Ductless mini-split air conditioning systems, or simply ductless mini-splits, are a great option for property owners who need an efficient way to heat or cool their home or building. In this blog post, Acker Heating & Cooling we’ll discuss how ductless mini-splits work and what makes them an energy-efficient cooling and heating system.
How Do Ductless Mini-Splits Differ from Central ACs?
A ductless mini-split is an air conditioner or heat pump system that doesn’t need ductwork for air delivery — instead, warm or cool air is delivered through a small wall-mounted unit.
Ductless mini-splits are not that different from other types of air conditioners. They utilize the same refrigeration cycle to generate cool air, or warm air if it’s used as a heat pump. The condenser unit is located outdoors, while the air handler and distribution system is located indoors. The key difference is in the air distribution: ductless mini-splits have their air handlers and distribution system housed in one compact unit. In comparison, a whole-building system is connected to an air handler, which is then connected to a network of air ducts.
Another important difference is the scale. Like window-mounted ACs, ductless mini-splits are designed to cool smaller spaces. Given their relative size, an average-sized home with a large central system will need multiple ductless mini splits to cool or heat the same floor area.
Are Ductless Mini-Splits Energy-Efficient?
Circling back to the question — are ductless mini-splits energy-efficient? The short answer is yes; but it’s not an apples-to-oranges comparison. This is due to what these systems are designed for — central HVAC systems are designed for whole homes and similarly-sized buildings. Ductless mini-splits, on the other hand, are designed for rooms, small apartments, and dwellings of the same size. Therefore, a home that is heated and cooled by a central HVAC system will need multiple ductless mini-splits.
So how can ductless mini-splits match or even better the performance of central HVAC systems?
- Custom zones. Ductless mini-splits allow better control over “zones” in your home. Central cooling and heating systems are controlled by one thermostat, which means the air with the same temperature is fed through the house’s ductwork. This is perfectly fine if every room in the house has the same heating and cooling requirements, but this isn’t the case in every home. For example, the elderly members in your household may not want as much cooling as the younger ones do. A ductless mini-split can allow them to set their own thermostat settings without affecting other parts of the house.
- Higher efficiency ratings. Ductless mini-splits typically have higher SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) ratings, which means you can get more cooling or heating for less energy from the grid. In addition to the savings, it can also help reduce your home’s carbon footprint. New air conditioners typically have a rating between 13 to 23 SEER, with variable-speed systems usually at the upper half of this range at 20 SEER ratings.
- Less wasted energy. Energy waste is a problem inherent with ducted central systems. Longer ductwork means greater distances for conditioned air to travel; the further the room from the air handler, the less cooling or heating it gets. Leaky ductwork can also cause further loss. With ductless mini-splits, you get more cooling and heating for your dollar because air is pumped from the air handler directly into the room.
- Heat and cool your home only where it’s needed. Programmable thermostats help save energy because you can set it to lower its output when you need it less, like when you sleep or when the house is unoccupied. However, the HVAC system will still need to run — turning it off then back on later would result in higher energy consumption as it brings the house temperature back to usual. A ductless mini-splits eliminates the need to do this. Each unit only needs to heat or cool the room they’re in, which means only these rooms will consume energy. You can turn it on only when needed, and it won’t have as big an impact on your utility bills as a whole-home system would. Additionally, if one ductless mini-split needs to be turned off for repair or maintenance, the other units won’t be affected.
- Home addition-friendly. Home additions — be it an attachment or an attic or basement conversion — can impact the building’s heating and cooling requirements. Extending the ductwork into these new areas is a fairly simple task. However, it can make an existing HVAC system undersized because of the additional floor area, which means the new house may need a completely new air conditioner. It’s not a problem if you have an HVAC system that’s past its expected life span. If yours is still in great condition, you can simply have a new ductless mini-split installed in these home additions.
Ductless Mini-Split Maintenance Tips
Once you have a ductless mini-split system or two in your home, there are a few maintenance tasks that are different from those performed on a central system.
- Clean the air filter regularly. Central HVAC systems typically need new air filters every three months, or even monthly during seasons of heavy usage. In ductless mini-splits, the air filters are washable. The front panel on most indoor units can be easily opened, and the air filters can be easily slid out. All you need to do is wash them with your kitchen sink’s spray nozzle, let them air-dry on the counter, and slide them back into the indoor unit. Checking the air filters and cleaning them every month can help maintain efficiency.
- Sign up for a maintenance agreement. It goes without saying that you should keep up with scheduled HVAC maintenance regardless of type. Since your home will likely have multiple ductless mini-splits, a maintenance agreement with your HVAC contractor will help make sure that every unit is well cared-for.
If you need more information about ductless mini-splits or other residential and commercial HVAC services, give Acker Heating & Cooling a call at (706) 425-8774. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.