The popularity of ductless air conditioners continues to grow as consumers search for alternatives to window units and conventional central air conditioning systems. Sometimes referred to as "mini splits," ductless technology provides a cost effective alternative for applications where the use of ducted A/C equipment would be impractical.
A ductless air conditioner operates similarly to a ducted air conditioner. The heart of every A/C system includes a compressor that applies force to low pressure refrigerant and transforms it into a high pressure gas. The condenser and fan work together to dissipate the accumulated heat, and the refrigerant emerges as a high pressure liquid. At the evaporator coil, the liquid extracts heat from the indoor air and the resulting low pressure gas is pumped back into the compressor to complete the cycle.
Like a conventional split system, ductless air conditioners include an outdoor condensing unit to help minimize interior noise. While central air conditioners employ a single air handler, blower, and evaporator coil, mini split systems house all three components together in separate indoor units that are strategically placed throughout the building. Stylish enclosures are hung on interior walls or placed in the ceiling, which completely eliminates the need for ductwork in the air distribution design.
Advantages of Ductless Technology
Ductless air conditioners have many advantages when compared to traditional central air conditioning systems. The growing popularity of the technology is driven by a variety of factors.
Conventional air conditioning systems utilize a network of interconnected duct runs that are used to deliver conditioned air to the various sub-domains within the home or building. Constructed of metal or flexible plastic, ductwork is a relatively inefficient distribution method. Connections are prone to leakage, and flexible duct can sag over time. The loss of efficiency from a poorly designed or improperly installed air distribution system can account for as much as 30 percent of total system energy consumption.
In contrast, point-of-use air handlers deliver conditioned air directly into the room without passing through thermally inefficient ductwork. By positioning the air handler directly at the delivery point, ductless systems increase efficiency by eliminating friction loss, leakage, and design deficiencies. Additionally, the placement of individual fan coil units throughout the building creates independent cooling zones that can be adjusted through individual thermostats to meet the lifestyle demands of the occupants. Zone cooling allows for higher temperature settings in unoccupied rooms, which can result in substantial energy savings.
Although the cost of ductless air conditioning equipment may be higher when compared to a conventional system or a room air conditioner, ductless split systems are very cost effective over the life of the equipment. In new construction, eliminating ductwork and the air distribution system can result in substantial cost savings. Ductwork often causes unnecessary building design modifications that are eliminated by using ductless equipment.
Room air conditioners are generally noisy and inefficient. Ductless split systems provide quiet comfort, enhanced cooling options, and superior energy efficiency ratings that can result in significant savings in annual utility costs.
Over time, dirt and debris accumulates in the interior of an air distribution system. When moisture is added through condensation, biological agents have the nutrients they need to propagate. Mold and fungi can degrade indoor air quality and aggravate allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Window units are almost impossible to completely seal, which allows outdoor contaminants to enter the livable area in a home or office.
The evaporator coil in a ductless system is accessible and easy to clean. The absence of ductwork deprives harmful organisms of the environment they need to flourish. Eliminating the dirt and debris that accumulates in ductwork can help keep a home cleaner, healthier, and smelling fresh.
When a central air conditioner malfunctions, the entire structure is affected, and the indoor temperature will remain uncomfortable until the unit is repaired. In areas where summer heat is extreme, this can create health risks for the elderly and small children. Since ductless systems often employ multiple condensing units in different zones, occupants can move to the areas of the home or office that are still air conditioned.
Ductless split systems are unique in that the most recent manufactured products include inverter technology. When a room has a light cooling load, a variable speed motor allows the compressor to run more slowly, which reduces energy costs. When the room has a higher cooling demand, the motor signals the compressor to run at a higher speed. In addition to saving energy, the unit is far more responsive and quick to provide a measured amount of conditioned air into the living space.