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Ductless Air Conditioning Options

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For homes with non-ducted heating systems or in spaces in which extending distribution ducts for a conventional central air conditioning system would cost too much, a ductless air conditioning unit might be the answer.

Although ductless air conditioning options run the gamut from portable room air conditioners, wall air conditioners, and window air conditioners, when most people use the term "ductless air conditioning," they are referring to a “mini split” air conditioning unit that is installed in lieu of central AC.

Ductless systems originated in Europe and Asia. Since more people have been looking to retrofit AC units into older homes, they have gained popularity in the U.S. The term “split unit” describes virtually all central air conditioners, where a compressor resides outside and the evaporator coil unit exists indoors. A mini split unit, however, may feature multiple evaporator coil units in individual boxes with a separate blower fan. These coils connect to the outside unit by means of conduit.

An installer can mount the unit on a ceiling, flush-mounted in a drop ceiling, or on a wall. A mini split unit does not have to sit within a window because it requires no venting. Since ducts cause as much as a 30 percent loss of energy from central air conditioners, a ductless AC unit operates even more efficiently than central AC.

Typically, ductless mini split units cost more than regular central AC units; however, in certain situations in which installing central air conditioning is not possible, they offer numerous advantages over other options such as window, wall, or portable ACs.

Compared to window and portable room air conditioners, ductless air conditioning is:

  • More energy efficient, providing more cooling with less power
  • Cost less to operate than equivalent room air conditioners
  • Quieter than room and portable air conditioners, with a noise rating comparable to a central AC unit

With multiple wall units and thermostats, you can use only the units in occupied rooms, making a mini split AC unit even more energy efficient. By turning on every unit, mini split ACs offer the option of whole house cooling. They also provide more consistent cooling by distributing the air more evenly than a room air conditioner does.

Ductless air conditioning doesn’t block windows, which is a huge benefit in milder climates in which users may opt to open windows to create a cross-breeze rather than turn on the AC. Many ductless air conditioning units also provide heating options, making them a good investment year-round in areas that enjoy all four seasons.

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