Discovering the Many Benefits of Ductless Mini Splits
Air conditioning has come a long way since its inception over one hundred years ago. What was once a luxury of living is now part of the American lifestyle for millions of families all around the country, as the majority of homes contain an air conditioning system. As the technology of air conditioning has improved over time, so the options for air conditioning systems have increased. In a previous blog post, SoCal Climate Control discussed some of the various kinds of central air conditioners, highlighting the qualities of each. Some types of air conditioners are well known and maintain traditional placement in our homes, such as central air conditioners and window air conditioners. However, others need a little more context shed on their benefits, and one such type of air conditioner that is still somewhat new to the public but increasing in popularity is ductless mini-splits.
Ductless mini splits have a definite method of functioning and offer unique benefits to home and business owners, but will the pros of mini splits push them to the forefront of the air conditioning industry and position them as the most widely-used kind of air conditioner in the not-too-distant future? SoCal Climate Control of course cannot claim to know the future, but we do know all about mini-split systems and the situations in which they are most advantageous, so we would like to detail those advantages before stating our stance on whether or not mini splits are the future of air conditioning.
What are Ductless Mini-Splits?
As a general reminder, we would like to examine what exactly ductless mini splits are. Ductless mini-splits are air conditioning systems that are made up of two parts: an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. The outdoor unit is the larger of the two and contains the condenser, compressor, and expansion valve. They are usually are located directly outside of the room containing the indoor unit. The indoor unit holds the evaporator and the cooling fans and can be placed or positioned in several different locations around the room: on the ceiling, the wall, or the floor, depending on the type of unit purchased. These two units are connected by copper tubing and electrical wire that runs through a three-inch hole in the wall.
A mini-split system typically supplies air-conditioned and heated air to a single or a few rooms of a building. In these, the evaporator unit uses a cross-flow-fan to blow air from the evaporator coil. The name mini-split is often used to refer to those split systems that only supply air to a single room. Multi-zone systems are a common application of ductless systems and allow up to 8 rooms (zones) to be conditioned from a single outdoor unit. Multi-zone systems typically offer a variety of indoor unit styles including wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted, ceiling recessed, and horizontal ducted.
What are the Benefits of Ductless Mini Splits?
Ductless mini-split systems definitely supply numerous benefits to homeowners. The benefits of mini-split systems include:
Increased energy efficiency: Because they are designed without ducts, these mini-split systems do not experience the degrees of energy loss that the ductwork used in central air conditioning systems allows. Energy losses due to ductwork in more traditional air conditioning systems account for over 30 percent of energy consumption during use, particularly if the ducts are located in a room or area that is not being cooled. Check out this link to learn more. Most mini-split users find that they are actually conserving on energy usage by keeping their AC running consistently during the hot, humid days and nights of the summer months and turning the temperature up or down as needed. Furthermore, ductless mini-splits use inverter technology to continuously adjust their speed to the heating and cooling needs of the home.
Quiet operation: Current brands and models of mini-split cooling units, like Mitsubishi, offer quiet operation. Earlier models often were somewhat noisy, especially when set for the higher levels of AC for cooling your home or commercial interiors. However, the fans of these modern mini-splits run at lower speeds than some earlier designs, while providing optimal degrees of cooling throughout each zone. Especially since the compressor/condenser is installed outside your home or commercial building, there is less noise to contend with indoors. Ductless split systems, in general, provide a more smooth and quiet operation than the majority of traditional AC systems have the capacity to offer.
Constant comfort: Ductless mini splits can be used all year, providing customized cooling in the summer and ample heat in the winter.
Ease of use in zoning: Mini-splits are small in size and offer flexibility in terms of zoning. Different brands and models are often available with up to four indoor air handling/distributing units, each of which is connected to a single outdoor unit and compressor/condenser. The four indoor units can cool four separate rooms or areas of your home or office. Each room or zone will have a separate thermostat for simple and easy temperature adjustment, as needed. These indoor air handling units can be re-positioned as required to provide cooling for other rooms. These are just a few important and useful benefits of a mini-split system. Check out this Lennox guide on Zoning.
More control: The targeted zoning of mini splits is made possible by the presence of a separate thermostat on each floor that lets you reach your desired comfort level and never demands that you condition the air in spaces you are not using. In larger homes, different rooms can receive their own indoor units, all of which are still powered by a single compressor.
Self-contained products: Mini-splits are packaged products that include the control system within the unit and therefore minimize the chances of problems resulting from improper installations, poor design, poor location, or duct leaks. Other potential issues ductless mini-splits evade include incorrect refrigerant charge and too much or too little airflow over the cooling coil.
Easy and non-invasive installation: As ductless mini splits are prepackaged systems, their installation is a much less complicated process than that of some other types of air conditioners, and typically, this process can be completed in one day by a professional. To complete the system, only one three-inch hole needs to be cut into one wall, as opposed to cutting multiple holes in walls, floors, and ceilings or sacrificing closet space to account for ducts. If a mini-split system with ducts is required, a compact amount of ductwork is usually placed above the ceiling.
Better aesthetics: With fewer pieces to accommodate, ductless mini splits do not invade the home to the extent that a central air conditioning system does, and mini-splits, therefore, leave a more aesthetically pleasing fingerprint on the home. The outdoor unit is thin, and the indoor unit can be mounted in a variety of ways to achieve the most concealed or convenient positioning.
Is Ductless Mini-Splits the Future of AC?
While ductless mini-splits certainly have many benefits to homeowners, they still may not be right for every homeowner. Since ductless mini-splits often allow for easier installation and involve less complexity of parts, they are more likely to sidestep the struggles that the commissioning process addresses in forced-air systems, which have ducts that carry air individually to different parts of the home. However, no matter what kind of air conditioning system you have, if it is properly installed, supplied the right amount of power, and placed in the appropriately sized setting, your air conditioner will serve you well by meeting your heating and cooling needs in the manner in which it was designed to do so.
Ductless mini-splits actually do have particular instances in which they work best: if a regular system would look bad or would not fit well into your location, ductless mini-splits may be the solution. As well, the most common successful applications for ductless mini-splits are in single room additions and light commercial applications with no existing ductwork. Therefore, if your space does not meet these specifications, installing a newer, more energy-efficient air conditioning unit into your system may be the best choice, as advancements in technology have really improved the performance of these units in recent years. While ductless mini-splits may become more popular across the country in days to come, whether or not ductless mini-splits are the future of air conditioning remains to be seen.
What are the Disadvantages of a ductless mini-split system?
The cost of installing mini splits can be higher than some systems, although lower operating costs and rebates or other financial incentives — offered in some areas — can help offset the initial expense.
The installer must correctly size each indoor unit and determine the best location for its installation. Oversized or incorrectly located air-handlers can result in short cycling, which wastes energy and does not provide proper temperature or humidity control. Too large a system is more expensive to buy and operate.
Some people may not like the appearance of the indoor part of the system. While less obtrusive than a window room air conditioner, these units don’t have the built-in look of a central system. There must also be a place to drain condensate water near the outdoor unit.
Qualified installers and service people for mini splits may not be easy to find. Check with a local heating and cooling contractor to find out how common these systems are in your area and who has experience installing and servicing them.