductless air conditioner is an excellent alternative. A ductless ac, also known as mini-split systems, comes with an innovative design that does not include ductwork, thus keeping your home cool with a small energy bill. Ductless AC units are great. However, before you invest in this type of system for heating and cooling your home, let’s discuss how they work, their pros and cons, and also answer a few FAQs below.
- How Ductless Air Conditioner Work
- Mini-Split vs. Multi-Split
- Ductless AC vs. Ventless Air Conditioner
- Why Choose a Ductless System For Your Home
- Pros and Cons of Ductless AC Units
How Ductless Air Conditioner Work
Ductless air conditioners and central air conditioners work the same way. They suck warm air in your home, absorb heat and moisture from the air, dump the heat and moisture and produce cold air for your home. However, the main difference between these two air conditioners is how they deliver cold air back to your home. The central air conditioner blows the cold air into a series of air ducts distributed around the house. This ensures the entire home is cooled down. A ductless ac unit blows air directly into the one-room it is installed.
Because they only cool one room, ductless air conditioners do not need ducts like a central AC unit. A ductless air conditioner contains three main components that make it work. A blower/evaporator unit, a conduit, and a condenser.
The blower/evaporator unit is the one installed in your home. It is mounted on the wall in the room it serves, usually near the ceiling. The job of the blower/evaporator unit is to suck the warm air in the room, absorb moisture and heat, and then finally blow the cooled air back into the room.
The conduit connects the blower/evaporator to the condenser unit. The conduit is basically where the power cable, refrigerant tubing, and condensate drain are housed. The conduit feeds electric power to both the indoor and outdoor units and also provides a pathway where the moisture and heat escape toward the condenser.
The condenser is the third and final unit of a ductless air conditioner. The condenser is the unit that sits outside. The job of the condenser is to receive all the heat and moisture extracted by the blower/evaporator unit and get rid of it into the outdoor air.
Mini-Split vs. Multi-Split Systems
Mini-Split/ Ductless System
A mini-split system is the other name of a ductless system and can also be referred to as a single zone system. This system, as seen above, utilizes three components, which are the indoor unit, which is the blower/evaporator, the conduit, and the condenser, which is the outdoor unit.
A multi-split system or a multi-zone ductless system connects several indoor units to one outdoor condenser. A multi-split system, unlike a mini-split system, can cool different rooms. How is this possible? Let me explain.
In a multi-split system, the number of indoor units, Blower/evaporator, will depend on the rooms or areas you are cooling down. If, for example, you have five rooms, then you will need five indoor units. However, you will only require one condenser. One outdoor compressor can handle up to eight indoor units.
With different indoor units, a multi-split system allows for what we call zoning. This means you can cool each room independently. This is an advantage in a home where its occupants prefer different temperature levels. An individual can control the temperature in his/her room to accommodate individual preferences. In empty or unused rooms, a multi-split system can be turned off without affecting other areas in the home, which saves energy and money.
Choosing Between Mini-Split vs. Multi-Split Systems
The apparent difference between a Mini-Split vs. Multi-Split Systems is the number of units in each system. Mini-split has one while multi-split can handle up to eight units. Another difference is the price. With more units, it is obvious a multi-system is expensive to buy and also install.
Multi-split ductless systems are, however, suitable for cooling the whole home. Zoning abilities also allow you to save and get better efficiency that whole-house air conditioner units. They are also convenient by enabling each individual to customize his/her comfort.
Your needs should influence the decision on which to choose between the two ductless systems. You should determine what you need, your current situation, and which is suitable for your home. Also, you should consider the area/size you are cooling, your budget, and the installation capabilities.
If, after looking at the above factors, you still do not know which is the best system for your home, a local HVAC professional should be able to advise you.
Ductless vs. Ventless Air Conditioner
Most people confuse ductless ac with ventless ac. However, these are two different air conditioners, and each has a different working mechanism. The lack of ducts is very different from having no vents. If you are looking for a home cooling solution that is more like a central air conditioning system, then you should be looking for a ductless ac unit and not a ventless ac unit.
Ventless air conditioners go by several names. They are also called swamp coolers or evaporate air conditioners. Ventless air conditioners get their name because, unlike ductless, central air conditioner or window AC, they do not need to exhaust the room’s heat to the outdoors.
Ventless ac units are not true air conditioners. Instead of utilizing a refrigerant plus compressor system to create cool air, they use evaporated cold air to cool a room. At the bottom of the unit, they feature a water reservoir. First, hot air from a room is sucked into the unit by a fan. A fan then draws water from the tank into a cooling pad where it is cooled down. The fan then blows air across the cooling pad and loads it with moisture. Finally, the moistened cold air is released into the room.
The main advantage of evaporative air conditioners is they are cheap to buy, operate, maintain than ductless, or central air conditioners. They are also a very portable option, and those living in drier areas can utilize them also as humidifiers. The downside is that they do not work effectively in high humidity areas. As the air gets more humid, its ability to produce cold air is greatly reduced.
Why Choose a Ductless System For Your Home
Depending on your home’s construction, a ductless system will make sense to use in a variety of situations. If you are adding a room to your home, converting an uninhabited place like an attic, or have a room where ductwork cannot be properly installed, a ductless system is a good option. If you do not want to heat and cool rooms you are not using; ductless is also a good option.
Though ductless air conditioning systems are expensive, they are cheaper than adding ductwork to an existing house and using the central air conditioner. Unlike central air conditioners, ductless ac units are also gaining popularity because of their compatibility with modern architectural homes and apartment design.
Pros and cons of Ductless AC Units
Pros of Ductless AC Units
1. Customized Comfort
Zone heating and cooling is one of the advantages of a ductless air conditioner. This allows a user to set the temperature of a room based on his/her preferences.
2. Cost Savings
A ductless system is cheaper to run than central air conditioners, more economical to maintain and avoid problems of loss of heat and cool air, which further increases your electric bills. Unlike the central air conditioner that cools down the whole house, ductless can be turned off in specific unused rooms that do not require heating or cooling, which drastically also reduces your electric bills.
3. Easier to Install
Installing a central air conditioner can take one or several works depending on the number of rooms, both indoor or outdoor. However, with a ductless system, it can take a little as one day, and you are good to go. Ductless systems also only require a 3-inch wide hole, unlike central air conditioner ductwork, which is extensive and may sometime require reconstruction in some parts of your home.
4. Versatile Applications
Lack of ductwork, compact, and portable nature of ductless ac units also makes them a great option.
5. Energy Efficient
According to the US department of energy, ductworks are responsible for up to 30 percent of the energy produced by your home heating and cooling systems. Problems that contribute to energy loss through ductwork include leaking ductwork, uninsulated ductwork, and bad duct designs. Because they do not require ductwork, ductless systems are energy efficient and also require less electricity than most air conditioner units.
Cons of Ductless AC Units
1. Higher Upfront Cost
Excluding ductwork or if your home has existing ductwork, ductless air conditioners might cost up to 30 percent higher than central cooling and heating systems.
Some homeowners may still prefer the built-in appearance of central air conditioning units. With ductless systems, the indoor unit, which is the blower/evaporator unit is usually located in the wall at a higher point. However, the unit is small, and at a higher position in your home, it is improbable to cause obstruction.
Yes, ductless air conditioners need to be vented. Ductless air conditioners take the warm air in your home, remove excess moisture, and cool it down. The heat and condensate are moved to an outdoor unit through vents where they are exhausted to the environment.
The number of ductless units you need will depend on the number of rooms you need to cool down. However, keep in mind that you will only require the indoor units in the room you are cooling. You only require one outdoor unit which can serve up to eight indoor units.
Unlike ductless systems, central air conditioning systems use air ducts to cool and heat your home. Along the way, ducts may have cracks, loosely unfastened, and other issues that will force the ac unit to work harder, thus consuming more energy. Ductless systems are efficient because they can cool your home faster without wasting energy and saving you from high utility bills.
The condenser is the unit of a ductless system that sits on the outside. It is a must; the condenser is kept outside because it receives heat and moisture extracted from your indoor air and gets rid of it.
Yes. A multi-split ductless AC unit can cool up to eight rooms.
Ductless air conditioning units have numerous applications and advantages when installing in a home. Their use can range from multifamily housing, non-ducted homes, and can also be an excellent choice for small apartments. Ductless AC units are also great for homeowners extending their homes with room additions where installing and distribution ductwork is not feasible.