What are the pros and cons of ductless air conditioners? Ductless or mini-split air conditioners come with numerous applications for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings across the country. Most commonly used in multifamily homes and as retrofit add-ons to houses with non-ducted heating systems, including radiant panels, hot water heat (hydronic), and wood, kerosene, or propane space heaters. These units are ideal for small apartments and room additions where ductwork installation for central AC isn’t feasible.
Like a central AC, a mini-split system has two major parts: an indoor air-handling unit and an outdoor condenser/compressor. The outdoor & indoor units are linked together by a conduit that houses the refrigerant tubing, condensate drain, power cable, and suction tubing.
Pros of Ductless Mini Splits
The main advantage of a mini-split system is its compact size and flexibility for keeping individual rooms at different cooling levels. Most models will have up to 4 indoor air-handling units connected to one outdoor unit. These units can cool four zones or rooms in your home. The number of air-handling units will depend on the cooling requirements for each zone or the entire building. The level of cooling is affected by how well the building is air-sealed or insulated. Each room or zone will have a thermostat to cool that space only when it’s occupied to save money and energy over time.
Ductless systems are easier to install than central AC units. The connection between the indoor and outdoor units requires only an 8-centimetre hole through the wall for the conduit. Manufacturers provide a wide variety of lengths for connecting conduits to suit your needs. If you need, you can locate the outdoor unit even at 15 meters from the indoor air handling unit. This type of flexibility makes it possible to cool zones or rooms on the front side of a building with the compressor located in a more inconspicuous place outside the building.
Mini-split systems don’t have ducts. Hence, they help avoid the energy loss associated with central forced air systems with ductwork systems. Duct energy losses account for at least 30-35% of energy consumption for central air conditioning, especially in an unconditioned space such as the attic.
Ductless systems are also more flexible in interior design options. You can hang the indoor air handler on a wall or mounted-flush into a drop ceiling. On the other hand, floor-standing models are also available today. Most indoor units are about 18 cm deep and are sleek with a high-tech-looking jacket. A remote control is ideal for units high on a wall or suspended from a ceiling.
Cons of Ductless Air Conditioners
The cost is the primary disadvantage of a mini-split system. A mini-split system will cost around $1,500 to $2,000 per 12,000 Btu per hour of cooling capacity. Ductless ACs cost 30% more than central ACs without the inclusion of ductwork.
The contractor should properly size each indoor unit and judge the best location. Incorrectly located or oversized air handlers will result in short-cycling, which doesn’t provide proper temperature control and waste energy. On the other hand, too large units are expensive to buy and operate.
Some homeowners don’t like the looks of the indoor unit. They seldom have the built-in look like a central AC, though it is less intrusive than a window unit. There should also be a place to drain condensate water adjoining the outdoor unit.