Most homes and businesses in the U.S. have central forced air cooling systems. These are effective, inconspicuous and often energy-efficient, especially if they are modern, ENERGY STAR®-rated types. However, there are instances where a traditional HVAC system might not be the best option. These instances are often where a ductless mini-split air conditioning or HVAC system works best.
What Is a Ductless Mini-Split AC?
A ductless mini-split air conditioning or HVAC system is a compact split-system heat pump or air conditioning unit that has an outdoor compressor and an indoor air handler. That might sound like it’s the same technology as a traditional HVAC system, but it is quite different.
A conventional HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system needs a ductwork system (a network of air ducts) installed around the home or commercial building to deliver air from a single furnace or air handler. It is a larger, more complex system, and it’s often controlled using a single thermostat for the entire house.
On the other hand, the ductless mini-split HVAC or AC is a more compact system. It features compact air handlers installed in rooms or zones. It doesn’t use a network of air ducts to deliver heated or conditioned air to the zones.
Combining a Central HVAC and Mini-Splits
It’s not uncommon for a property to have both central heating and air conditioning, and ductless mini-split systems in some rooms as well, especially if those rooms were not built with the original house. Some applications include:
- A room addition
- An enclosed porch
- A garage conversion
- A guest room or any other room that isn’t frequently used
- A finished basement
- A finished attic
- An accessory dwelling unit (ADU), also known as a granny flat
Advantages of Ductless Mini-Splits
Flexibility: Ductless mini-split air conditioning or HVAC systems are small, compact units when compared to traditional HVACs. This makes them flexible in their application for cooling or heating individual rooms. Some models are capable of providing cooled or heated air to up to four zones or rooms using four separate indoor air handling units connected to only one outdoor compressor unit. You control each air handling unit separately with its own thermostat, which helps save energy.
Easy installation: Air condition service technicians can install a ductless mini-split system in a lot less time than it would take them to install a central HVAC unit, using fewer tools. No ductwork is needed, so all they need to do is create a small hole through the wall to allow for the conduit between the indoor and outdoor units. Most ductless mini-split HVAC manufacturers offer different lengths of conduits for different applications. It’s possible to connect an indoor unit with an outdoor unit that’s up to 50 feet away. This allows the indoor unit to cool the room with the outdoor unit being inconspicuous and quiet.
Flexibility in installation: Ductless mini-splits are flexible in application as well as in installation. You can suspend the indoor unit from the ceiling or from a wall, or you can install a floor-standing unit. Designs are often sleek and modern, so they go well with minimalist and modern homes. You can control them using a remote control, so it doesn’t matter how high up you install them.
No ducts, less energy: Air ducts or ductwork systems can account for more than 30% of lost energy when a conventional HVAC unit is running. This typically happens because ducts are not in a conditioned space, such as a hot attic. A ductless mini-split doesn’t require air ducts, so it saves plenty of energy when cooling a room.
Better security: As a ductless mini-split air conditioning system only needs a small hole in the wall, it is more secure than a window-type air conditioner or a through-the-wall unit. Intruders can use wall penetrations as an entrance to your home, but it’s impossible to use the small hole for the ductless mini-split unit’s conduit.
Easier maintenance: As there is no ductwork, and the unit is compact, a ductless mini-split system is easier to maintain. Air condition service technicians will have an easier time cleaning the system and inspecting it for issues. Servicing it typically costs less as well.
Best Locations for Installation
If you want to make the most of your ductless mini-split air conditioning unit, it’s important to understand where it can and should be installed. There are two places you have to consider for this installation: one for your indoor air handler and another for the outdoor compressor unit.
There are several things you should remember when you’re installing the indoor unit:
- Exterior walls: This means you can only install your air handler on walls that have direct contact with the exterior. You can’t install it on an interior wall, such as the wall between the hallway and the bedroom.
- Install for equal air distribution: Your technician will look for a spot in the room where the air handler can provide equal air distribution. Installation instructions may vary, but the commonly recommended placement is as close to the ceiling as allowed or at least seven feet from the floor.
- Above the bed: The ideal placement for a bedroom mini-split is the area right above the head of the bed. You can also install it on the wall across from your feet if having the unit above your head makes you uncomfortable.
- Away from direct sunlight: Do not place the unit in an area under direct sunlight. If you do, the thermostat will have a difficult time measuring the correct temperature of the room, which can cause it to malfunction.
- Away from heat sources: Don’t place it close to appliances that produce heat, such as computers, TVs, microwaves, etc. This might have the same effect as placing it under direct sunlight. The cooled air can also lead to moisture inside the appliance.
It’s often easier to find a spot for the outdoor compressor of your ductless mini-split AC. Here are a few things to remember:
- Find a safe place behind or to the side of your home.
- Build a cement foundation for the outdoor unit to stand on instead of installing it directly on the ground.
- Keep it away from areas that tend to collect water.
- If you’re worried about it getting submerged in water during the rain, you can make the cement foundation higher or suspend the outdoor unit a few feet up on the wall.
- Don’t install it where the sun can beat down on it.
- Protect it from foliage and anything that can block airflow. Clean the area now and then to remove leaves and other debris.
EZ Air Conditioning and Heating is a heating and air condition repair and installation company. We install different types of HVACs, including ductless mini-split units. Get in touch with us at (210) 558-7883, or schedule an appointment with us here.