If you’re unfamiliar with the term, ductless home HVAC systems are exactly what their name implies – a heating and cooling system that works without a network of air ducts, unlike standard centralized systems. Ductless heating and cooling systems can be used as a more sensible and energy-efficient alternative solution for whole-home climate control under certain circumstances. It can also be used as a supplementary add-on to larger pre-existing systems. We’ll go over the different circumstances in which going ductless makes sense, as well as the pros and cons of doing so. But first, let’s get into how ductless systems work.
Ductless systems consist of an outdoor compressor unit for intake and a wall-mounted indoor unit for output. Outdoor compressor units are much smaller and quieter than traditional outdoor compressors, closer in size to window units than their cumbersome cubic counterparts. These units typically feature inverter-driven variable speed compressors that automatically adjust to the needs of your system.
The compressor connects to your indoor unit via a refrigerant line set housing a power cable and a condensation drain. Indoor units consist of an evaporator and a quiet fan for air distribution. All of this can be adjusted via remote control, which will essentially function as a thermostat for your ductless system.
There are plenty of practical reasons to install a ductless system, as well as plenty of subsequent benefits you’ll experience as a result of doing so. Whether you’re using a ductless system as your primary climate control apparatus or as an add-on, these same benefits more or less apply in any case.
Thanks to a compact yet powerful design, minimal hardware and variable speed compressor, ductless heating and cooling systems are far more energy efficient than larger conventional systems. The less energy you consume, the less energy you pay for, resulting in consistent savings on utility bills. Additionally, lowering the portion of your monthly energy consumption that can be attributed to your HVAC needs will drastically lower your overall carbon footprint.
Ductless HVAC systems can help maximize your comfort at home in more ways than one. If your living space is small enough to use a ductless system as its main heating and cooling source, you may be upgrading from a window unit AC. A sound decision no doubt, especially given that ductless systems are far more efficient, effective and quiet than window units, not to mention being far less obtrusive. If you are adding a ductless system to a larger system, the former allows you to augment the climate control of a given space without affecting the air flow or base temperatures of the larger system. Plus, remote control access means you can adjust your ductless system to your ideal settings without even leaving the couch.
One of the most impressive things about ductless systems is that they have the ability to provide year-round comfort on a surprisingly large scale with minimal equipment. Ductless systems can even and efficiently heat, cool, clean and ventilate your indoor air according to your exact needs, making it a perfect solution for indoor HVAC no matter what the weather conditions outside are like. Adding to the overall convenience it provides, ductless systems are able to perform all of these tasks with a small fraction of the machinery required for standard systems.
Since they don’t come with an excessive amount of hardware or require a vast system of ductwork, installing a new ductless system is a minimally invasive procedure that is quick, easy and much cheaper than installing a new centralized system. Since all they have to do is install your outdoor unit, mount your indoor wall unit and then connect the two, HVAC techs will typically be able to get you set up with a new ductless system in half a day or less.
As a result of a national and global push in recent years for smarter, safer and more efficient energy consumption, homeowners who install ductless systems – which are specifically designed for energy efficiency – may qualify for rebates from local electric utility companies as well as federal tax credits. This means your ductless system could potentially save you even more money. To learn more about these incentives and view a comprehensive list of programs you could potentially qualify for in your state, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
There are a few regular maintenance tasks you’ll want to keep up with on a ductless system, the extent of which is minimal compared to the extensive upkeep required for bigger systems. It’s important to change the air filter in your indoor unit on a regular basis (typically around once a month) and clean the coils on your outdoor unit a couple times a year. Additionally, the units themselves should be kept free of debris, blockage and other impediments. This can all be done easily without the help of professionals, though regular check-ups from a trusted HVAC tech are still recommended. For info on how to change your filters and clean your coils, check out our past article explaining the basics of DIY HVAC maintenance.
While not drawbacks, per say, there are certain limitations and external factors that could render the choice to invest in a ductless system less sensible and advantageous. For example, regardless of financing options, the initial costs of purchasing and installing a new ductless system aren’t cheap. They’re also not astronomical by any means, but they can increase under certain circumstances to the point that they’re no longer the best option.
The single most important factor in determining whether to invest in a ductless system is the size of the space they’re being used in. If small enough to be sufficiently cooled by a single window unit, like a single bedroom or studio apartment, a ductless system may be more than you need, making it less sensible despite its far superior capabilities. In the inverse, if the space is too large, a single ductless unit may not sufficiently account for all of it. In this case, you would either need to suffer the discomfort, supplement with alternative heating sources or install multiple ductless systems, driving your initial costs up so much that eventually it would be cheaper to stick with a traditional system, ductwork and all.
Also, while aesthetics are far less crucial than functionality, it should be noted that the wall-mounted design of indoor ductless units are slightly more visible than the air vents in traditional systems. This could be a total non-issue depending on personal preference, and though visible, they are not obnoxiously designed. Plus, in terms of exterior aesthetic, they are still far more subtle than window units and noisy outdoor condensers.
When building a new addition to an existing home already equipped with a traditional system, it may be far cheaper to invest in a single ductless system to handle climate control in that new space. By doing so you avoid having to put in new ductwork to connect to your main system, which would require extensive work from a professional. As an added benefit, a ductless system would allow you to control the climate of your new space separately, which is ideal for typical add-ons like new sunrooms, guest rooms and man caves.
If you live in a big home with a traditional HVAC system and lots of space that you hardly ever occupy, ductless systems are a great option for supplementing the climate control in the rooms and sections of your home that you do occupy. By adding a ductless system in one section of your home, you can efficiently augment the climate of said section to your liking while leaving your main system on a low setting. This way you’re not spending the money to replace your whole system, but you’re also not wasting money excessively heating or cooling a ton of rooms that you don’t use just to adjust the few that you do use.
Whether it’s an apartment building or a single family home, ductless units are a great way to accommodate the varying needs of multiple different people living in a shared space. As mentioned, ductless systems give you the ability to augment the climate of a given section within a larger space without affecting the main system or changing the climate of other spaces. This is ideal for circumstances in which you have multiple people living under the same roof, as temperature settings alone can be a hard thing to unanimously agree on in such situations.
As we already established, ductless systems aren’t always the cheapest option, especially in large homes with existing ductwork. However, in homes without existing ductwork, it would still be cheaper to install enough ductless apparatuses to accommodate a large space than it would be to build all new ductwork where it doesn’t already exist. It will still cost you plenty to do so, but ultimately much less than it would for the alternative. Plus, with whole-home ductless, you’ll experience all of the long term savings mentioned above on an even larger scale.
Finally, with the winter months fast approaching, you may be wondering how ductless heat pumps stack up against other forms of electric heating. When compared to electric resistance heating, electric forced-air furnaces and ducted central air-source heat pumps in terms of comfort, cost and convenience, ductless heat pumps scored higher across the board. It was also ranked highest of the four options for energy efficiency, noise levels and overall savings.
As you can see, ductless heating and cooling comes with a plethora of advantages under the right circumstances. Whether or not you’re ready to invest in a ductless system yet, we hope the information above is able to help inform your decision in this regard. If you are ready to make the switch or want to learn more about whether or not a ductless system could be the right option for your home, visit give us a call at (302)328-4822 or chat with us via virtual messenger by clicking the icon in the lower right corner of your screen.