Explore this exciting comfort technology and how it compares to central heat and air and other methods
In a perfect world, every home would have a well-integrated heating and cooling system that worked efficiently and kept occupants comfortable.
But that isn’t always the case. Older homes may be lacking ductwork in some areas, and bad insulation may mean section of a home is always too cold even with central air and heat. Even in newer homes, it might be too costly to add ductwork to additions.
When faced with problems such as these, there’s a little known but highly effective alternative to traditional heat pumps and central air units: ductless mini-split systems.
Don’t be put off by their long name.
Mini-splits are a relatively simple technology whose flexibility and ease of installation make them an ideal choice for spaces that are hard to heat and cool.
How Ductless Mini-Splits Work
A ductless mini-split system works similarly to a traditional central system, but with a couple of key differences. It has an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit.
But unlike central systems, mini-splits do not have any ductwork.
Instead, a conduit links the indoor and outdoor units, housing the condensate drain, power cable, and refrigerant and suction tubing.
Since ductwork isn’t required for ductless mini-split systems, they can be installed just about anywhere—on any section of the home, and any story. All that’s needed to connect the indoor and outdoor units is a small hole in the wall for the conduit to run through.
In addition to easy installment (compared to adding new ductwork), you can choose between a ductless mini-split system that has singular cooling capabilities, or one that works similarly to a heat pump, with heating and cooling abilities.
Unlike traditional systems, the air-handling unit does not live in the basement or attic. Instead, the unit is present and visible inside the home, though these units are usually very sleek and can be mounted on the wall or the ceiling. The condenser component of the mini-split does reside outside however, and can possibly operate as the condenser for more than one mini-split air handler within the home.
Comparison To Window A/Cs
Since mini-split systems require an indoor handler, you may wonder why a mini-split would be better than a standard window model air conditioner.
Mini-split handlers have some big advantages over window unit ACs. The air handler is much more discrete and doesn’t require clogging a whole window of your home.
Because the air compressor is located outside, they are much quieter than window units and generally much more efficient than window models or even central air systems. Besides, they can offer a supplemental heat source to areas that, due to lack of ductwork, may be heated by less inefficient and more dangerous modes of heating, like space heaters.
Multi-Zone Heating & Cooling
As mentioned earlier, some mini-split systems allow one outdoor compressor unit to connect to up to four indoor units, creating up to four different heating and cooling zones in the home. Standard central systems work most efficiently when all the ductwork is opened, regardless if you’re wanting to condition a space or not.
On the flip side, mini-splits allow you to section your home into different zones and heat and cool these zones as you feel necessary, allowing you to save money and energy. Additionally, because mini-splits don’t have ductwork, they’re more energy efficient—Energy Star notes that in a typical home, 20% of conditioned is lost through leaky ductwork.
Work with a Knowledgeable A/C Company
While mini-split systems are a great option, they’re not foolproof. If you want to install a ductless mini-split in your home, make sure that you’re working with an A/C company who is familiar with the systems and installation. Improper sizing can potentially drive up both your initial purchase cost and your long-term energy bill.
At Richmond’s Air, we’re dedicated to helping you understand and find the best cooling and heating solutions for your metro-Houston home. Continue to read more on our Heat Beat Knowledge Center and our Blog to learn more about the best ways to cool your home. Call us today if you are thinking about replacing your ductless mini-split systems with a new central heating & air conditioning unit.