Ductless air conditioning equipment can be used to heat and/or cool one room or multiple rooms, based on the configuration of the system. In general, ductless systems consist of a wall, ceiling or floor mounted indoor unit combined with an outdoor unit. They are most often used in areas where a window air conditioning unit or a supplemental heating element would be placed, such as a new addition to a house or where a ducted system is not providing ample heating or cooling.
Unlike window or wall units that require exposure to the outside of your home, compromising security, the indoor ductless equipment is installed completely inside. Only a small hole is opened behind the unit for refrigerant piping and condensate lines.
Window and wall units can be noisy and annoying and can disturb your sleep. That is because the compressor is contained inside the unit, and when it cycles on and off it creates a noise and sometimes even bangs. The compressor for a ductless system is located outdoors, inside the condensing unit, which cannot be heard inside your home.
One of the most interesting characteristics of a ductless system is the size of the outdoor unit called a condenser. It is typically smaller than a conventional central air conditioning condenser and therefore, is a great option for applications where there is limited outdoor space, like in a condo or town home. The ductless system condenser can also be installed on a mounting bracket on the side of building.
Ductless systems are extremely energy-efficient and greatly reduce your carbon footprint. They distribute air more evenly than traditional units and can be strategically placed to offer the most cooling coverage. Furthermore, energy suppliers like Con Edison offer rebates and incentives to install energy-efficient equipment, whereby reducing your initial investment.
The installation can sometimes be costlier than that of ducted central air conditioning systems, especially if you have an existing ducted system. However, when installing them in a sun room, garage or small apartment, where there is limited room for duct work and a larger indoor unit, a ductless system just makes sense.
If you have an older home or one that does not have existing duct work, a ductless system can be less expensive than installing a complete central air system. Full ducted central air conditioning installations require a significant upheaval in your home and can take several weeks to complete. Ductless systems are not as invasive and can be installed within a few days.
Proper sizing and installation are critical to the performance of your ductless system. This is not a “do it yourself” project – you need a professional. A ductless system will not work properly if the system is sized incorrectly, if the refrigerant lines are not installed properly or not insulated, and if the electronics are mishandled. Besides, EPA guidelines require special certifications to handle refrigerant gases.
When looking for a ductless system, do your homework. Look at what others are saying about the equipment manufacturer and the accessibility of parts when they had a breakdown. Although breakdowns are not common (if you have your equipment serviced and maintained properly), accessing parts can be a challenge when and if they are needed.
Many ductless manufacturers offer certifications and accreditation for installers. When interviewing heating and air conditioning contractors, ask if they are certified installers. They typically have more thorough training by the manufacturer and offer better warranties for both equipment and labor.
There are some cons to installing ductless systems. The upfront costs are higher than conventional replacement systems, the equipment requires routine maintenance (monthly filter cleanings – a relatively easy task but a requirement to ensure your equipment continues to operate properly) and the aesthetics can be deemed a little intrusive, as the indoor air handlers are installed inside your room.
Many homeowners are hesitant to install ductless systems because they are not design friendly. Indeed, there are many manufacturers that only offer standard white or beige covers, but there are some that offer more attractive contemporary design covers, so make sure you know your what is available before you sign a contract.
Overall, the comfort, efficiency and ease of use supersedes the cons and can provide value to homeowners for years to come.
Your home is your biggest and longest-term investment. Take the extra time and effort necessary to make the investment worthwhile. The process requires patience, a lot of planning and the advice of professionals, so use your resources wisely.
If you have any questions about your remodeling project or a contractor, visit hicofsi.org.
Chris Shaffer, Owner – Aquatech Mechanical