A ductless AC or mini-split system can be a great option if you’re looking to add air conditioning to your home. The terms ductless and mini-split are often used interchangeably as both refer to the same type of system. Ductless or mini-split systems work to cool in the same way as any other type of air conditioning, but there are some fairly major differences between a mini-split system and a central AC system. In this article, we’ll show you exactly what ductless mini-split systems are, how they work and what advantages they can have over central air conditioning.
An Introduction to Split AC Systems
All air conditioners and heat pumps cool by removing heat from inside the building and then releasing the heat outside the building using an evaporator coil and a condenser coil. The evaporator coil is what captures and removes the heat, and the condenser coil then releases the heat. Most central AC and heat pump systems are split systems, which means that the condenser coil is in the outdoor unit and the evaporator coil is in the indoor air handler part of the system. This is different from packaged systems where the condenser coil and evaporator coil are in the same unit.
In a central AC system, there is one large air handler that is centrally located in the building and houses both the fan or blower and the evaporator coil. On one side of the air handler is the return ductwork where warm air is pulled into the system. Connected to the opposite side of the air handler is the supply ductwork where the cold air circulates and is blown out into each room.
Understanding Ductless Mini-Split Systems
As the name suggests, mini-splits are a smaller version of a split system. These systems have an outdoor AC unit that houses the condenser coil and one or more indoor units that each have an evaporator coil. The outdoor unit can be either a standard AC compressor or a heat pump. Mini-splits with an AC compressor can only provide air conditioning, whereas systems with a heat pump can function to provide air conditioning and heating.
The term ductless refers to the fact that mini-splits don’t use ductwork to circulate air. Instead, these systems have self-contained indoor air handler units that contain both a fan and an evaporator coil. The fan pulls warm air in, forces the air over the evaporator coil and then blows cold air back out. The air handlers are usually installed high up on a wall, but it is also possible to install them directly on the floor or ceiling. Since mini-splits don’t have ductwork to circulate air around the building, each air handler can only cool the room or area that it’s in.
Mini-splits can be either single-zone or multi-zone systems. A single-zone system has just one air handler, which means it can only cool one area or room. Multi-zone systems can have anywhere from two to eight indoor units that are all connected to a single outdoor unit, which means that they can potentially cool every room in the building. The reason we say potentially is that there are some limitations to this type of system. Namely, every air handler must be located within a certain distance of the outdoor unit, and this is typically somewhere between 50 and 150 feet depending on the size and strength of the outdoor compressor.
Advantages of Ductless Mini-Split Systems
Ductless mini-splits have a number of advantages that can make them a great alternative to central air conditioning. One major advantage is that mini-splits take up far less room compared to central air. In a central AC system, the air handler is quite large and usually takes up about the same amount of space as a small closet. Mini-split air handlers, on the other hand, are fairly small and usually only around two feet tall and two to three feet wide. They are also typically only around nine inches deep, which means they don’t stick out from the wall all that much. The outdoor unit in a mini-split system is also relatively small and typically no more than half the size of a central AC unit or heat pump.
The fact that mini-splits don’t need any ductwork to function is yet another reason they take up far less space. This makes them perfect for buildings that don’t have an existing ducted HVAC system. Installing ductwork in a building that doesn’t already have it is usually impossible simply because there isn’t sufficient space for all of the ducts. Even if there is enough available space, installing a duct system would require extensive construction and renovations.
Mini-splits are also ideally suited for any rooms or parts of the building that don’t have ductwork and aren’t connected to the central HVAC system. For instance, a mini-split can be perfect for keeping your garage cool in the summer and even heating it in the winter. Mini-splits are also commonly used when putting an addition onto the building as they will typically be more cost-effective than adding ductwork to the addition and connecting it to the central HVAC system. If you were to connect the addition to your existing HVAC system, you would often need to replace your AC or furnace with a larger unit. Since the addition will increase the total square footage of the home, your existing unit may not be powerful enough to effectively cool or heat the larger space.
Mini-splits are also much easier and less expensive to install. Each air handler is mounted onto the wall directly over a small hole that is used to connect it to the outdoor unit. This hole houses a conduit that contains the two refrigerant lines, the power supply and the condensate drain tube that allows the water that collects in the air handler to drain outside. A single-zone mini-split system can easily be installed in just one day, while multi-zone systems typically take no more than two days to fully install.
Mini-splits are also superior in terms of energy efficiency. The average central AC unit has an energy efficiency rating of around 15 SEER, while many mini-split systems are around 30 SEER or even higher meaning they are twice as efficient. Another reason why mini-splits are more efficient is that central HVAC systems waste lots of energy due to leaks in the ductwork. The cold air can also start to warm up as it moves through the ducts, which further reduces efficiency and makes the system run longer. This isn’t an issue with mini-splits since the air handler pulls air in and blows it straight back out so there is no energy waste or issues with heat gain.
Wichita’s HVAC Installation Experts
Whether you’re looking to install a ductless mini-split or any other HVAC unit, you can trust the technicians at Midwest Mechanical for help. We offer an extensive selection of mini-split systems as well as central ACs, heat pumps and furnaces, and we also provide professional HVAC repair and maintenance services. For more information on mini-splits or to learn if a ductless system is right for your home, give Midwest Mechanical a call today.