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A ductless air conditioning system provides cooling and heating capabilities without the use of central air ducts. Also called a mini-split system, this type of system consists primarily of: an indoor air handling unit (blower/evaporator) that cools air inside the room, plus, an outdoor unit (compressor/condenser).
These two main components are connected by a thin conduit that contains a refrigerant tube, power cable, and condensation drain line.
To cool (or heat) more than one room, multiple indoor air-handling units are used, one per room. Rooms can be combined into "zones."
An HVAC professional can help you design a system to create the most effective and energy-efficient set-up for your home's specific needs.
"How does a ductless AC system work? "
In a ductless mini-split system, the indoor unit cools a room by circulating warm air over refrigerant coils that absorb heat, which is then transferred through a thin conduit to the outside unit. Once outside, the heat is released into the air. Since the indoor unit is cooling the air, the need for large ducts that transfer cool air from a central air conditioner is eliminated.
Also, because no ducts are used, ductless systems don't suffer from warm/cold air loss, or other duct-related airflow problems that make central air systems less efficient.
When heating is required, the cooling process is essentially reversed. Warm air is collected from outside the home and transferred into the home.
Indoor air handling units allow for a targeted temperature in each room. Indoor and outdoor units range in size depending on the needs of the homeowner.
"What are the pros and cons of ductless versus central AC?"
Advantages of ductless air conditioners include: easier installation, more precise control of individual room temperatures, only heat/cool rooms in use, remote control operation, quieter than central air, improved energy efficiency, lower operating costs, reduced maintenance costs, longer lifespans than central air systems, good indoor air quality.
Disadvantages include: aesthetic appeal of the indoor units, which must be placed on walls or ceilings, higher upfront cost, loss of heating effectiveness at very low outdoor temperatures, requiring supplemental heating sources, improper sizing or placement of indoor units can cause problems leading to decreased efficiency, frequent filter cleaning may be necessary.
Speak with an HVAC professional for advice based on your specific needs.
"What kinds of situations make the most sense for ductless AC systems?"
Ductless mini-splits make perfect sense for: homes with no existing duct work or no adequate space for new air ducts, new construction or renovations that can be designed to incorporate ductless systems, and, problem solving to improve cooling or heating in specific rooms of existing homes.
"What kind of firms install ductless AC systems?"
HVAC professionals install ductless air conditioners. Some firms even specialize in these types of systems. Installation can usually be done in less than a day.
You may also need an electrician to install a circuit box outside for the compressor.