Developed in Asia in the 1970s, ductless mini splits have been in use around the world with exceptional results. In the U.S., ductless systems are moving beyond commercial applications into more homes, and for many very good reasons. Read on to get the full scoop of the benefits for going ductless.
Heaping Scoop of Ductless Benefits
Ductless mini splits are air-source A/Cs or heat pumps that forgo ductwork and instead employ advanced technologies that result in effective and energy-efficient cooling and heating. However, the comparison with central air-source heat pumps and A/Cs has, in effect, led to one of the more common misconceptions of ductless systems – that ductless air-source heat pumps cannot provide ample heating for regions with more extreme winter weather, like we have in the Chicago area.
This seems like a plausible issue since air-source heat pumps rely on refrigeration principles of extracting heat energy from outdoor air and transferring the heat energy into the home. Conventional heat pumps generally offer efficient heating down to about 32 to 34 degrees outside temperatures.
Some ductless mini splits, on the other hand, provide ample heating when outdoor temperatures dip down to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit while offering a better heating alternative to portable heaters or extending ductwork to new additions and retrofits.
In addition to more efficient heating and cooling, the following points summarize why ductless mini splits are well worth the consideration:
- High SEER and HSPF ratings qualify many Toshiba-Carrier models for Energy Star designation.
- Point-of-use indoor air-handling units (AHUs) offer genuine zoned temperature control.
- Ductless mini splits offer many advantages over portable and ducted heating and cooling alternatives.
- Ductless systems are ideal for many situations, including home offices, supplemental conditioning, converted spaces and more.
- Versatile mounting options accommodate virtually any interior design.
- Advanced air quality components essentially make each AHU a room air cleaner.
- Installation typically only takes one day.
Ductless Efficiency Ratings
The high cooling and heating efficiency ratings (SEER and HSPF) of many ductless mini splits reflect their exceptional value as reflected in the return on investment (ROI) and conditioning performance. Select models are Energy Star-qualified, which makes it easier to choose high-efficiency systems for your Chicago area home. Ask your HVAC contractor to perform a cost analysis to determine lifetime costs of models you are considering, and determine the ROI as defined:
- Lifetime cost is an estimate of your total investment, taking into account purchase price and installation, and the estimated costs of preventive maintenance, repairs and energy consumption for the life of the system.
- ROI is the point at which the extra cost of a high-efficiency ductless system is offset through energy savings.
Zoned Temperature Control
Zoning systems are excellent add-on features to forced-air systems. They allow the homeowner to heat and cool any zone at any time of day or night separately or in conjunction with other zones in the home. Ductless mini splits, by design, are point-of-use systems that offer genuine zoned temperature control. Zoned temperature control offers superior comfort and potential energy savings by heating and cooling zones as needed.
Head and Shoulders Above: A Comparison
More new homes are being constructed with whole-home ductless configurations, but the mainstay for ductless applications is heating and cooling retrofitted rooms, new additions and supplemental space conditioning. The primary competitors for ductless systems are portable heaters, window A/Cs and extending air ducts into remodeled or new areas. So, how do ductless systems measure up?
- Vs. portable heaters – Portable or space heaters are handy and may be moved around as needed. Ductless systems are permanent installations with the air-handling unit generally located on the wall or ceiling. For energy efficiency, quiet operation and comfort, there is no comparison to ductless mini splits.
- Vs. window A/Cs – Unsightly, noisy and inefficient window A/Cs are actually one of the reasons ductless systems were designed – to accommodate limited spaces in homes and offices, reduce disruptive noise, and allow sunlight to stream through windows as intended. Window units also pose a security risk.
- Vs. duct extensions – Bulky ducts were another reason for the conception and design of ductless mini splits. Extending ductwork is obtrusive and expensive. Ducts are also notorious for wasting energy and making noise.
Practical Heating and Cooling Solutions
The sleek components of ductless mini splits offer homeowners practical solutions for a plethora of heating and cooling quandaries and situations where ductwork won’t work and a window unit will not do. See if any of these applications would serve your needs:
- Supplemental system – Uneven cooling and heating is a common fault of many forced-air systems that were designed for low cost rather than high comfort and efficiency. Ductless mini splits help fill heating and cooling voids present in any home.
- New additions – New additions are often constructed of different materials than was originally used for the home. This creates issues with heat gain/loss. Also, it is not always practical to extend ducts into new spaces. In these cases, a ductless system saves the day and prevents energy from being wasted.
- Retrofits – Converting attic and basement spaces increases usable square footage and adds to the home’s value. However, these areas are most impacted by the natural properties of warm air to rise. The basement room is always too cold and the attic room is always too hot. Ductless mini splits are sized according to the zone where they are installed, ensuring superior comfort any time of day or night.
- Home offices – Do you have a home office, media room or other area where you spend a lot of time when no one else is home? Do not waste money heating and cooling your entire home when a ductless system can make your favorite room comfortable.
- Older homes – Many older homes don’t have air ducts or space for a new ductwork system. Ductless systems are unobtrusive installations that utilize inconspicuous areas, such as walls, attic and basements, to run the conduit. With a concealed air handler mounting option, you will enjoy the look of a central system without the expense or bulky ducts.
- Second homes – Ductless systems work great for second homes and vacation hideaways, like the cabin at the lake. No gas lines need to be maintained or activated, as ductless systems are all electric.
Versatile Mounting Options
Ductless mini splits work so well for virtually all applications, mainly because of the versatile mounting options available for the indoor air-handling units. Following are low- and mid-profile mounting options:
- Cassette – A cassette air handling unit is a low-profile wall- or ceiling-recessed installation. It offers nice aesthetics by being partially concealed, and the air filters, coil and other components are accessible for easy cleaning and care.
- Universal – Universal mounting is a mid-profile installation that places the air handler directly on the surface of a wall or ceiling. This is the most popular mounting option for its simplicity and straightforward installation.
- Concealed – If your interior design specifications calls for low visibility, the concealed option is the way to go. The air-handling unit is concealed above the ceiling, below the floor or inside wall space. Air supply and return grilles are installed flush to the surface, and they are the only visible components of this type of mounting.
- Drop ceiling – Many retrofits, additions and offices utilize drop ceilings. Toshiba-Carrier ductless mini splits have a solution for this surface, too. The AHU cassette is installed above a ceiling panel, either concealed or low-profile.
- Floor – Floor-mounted air-handling units offer advantages for upward airflow, and the AHU may be concealed from view by furnishings, as long as air intake is not hindered.
- Slim duct – The slim duct mounting option is a concealed installation that offers more efficient airflow through larger rooms and open areas, such as hallways, offices and churches. A short duct run is connected to the AHU, and to air supply and return grilles.
Indoor Air Quality
The air-handling units of Toshiba-Carrier ductless mini splits offer advanced air cleaning components. A multi-stage filter system captures particles, allergens, odors and more. The air filters may be cleaned and reused, which saves a lot of money due to the lack of need for filter replacements. Cleaner and more healthful indoor air particularly helps occupants with allergies and asthma, but air filtration also protects components from debris accumulation, bacterial growth, mold and mildew.
Installation: Quick Work – for a Licensed Pro
The sleek and maneuverable components of ductless mini splits may tempt some do-it-yourselfers to undertake self-installation. However, with so many benefits of a well-designed and professionally installed ductless installation it does not seem worth the risk. These are some of the components your HVAC contractor will handle, install, and test:
- Temperature sensors continuously read room and coil temperatures for non-stop comfort and efficiency.
- Condensate drainage is tested.
- Refrigerant charge is measured; coils are tested for leaks.
- Electrical components are connected, and a full system diagnostics is performed. Any kinks or DOA components, and your HVAC professional takes care of it.
Contact the professionals at Comfort24-7.com with any questions you may have regarding ductless mini splits or other HVAC matters. We proudly serve homeowners in the Chicago area, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan.
Written by Randy Gailit