Ductless mini-split systems are a great choice for rooms or homes without existing ductwork for a forced air system. They’re often used for garages, basements, room additions or patio conversions. Some models provide both air conditioning and heat. But air conditioning only models pair well with hydronic or radiant heat and space heaters.
Mini-splits are more than just sloppy seconds to forced air systems, however. With the right model and installation, they can actually save a lot of energy (and money).
Mini-Split Energy Efficiency
Mini-splits have much higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings than central air systems or window units. SEER is the measurement of energy efficiency through varying temperatures. Forced air systems tend to leak air through the ductwork. This leakage can be responsible for as much as 30% of the energy consumption of the system.
Mini-splits are also a lot more efficient than window units. Window units operate either on or off; mini-splits use variable-speed technology. This saves a lot of energy that gets used when a system turns on or off.
For temperature zoning, mini-splits are far superior to central air. Multiple air-handling units can connect to one compressor, and each unit can have its own thermostat. This allows you to cool or heat just the room or area that’s being used. While some smart thermostats have zoning features for central air systems, they’re still cooling or heating the entire home based on those zones. Limiting the temperature regulation to one or a few areas saves a lot of energy compared to central air.
Other Benefits of Mini-Splits
Besides saving on energy costs, ductless systems are much easier to install than ducted systems. They only require small holes in the wall to run the conduit from the units to the compressor. These conduits can be pretty long, so you have a lot of flexibility for where you place the compressor.
Mini-splits are also much quieter than forced air or window units. And they don’t take up any window space – they can be mounted on the wall, or some can be placed on the ceiling. They also remove the need for any costly ductwork maintenance, which can provide more savings over time.
Mini-Splits Aren’t For Everyone
While the energy savings are a big positive for mini-splits, they’re not ideal for every situation. The up-front cost can be high, especially if you need multiple air-handling units. Multiple units are usually needed for larger rooms. And if you’re trying to keep your entire home a consistent temperature, you won’t see the energy savings that zoning can provide.
Mini-splits don’t have as much of a capacity for powerful air filtration as central air systems do. And in some cases, a condensate pump may be needed to drain the condensation. This can add to the noise level as well as cost and maintenance requirements.
Another common concern about mini-split installation is the aesthetics. The air-handling units feature sleek designs, but they do require wall space (or ceiling space for some types). For some rooms or homes, this may not be a factor. But some homeowners may prefer the visual low profile that a ducted system provides.
The filters in the mini-split system do need to be cleaned regularly – ideally every few weeks. Over time, neglecting this can lead to a less efficient system and even damage.
How We Can Help
If you’re considering a ductless air system for a room or home, give us a call. Our knowledgeable technicians can take a look at the space. They’ll make recommendations for the most cost-efficient and energy-efficient options, and provide a quote for quick and easy installation.