Ductless mini-split systems eliminate a significant source of heating and cooling inefficiency: the ductwork. Residential ducts typically leak at least 20 percent of the air they carry, wasting energy and running up your monthly bills. And installing new ductwork — or extending an existing system to accommodate a remodel or add-on — is a major project which can be highly expensive and disruptive. A ductless mini-split delivers the power and efficiency of a heat pump to individual rooms, without the downsides of ductwork.
The Ductless Approach
Ductless technology incorporates a compact indoor air handler which contains a coil and blower fan with a space-saving outdoor unit about the size of a suitcase. A refrigerant conduit connects the two components. For winter warmth, dormant heat energy is extracted from outside air by the external coil and transferred to the refrigerant flowing through the conduit. At the indoor air handler, the heat energy is released by the inside coil and dispersed into the room by the blower fan. For summer cooling, the process reverses and heat from indoors is dispersed outdoors.
The benefits of a ductless mini-split are why this economical alternative to central ducted systems is rapidly gaining ground in North America:
- Heating and cooling individual rooms is a more direct, efficient way of conditioning spaces than running ductwork from a central system. There are no leakage losses nor air quality issues associated with ductwork.
- The unit has its own thermostat that can be adjusted as needed, saving energy costs. And thermostat controls for a single room are more accurate than a central thermostat elsewhere in the house.
- Ductless systems offer great installation flexibility. The low-profile indoor air handler can be mounted on a wall or ceiling or configured as a stand-up unit.
- Installation is straightforward. A two-person crew can install a ductless mini-split in one day with minimum disturbance to your household.
- The system requires a small hole in the wall for the lines, rather than a more massive hole to house a room air conditioner.
- Expansion is easy. One outdoor unit can accommodate up to eight indoor air handlers with refrigerant conduits routed to each.
- Maintenance is simple and affordable.
Many homeowners decide to remodel or add a room but find it too difficult or expensive to run ductwork to the addition. A ductless mini-split is a convenient way to cool a room when ductwork is not an option. It’s small, versatile, adaptable to most rooms, easy to install and does not take up the limited window space that a window unit uses. The system consists of two principal parts:
- An outdoor condenser unit, which changes the refrigerant from a gas to a liquid, and then moves that liquid into the home and to the air handler unit.
- An air handler unit, which is located inside your home on a wall, ceiling or floor and at an appropriate place in your room to benefit from the cooling process. A pipe carries refrigerant from the outdoor condenser into the air handler, where a fan blows warm air from the room over the handler’s coils, transferring the heat to the refrigerant, which then travels back outside.
Ductless Mini-Splits Might Be The Answer When It Comes To Cooling A New Space
For many homeowners here in northeast Ohio, a ductless mini-split system is the logical choice for heating and cooling, especially for parts of the home (like a new addition) that have no ductwork.
These systems are quite flexible. Many can cool up to eight sections of the home, using up to as many indoor units connected to one outside, and you have the option of locating the components up to 50 feet apart. And they’re relatively economical to install and operate. Indoor air handlers can be floor-standing or installed in ceilings or walls, often with much less work required than a standard, ducted cooling system.
In a traditional A/C system, up to 30% of warm or cold air traveling through ducts may be lost before it ever gets where it’s supposed to go. When there are no ducts, there can be no leaks.
The most significant disadvantage to using a mini-split is the upfront cost. You will pay more for the system initially, but homeowners are often surprised by how quickly the utility savings can help them recoup the value of the purchase.
Still Another Reason to Opt for the Ductless Mini-Split: Electric Baseboard Unhappiness
Electric baseboard heating is one of the most expensive ways to heat a room or home. And if you’re tired of high electric bills, a ductless mini-split represents a solid option.
Heat pumps are remarkable appliances for conditioning homes. They heat and cool by moving heat from one place to another. In the summer, the pump transfers it outdoors, and in the winter, the reversing valve in the pump extracts heat energy from the outdoor air, bringing it inside. Heat pumps and mini-splits can provide three times the heat or more from a single watt of electricity, while electric baseboard heating can only create one watt of heat from each watt it uses.
Maintenance Isn’t as Complicated as You Think
Like any other home-comfort system, a ductless mini-split system needs regular care to provide peak performance. The specialized tasks, such as checking refrigerant, drainage, and electrical components, require the skill of a certified HVAC professional. But do-it-yourself ductless mini-split maintenance tasks are simple enough to include with chores around the house and yard.
DIY ductless mini-split maintenance
Ductless mini-splits need free airflow to promote optimal heat exchange from the refrigerant, just like larger conventional heat pumps (and A/C systems). So the components need the occasional cleaning to maintain free airflow.
- First, turn off the power at the main circuit panel for safety.
- Remove the reusable air filter at each indoor air handler and rinse clean. Let the filter(s) dry before reinserting. Check filters once a month during high usage periods. A dirty filter quickly increases energy consumption and strains components.
- Remove the cover from the air handler. Gently wipe all visible dust and debris from the air quality components and the evaporator.
- The evaporator coil removes moisture from indoor air. Without regular cleaning, mold and mildew growth can occur. If you smell or see mold and mildew, let your HVAC professional know so that these components and the drainage system can be treated to resist future contamination.
- Remove any debris that is stuck to or is near the outside cabinet.
- Make sure the area around the cabinet is free of obstructions, such as hedges and fencing, for 3-4 feet in all directions.
- If you use a water-sprinkling system, check to see if any of the sprinklers spray the unit. While the outside cabinet and components are resistant to the elements, chemicals in treated water can cause corrosion.
- During the heating months, keep snow and ice accumulation away from the unit.
- Schedule professional preventive maintenance in the spring (and during the fall if you use your ductless mini-split for heating).
If you would like more information on cooling a problematic area with a ductless mini-split, contact the expert team at Stack Heating & Cooling. Our technicians will examine your area and determine the most practical energy-efficient system for your room. Our outstanding professionals have been serving the greater Cleveland and northeast Ohio areas for more than 30 years.