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Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems – Yea or Nay?

air conditioner condensers outside a red brick wall with white windows

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Also known as ductless mini-splits or heat pumps, ductless heating and cooling systems are an efficient way to keep your home comfortable. There are many benefits to these systems, but they can have their drawbacks as well. Here, we’ll discuss how these systems work and whether going ductless would be right for your home.

blue and white ductless air conditioner indoor unit graphic

Image by Pixabay

What Is a Ductless System?

Ductless heating and cooling systems use refrigerant to regulate the temperature in your home. They consist of an outdoor condenser unit and indoor wall units, sort of like duct-based air conditioners. However, unlike traditional systems, instead of distributing air through ductwork, they distribute heated or cooled refrigerant.

The refrigerant is pumped into small indoor units mounted in each room. Those units then blow directly into the room to regulate its temperature, eliminating the need for ductwork.

Benefits of Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems

Since this type of system relies on refrigerant rather than ductwork, it can be highly beneficial to homeowners. Some of the benefits include the following:

  • High efficiency: Ducts actually account for a large portion of lost energy (up to 30%). With a ductless system, you don’t lose heated or cooled air through the ductwork. They also don’t have to cycle on and off like duct-based units so there’s less energy lost.
  • Quiet: In most homes, you can tell when the A/C is cycling on. With a ductless system, you don’t have that level of noise. The small blower fans in each indoor unit don’t run much louder than a whisper, making your home much quieter.
  • Versatility: A ductless system is used for both heating and cooling. When seasons change, just flip the switch to go from A/C to heating and back. Also, uses individual compressors, you can install it in specific rooms to supplement an existing system where needed.

The efficiency of ductless heating and cooling systems can mean savings on electric bills while providing a high level of comfort, whether you use them by themselves or to supplement an existing system.

Drawbacks of Ductless Systems

Of course, ductless heating and cooling systems aren’t without their drawbacks. Some of those include:

  • High upfront cost: Ductless heat pumps typically cost far more than traditional units. In addition, if you’re looking to replace a duct system with ductless heating and cooling, it can get pricey really fast. Energy savings may or may not balance this out—ultimately, that will depend on your heating/cooling needs.
  • Lower capacity: In general, a ductless systems aren’t quite as powerful as traditional systems, though newer models are starting to catch up. If you live in a place with extreme winters or summers, you may still need to use traditional duct-based heating and cooling to supplement your ductless mini-split system.
  • Multiple filters: Each indoor unit has its own filter, and you’ll need to clean each of those every month. If your system serves multiple rooms, you’ll have multiple filters to clean or replace.
  • Aesthetic factors: Ductless systems require you to install a separate compressor unit in each room you want served. These units are mounted on the wall, and they cannot be covered up, so they may cause some design issues.

These issues may be fairly minor depending on your needs, but they are still worth considering.

Should You Go Ductless?

Knowing the advantages and drawbacks of ductless heating and cooling systems, there remains the question of whether you should go ductless. In general, installing a ductless system works best in the following scenarios:

  • New additions and construction: Instead of extending ductwork to a new addition to your house, it can actually be cheaper to use a ductless mini-split system for the space. That way, you get heating and cooling for the new space without upsetting the balance in your home.
  • Supplementing problem areas: If you have areas in your home that just don’t get warm or cool enough, a ductless system can easily supplement your existing furnace or A/C for those spots.
  • Meeting variable needs: A south-facing kitchen will have far different climate control requirements from a north-facing living room. A ductless system can provide varied heating and cooling to individual areas, allowing one area to get more heat than another. As an added bonus, going ductless can also solve family arguments over the thermostat…

    fancy kitchen and dining area with pendant lights and granite counters

    Image by Pixabay

When determining the cost-effectiveness of ductless heating and cooling systems, you’ll need to take multiple factors into account, such as:

  • The size of your home
  • Room layout
  • Insulation levels
  • Outdoor climate

This is best done by a professional since there are complex calculations involved.

It’s also worth noting that ductless systems don’t take much time to install. The most complex ones may require a week, but if you’re just installing a system in one or two rooms, it can typically be completed in less than a day.

Ductless heating and cooling systems are an investment, and you’ll want to protect it. Home warranties on HVAC systems can cover the cost of maintenance and repairs when they come up, thereby safeguarding your investment and making your new system even more cost effective.

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