A mini-split air conditioner, also known as a ductless air conditioner, has a lot of similarities with a central air conditioning system. For instance, they both have a condenser, which sits outside, and an air handler, which sits indoors. The coolant or refrigerant passes through both units. It expands in the air handler, thereby absorbing heat, and gets condensed in the condenser as it dumps heat to the outdoors.
In a central air system, however, the air is sent through the air handler of the furnace into the air ducts. Once in the ductwork, the air is distributed to the rest of the house. On the other hand, a ductless system does not have ducts. Instead, thin refrigerant tubing is used to carry the coolant from the condenser to the evaporator and vice versa.
Choosing the Right AC System
The following is a list of questions we normally ask our customers to help them identify the best air conditioning system for their needs;
1. Is There Ductwork in Your Home?
This is the determining factor in many cases. If there is existing ductwork, it will be much cheaper to stick with a central air system.
However, if there is no ductwork, you will have to begin from scratch, which can be incredibly costly. In such a case, a ductless system may be perfect as you will only need to drill a 3-inch hole across an exterior wall to run the cables through. This will not cause a construction mess. Please note that ductless systems are perfect for new additions that may not be connected to ductwork running throughout the building.
2. Do You Mind Having a Noticeable Appliance on the Wall?
While a central air system may be unnoticeable in a room, a ductless system requires an air handler on the wall. While modern units may look stylish and can add value to your interior design, these units are still visible.
If you like the way your interior looks, and want no obstructions or distractions in the room, you may want to install a central air system. You should know, however, that there are some creative ways of disguising air handlers on the wall.
3. What is the Total Floor Size of Your Home?
Ductless AC systems do not have enough power to cool a large home. It may be a great idea to choose a central air system if your home is over 2,500 square feet. If your home has 2,000-2,500 square feet, you will get huge returns from the power of a central HVAC system.
However, if your home is less than 2,000 square feet, you should consider installing a ductless system.
4. Do You Mind a Little Bit of Noise?
Ductless systems are generally quieter than central air systems.
If you want a system that operates quietly, you should ask your HVAC contractor about the level of noise expected from the systems you are considering. It is important to note, however, that some ductless units produce more noise than central air conditioners.
5. How Much Do You Intend to Spend?
A decent ductless system will cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars for a system with a single indoor unit installed. However, the cost can be much higher if you need several indoor units. The cost can also be much higher if you want a high-efficiency ductless model. That said, central air systems are more costly than comparable ductless systems. However, the top-of-the-range ductless systems cost more than low-efficiency central air conditioners.
Since there is a wide range of ductless and central air systems, it is difficult to state the exact prices of all the different makes and models. Besides, there are many rebates and tax credits that can help lower the price.
What you should keep in mind is the fact that there are financing options out there, so you can get a decent unit for about $40/month, or even less, regardless of the unit you install.
6. How Crucial is Energy-Efficiency to You?
This is an important question. Proper design and installation of central air systems, particularly the ductwork, can significantly affect energy efficiency.
For instance, if the air ducts have been poorly designed and have more twists and turns than necessary, the efficiency of the system will reduce considerably. Similarly, if the sealing was not done properly, there will be air leaks. During installation, the technicians must install the outdoor unit on a level surface and use the right refrigerant. The outdoor unit must also be compatible with the air handler.
That said, the best ductless air systems have a SEER rating of up to 27 while the best central air systems can only manage a SEER of up to 21. This means ductless units have a higher energy-efficiency potential than central systems.
7. Do You Require Individual Zoning Controls?
If you want other rooms in the house to be hotter than others, you will need individual zoning controls, which are available with both ductless and central air. However, zone control is much cheaper with ductless systems than central air.
8. Do You Require Supplemental Heating?
Some ductless systems can reverse the direction of flow and act as a heat pump instead. This will help boost home comfort.