Did you know that more than 326 million of Americans consume more energy for their air conditioning needs than the rest of the population in the world? Air conditioners have been a standard equipment in most homes in the country, yet there’s still an ongoing need for better, more efficient system.
Through its Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), the United States Energy Information Administration reports that as of 2009, at least 87 percent of homes in the country use air conditioners. If another survey is conducted today, you can only imagine how that figure increases in view of the continued rise in the use of air conditioning systems in the United States. If you ask the Department of Energy, that would be 2/3 of American households, costing homeowner $29 billion dollar a year and at least $11 billion dollars in power costs annually.
Let’s face it—the traditional cooling and heating systems are not perfect. Whether you are using a window air conditioner, a portable unit, gas heaters, or a centralized air conditioning system, there’s always a time when you are faced with some situations when your conventional cooling and heating solution at home is not meeting your exact needs. Specifically, ducted systems—and unfortunately, despite their wide use, they are proving not too efficient and effective enough.
Impressively tackling the modern cooling and heating challenges, mini split systems are creating a new awareness in the efficacy of a ductless solution. In this article, you will gain understanding what a ductless mini split system really is, how it effectively creates new opportunities for whole-home temperature comfort, what advantages it provides in comparison with other systems, how it gives you complete control over your comfort, what’s the deal with its much touted efficiencies, and why in the subject of efficient and powerful cooling and heating, this innovative solution delivers more than just the chance to ditch the costly ducts.
But first, let’s gain insight on the different systems that we normally use.
Central Air Conditioning System Doesn’t Always Work
A central air conditioning system is one of the most commonly used heating and cooling solutions in most homes in the country. In fact, it is widely used in the Southern, Midwestern, and Western regions, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.
So, what is a central air conditioning system?
A central air conditioning unit consists of a ductwork. It works by cooling or heating the entire house through the use of vents that are connected to a network of ducts. This system works by absorbing the heat indoors, cooling and dehumidifying it, and with the aid of the fan system, blows back the conditioned air to specific parts of the house through the vents.
There are specific reasons why a central air conditioning system is widely popular as a system. These reasons include the following:
- It enables you to have a whole-home cooling solution without the need to install different sets of system for each part of the house.
- The circulated conditioned air is distributed through small vents, which basically make the system space-saving and unobtrusive.
- A central air can be conveniently controlled through thermostat, giving one single device to control the whole system.
- Central air conditioning systems are not noisy when in operation. Having the compressor system installed outside greatly helps.
Despite its many advantages, a centralized air conditioning system has its share of issues. Mainly, these are the following:
- Costly and complex installation. Centralized air conditioning systems require the ductwork that needs to be routed throughout the different parts of the house. This makes the installation complex, and oftentimes, very costly.
- More Chances on uneven temperature. Hot and cold spots are among the biggest issues with centralized air conditioning system. Because you can’t really control how much air passes through each vent, temperature inconsistencies become a common problem. Improper sizing, poor insulation, and ductwork damage and leaks further exacerbate this problem.
- Higher energy costs. Centralized air conditioning systems are proven energy-hogs due to its greater need to use energy so it can effectively condition and distribute air throughout the house. The lack of control and imprecise cooling and heating, however, make for a lot of wasted energy. As a result, you can always expect higher electricity bill due to the system’s higher energy consumption.
- Very high maintenance costs. Centralized air conditioning system are prone to damages and leaks, which is a big disadvantage because you will always need to seek the help of an HVAC professional whose services don’t come very cheap.
- Not flexible. As a ducted system, a centralized air conditioning system is not versatile enough to accommodate all cooling and heating needs, especially those that require a unique type of installation.
Generally speaking, a centralized air conditioning system is not a very cost-effective and efficient option if you are looking for flexibility, energy-efficiency, performance reliability, and complete control over your comfort. Naturally, we are inclined to look for a better system. But before we set out discussing the best options, let’s identify some of the other traditional cooling and heating systems, which include the following:
Portable Air Conditioner
Another commonly used cooling solutions are the room or window air conditioner and a portable air conditioner.
Room/Window air conditioner
The simplest and commonly used system in the United States, this type of air conditioning system works only for a single-room application. A self-contained unit, it houses all of its main components in one casing, which means the compressor, the condenser, the evaporator, the fan motor, the cooling coil, and other important parts are fully integrated inside one chassis, enabling it to work as a unitary system. The best thing about this system is it is easy to install, works to complement your centralized AC system, very affordable, and can be used anywhere. The problem with this type of air conditioner, however, lies in performance and efficiency. It is a known energy-hog, very noisy when in operation, designed bulky and not-so-aesthetically appealing, and has a limited cooling capacity. It is only best to be installed in small to medium-sized spaces.
Portable air conditioner
Also a self-contained unit, a portable air conditioner is a movable system that you can bring and use anywhere, regardless of the type of space or environment. In fact, you can just place it on the floor and move it around at any location wherever you need to. It is mainly used as a cooling system and humidifier and works by exhausting the warm air and moisture inside the room through a window kit or a drain hose. Normally, portable air conditioners are very easy to set up, space-saving, low-cost, and best to use if there’s no way for you to use a window air conditioner (like in an instance when you are renting a unit and you have to follow a building regulation). But like any other system, a portable air conditioner has some significant drawbacks. Aside from only providing limited cooling, it is not very energy-efficient, requires you to constantly drain the accumulated condensate water, noisy while being used, and it requires vent to be able to release the exhaust heat that it is being discharged.
Natural Gas Heater
Heaters are the most common heating solutions. You might hear a lot of great sounding names for heaters that are hot these days. They often use heavy technical terms, like forced air, convection, radiant, infrared, and so on. True, heaters come in different shapes, sizes, prices, and capacities, but don’t get confused. The “problem with too many choices” practically applies here and the last thing you need is to get baffled. So, we’ll break things down to the basics then move forward.
As the name suggests, gas heaters use gas. The gas could either be natural gas (methane) or propane gas. How gas heaters work is simple. They basically operate like furnaces. The fuel that is fed into the heater is ignited and creates a flame. While the fuel burns, heat is produced in the heat exchanger. Afterward, an activated fan disburses or blows the warm air throughout your room.
Natural gas heater
Natural gas heaters usually require a gas line. So if you have an existing one, the installation would be easier and less expensive. While a natural gas heater is costlier than the electric heaters, there’s a factor of cost-efficiency in the long run because natural gas is cheaper to use than electricity. The natural gas heaters are also powerful and very energy-efficient, and because they can warm bigger areas, they are ideally used in small to mid-sized industrial spaces like warehouses and workshops.
Propane-powered heater is more known for its portability and high degree of reliability. It basically works the same like the natural gas heater, except it doesn’t rely on a gas grid. The propane gas heater uses a liquefied propane gas stored in a tank. This makes it more cost-effective and reliable because you can always store propane gas and buy them at a lower price when the supply is greater than the demand.
Ventless gas heater
Unvented natural gas heaters take air from inside and uses it to heat the place. Using this requires you to make sure that your space is properly ventilated. Unvented gas heaters are less expensive than the vented ones, but they come with risks, especially when the combusted air is blown back inside the room which might cause carbon monoxide buildup.
Vented gas heater
Vented natural gas heaters, on the other hand, are usually mounted on a wall and uses a small duct that connects to the air outside. The main purpose of this duct line is to pull in some air instead of combusting the air right inside your room.
When it comes to specific spaces, like a garage for example, some heating solutions are also typically used. One of these solutions is the vented garage heater that can be any of the following:
Gravity vented heater
A gravity vented heater vent naturally. It means that it doesn’t need a fan. Instead, it releases gas vertically through the roof. Using this means you will need to install a specialized vent in the ceiling. It is very compact and not too expensive. It has one caveat, however. It is air-pressure sensitive. You will have to make sure that the air pressure in the room is positive or within neutral. Otherwise, the reverse will happen, with air drawn inside and the gravity vents prevented from releasing fumes.
Power vented heater
A power vented garage heater works the same way as the gravity vented type, except that it uses a booster fan to help blow the gas out. This type of venting is more popularly used because it also allows horizontal venting. This means that a specialized vent that goes directly outside can be on the sidewall of a garage, preventing any costly modifications in the roof.
Separated combustion garage heater
Unlike the gravity vented and power vented heaters, a separated combustion garage heater is unique in a way that it does not use space air. Instead, it uses two flue pipes that connect outside—one to takes in air and the other to release an exhaust gas back outside.
Ductless Mini Split System: Your Best Option for Tackling Cooling and Heating Challenges
While traditional cooling and heating systems have their own significant advantages, it’s a reality that it is not versatile, efficient, and effective enough to deal with recent cooling and heating challenges that we face today. Where ducted systems, like central air fails, a ductless mini split system prove to be the most effective solution.
What is a Ductless Mini Split System?
A ductless mini split system has been around since the 1970s, but it only has recently gained traction in the American market. Mostly used in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world, the ductless air conditioner was conceptualized as an upgraded version of a window air conditioning unit, with the original developers hoping that it would provide ways to offset the latter system’s limitations. Today, a ductless system is proving not as the most efficient and better alternative to room air conditioners but also as a best supplement to any existing centralized HVAC system.
A ductless mini split system consists of an outdoor compressor/condenser unit that is installed in a suitable area outside the house and an indoor air-handling unit that is mounted inside the home. These two main units are connected by two copper refrigerant lines (liquid and suction lines, which are collectively called the line set), power cable, and condensate drain that are passed through a small conduit in the wall. Unlike the traditional ducted systems, it does not require the costly ductwork that is usually installed as an intricate network of ducts that are routed throughout different parts of the house and make use of air vents to distribute air.
How Does a Ductless Mini Split System Work?
A reversible system, a ductless mini split system can be used as an air conditioner and a heat pump, which means it works both as a cooling and heating solution, depending on your desired or needed mode of operation.
A ductless mini split system works through a process called heat transfer. A critical part of this process is the cyclic movement of a liquid substance called refrigerant. This refrigerant always changes state—it condenses inside the compressor and evaporates inside the evaporator. How this works is simple: while it is in gas state it absorbs heat inside the evaporator and circulates back inside the condenser unit; when in liquid state, it releases the heat inside the condenser unit and then brings it back to the evaporator. This cycle repeats over and over as long as the unit is in operation. To put it simply, the heat transfer process involves absorbing and releasing heat.
Now, here’s how the cooling and heating processes happen:
To cool your room, the system absorbs the warm air inside your room, processes it into a cool air, and then circulates it back inside the room as a conditioned air by letting it pass through the vent of the air handler with the aid of the fan system.
To heat your room, the system gathers heat from outside through the outdoor unit. This air is brought inside and distributed throughout the room through the air handling unit and with the aid of the fan system.
The dedicated thermostat for each indoor unit allows you to regulate the amount of cool or warm air that is distributed inside your room.
Designed for Temperature Zoning and Climate Control
One of the best uses of a ductless mini split system is home temperature zoning, a capability that enables you to have complete control over your indoor climate. A ductless mini split system can connect two or more air handlers with just one outdoor unit.
In temperature zoning, your home is divided into different zones, where each zone is installed with a ductless mini split air handler. You can connect multiple air handlers or evaporator units with just one outdoor unit. This means that you can choose to heat or cool as much as eight rooms or zones, for instance, with just one outdoor condenser unit.
The air handler in every zone can be controlled independently of each other, either through a designated thermostat or remote controller. How many indoor units you will use will really depend on the number of rooms that you need to heat or cool.
When it comes to remote controllers, you can have two options: handheld or wireless remote controllers. Some recently advanced mini split systems also offer connectivity with smart mobile devices. This means that you can now easily control your ductless mini split system or manage your whole-home ductless HVAC system directly from your smart phone or tablet.
Why Temperature Zoning Helps?
Basically, temperature zoning works to help you balance the temperature in different areas inside your home and allow you the luxury of controlling your indoor climate whenever and wherever you need to. Ideally, each zone should be an area where spot cooling is really needed. Thus, eliminating hot spots and cold spots.
If you have a large home, for example, you might have some areas that directly absorbs the radiant heat from the sun. Typically, these are windowed areas that directly faces the sunlight. In the hottest days of Summer, curtains, awnings, or other materials that can be used to block the heat may not be effective to avoid the heat gained by these areas. During the coldest days of Winter, these exact same areas would absorb more cold as well. As a result, these parts of your house will always be too hot or too cold depending on the outside weather condition. Even if you have a centralized air conditioning system, the degree of warm or cold air that can be distributed in these areas, either might not be enough or the option of dialing the thermostat higher or lower might affect the balance of temperature in some parts of the home. This would not be the case if you will be using a ductless mini split system because you would not only be able to balance the temperature that you exactly need in these hot spots or cold spots but also do so without affecting the temperature in other zones.
With temperature zoning, just imagine the convenience of being able to control the temperature of some parts of the house that need a specific degree of temperature, like a nursery room, for example, or a recreational room, a sunroom, a garage, a basement, an attic, or any type of room addition. The possibilities, when it comes to the application of a ductless system, are endless and you can only imagine the degree of comfort and convenience that you can achieve.
Of course, you will have a good idea about what parts of your house needs to be treated as a zone, but if you need a perfect application, you can always consult an HVAC professional with enough knowledge and expertise on ductless mini split systems.
In the financial side, temperature zoning makes more sense because through individual controller or programmable thermostat for each unit inside the room, you will be able to turn on or turn off the system in any unoccupied room, allowing you to save more energy and lower your electricity costs.
When is the Best Time to Install a Ductless Mini Split System?
Specifically, ductless mini splits are ideal to use in the following situations:
- You want a system for a room addition but your centralized ducted system cannot be extended without you making a costly structural adjustment.
- When you want to convert an area of your house, like a garage, into a new functional space, but there is no other way to link it with your existing HVAC system.
- When constructing a new home or remodeling a house and you are planning to have a system that will enable you to have more control over your comfort.
- When you are upgrading or replacing a part of your old HVAC system and you are looking for the best alternative, whether in terms of performance, energy-efficiency, or both.
- Your existing centralized air conditioning system is causing problematic temperature swings that result to some areas of your house always becoming too hot or too cold.
- Your live in an old house—and let’s say a historic old home—and creating a ductwork is not an option, not only because it requires a complicated work but also because it might damage the historic integrity of the house.
- You live in a temporary home and it is not financially practical to spend on a costlier HVAC system or you have no rights whatsoever to create some structural modifications.
- You need a high-performance and high-efficiency system that is easy to install and simple to operate.
- You are currently using a non-ducted system for your cooling and heating needs at home and now looking for the same thing, but this time, you want it to be more powerful, efficient, easy-to-install, and simple to operate.
What are the Advantages of a Ductless Mini Split System?
Ductless mini split cooling and heating systems provide some unique advantages. Unlike traditional systems, ductless units offer the following:
Precise temperature control
A powerful spot cooling and heating system, ductless mini splits have the capability to give you the exact degree of temperature that you need, with very minimal chance of energy losses. This capability is mostly facilitated by a powerful inverter-driven compressor, intelligent sensors, and other smart control features that are normally integrated and built into the system.
Ductless mini split systems are known for being ultra-energy-efficient, thanks to its many energy-saving components and capabilities. Most ductless systems have high energy-efficiency ratings and are mostly Energy Star-classified.
Low-impact, flexible installation
With the absence of duct requirements and coupled with its compact design, ductless mini splits are very easy to install and highly unobtrusive. This means that you can easily install the whole system without too much structural work needed and the indoor unit can be conveniently mounted anywhere inside the room without any significant impact on your home décor or interior design.
Ductless mini split solutions are engineered with smart features that enable you to easily control the system, either through the remote controllers, thermostat, or connected smart devices. Some sensor-based ductless system also provide intelligent control capabilities that enable you to customize its operation depending on your desired level of temperature comfort.
All ductless systems operate quietly, giving you another opportunity to enjoy the comfort it brings without worrying about the annoying sounds that you normally get from other systems.
Built with highly-efficient and often multi-layer, anti-allergen filters, ductless mini splits provide exceptional filtration capabilities, enabling you to enjoy 100% cleaner, and healthier indoor air.
What are the Benefits of Using a Ductless Mini Split System?
A ductless mini split system offers many benefits, which in many ways, can help you completely enjoy temperature comfort without the hassles and worries that are typically associated with the conventional systems. By using a ductless mini split system, you are able to:
- Enjoy consistent maximum comfort. Ductless mini split systems are models of powerful cooling and heating performance. These solutions can be relied on, especially during extreme weather conditions.
- Drastically cut your electricity costs. Highly energy efficient, ductless mini splits have the capability to give you substantial energy-savings, which in effect, translates to substantial reduction in your power bill.
- Gain complete control over your comfort. Through smart temperature management, ductless mini splits enable you to set the temperature in every part of your home according to your specific needs and preference.
- Use a cost-effective alternative/supplement to your HVAC system. A ductless mini split system is an ideal replacement and alternative to any traditional cooling and heating solution, whether it is a room air conditioners or your existing centralized HVAC system. It is not only easy to install, but also offers better capabilities, whether in terms of performance or efficiency.
- Improve your indoor air quality. Ductless mini split systems are normally designed with advanced filtration capabilities that enable it to effectively deodorize air and eliminate airborne pollutants.
- Get a chance to reduce your household’s carbon footprint. Aside from having recyclable components, ductless mini split systems use the refrigerant called R410A, which is ozone-friendly.
Time to Find the Best Ductless Mini Split System for Your Home
Whereas traditional systems often fail in resolving some cooling and heating challenges, ductless mini split systems offer an excellent solution. Providing exceptional capabilities, these systems can give you year-round comfort and substantial energy-savings. With ductless mini splits, you have the option to heat or cool a specific room without worrying about any type of constraints, whether it is related to cost, complexity of procedure, or structural constraints.
Remember that with ductless mini splits, you can have an effective climate control system that is best for spot cooling and heating or for whole-home climate control. Use a ductless mini split system and enjoy greater performance and efficiency for your maximum comfort and energy-savings.