It is not difficult at all to purchase an air conditioner, let alone finding one to your liking. Many options are available and you would not lack of options. But choosing the right cooling and heating system for a specific space in your home, office, or commercial facility is not always easy as you would expect.
If what you seek is a perfect match for your comfort needs, budget, and personal requirements, having a little idea about what the systems really are will go a long way in making a smart purchase.
In this article, we’ll be looking at two unique systems that can both heat and cool a room using just one unit—the commonly used Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners or PTACs and the innovative ductless mini split system.
What is Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC)?
A packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) is a ductless, through-the-wall heating and cooling system that is normally used in commercial spaces, but they can also be used in typical residential environments.
PTAC is the type of air conditioning unit that you would often find installed in hotel rooms. Many condominiums and apartment buildings that do not have a centralized heating and air conditioning units are also often installed with PTAC units. Institutional facilities, hospitality business spaces, and other large residential properties also normally make use of this type of system.
PTAC is a self-contained unit or a unitary heating and cooling system, which means its main components, such as the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and expansion valve, among others part, is housed and integrated together in a single casing.
As a reversible system, a PTAC unit can be used as an ideal cooling solution during Summer, a heating solution during Winter, and as a reliable climate control system which is designed for year-round comfort. When used for cooling, the refrigerant inside works to cool the coil which facilitates the exhaustion and removal of heat and humidity which are released via the vent of the unit. When used for heating, it works in reverse with the refrigerant heating the coil. When the air passes over this heated coil, the resulting warm air is released back into the room. For heating, PTACs either use a heat pump or an electric heat.
What is Ductless Mini Split System?
A ductless mini split system is a split-type heating and cooling system that consists of two main components—the outdoor compressor/condenser unit and an indoor air handler unit. These two units are connected and linked to work together as one system by a set of pipes called a line set that consists of two copper pipes called a suction line and a liquid line. These pipes are also called refrigerant lines because they carry the refrigerant that is an important component that helps in the main heating and cooling function of the system. A condensate drain line and an electrical that connect the whole system to the power supply wire also link the outdoor and indoor units together.
As its name suggests, a ductless mini split system does not require ductwork or those set of tubing that is installed and routed throughout different rooms if you are using a centralized air conditioning system. This ductwork serves as pathways for conditioned air before they are distributed into the room through the air vents that are installed in each room.
Just like PTAC, a ductless mini split system is also a reversible AC system. This means that it can cool or heat your room, which means it can effectively work as an air conditioning unit during summer and as a heat pump during winter. Basically, it can work either way depending on your desired mode of operation.
A ductless mini split system works through the process of heat transfer. This process of transferring heat is crucial in making the system work as an air conditioning unit and as a heat pump. The refrigerant, which is a liquid substance, that flows inside the refrigerant lines and throughout the system makes this possible. During the process, this refrigerant moves and follows a cyclic process, and always changing its state. It would either condense inside the compressor or evaporate inside the evaporator. Specifically, it absorbs heat inside the evaporator while in the gas state and circulates it back in the condenser unit; when in the liquid state, it releases the heat inside the condenser unit and then brings it back to the evaporator. This cycle simply repeats. In simple terms, it absorbs and releases heat.
As an air conditioner, the mini split system absorbs the warm air inside the room where the unit is installed, processes it into a cool air, and then circulates it back inside the room as a conditioned air through the air handling unit. As a heat pump, the system takes warm air from outside through the outdoor unit. This air is brought inside and eventually distributed throughout the room through the air handling unit and with the aid of the system’s fan system.
PTAC Versus Ductless Mini Split: Which One Should You Use?
As both are designed for single-room cooling and heating, it would be best to take a look at PTAC and ductless mini split and find out how each one compares to the other in terms of the following aspects:
When it comes to air conditioning systems, ease of installation provides added value for obvious reasons. It would save you a lot of trouble, time, effort, and money.
Both the PTAC and ductless mini split systems are easy to install AC solutions. With PTAC, you will have to install the unit through the wall. This means that you have to create a hole in the wall with an appropriate size for the unit. The unit has to be positioned just a few inches above the floor to give it a space allowance.
Installing PTAC requires you to also use a wall sleeve, exterior grille, and a drain kit on the unit aside from the wiring connections. The wall sleeve is important to support the main unit or chassis. The purpose of the exterior grille is to protect the coils and provide a space for the airways at the back of the unit.
The grilles may vary by design but they are used the same way. If you are replacing an old PTAC model, you can simply reuse the existing sleeve and grille. The other accessories needed are the thermostat and the remote controllers.
With ductless mini split unit, you will have to place the compressor unit outside and mount the air handler inside the room. The wiring and piping systems that connect both units will be passed through a small hole in the wall.
Installing both systems may require you to seek the help of an HVAC contractor just to make sure that the installation will be done properly.
Keep in mind that the more the installation is complicated and labor-intensive, the more it can cost you money. Installation-wise, the ductless mini split system is definitely easier to do or less complicated. Unlike PTAC, it would not require you any other supporting materials like the exterior grille or wall sleeve. The size of the hole that is required is also smaller for the mini split system than for PTACs. The truth is, you can’t have a more flexible cooling and heating solution than a ductless mini split system. The unit can actually be installed almost anywhere regardless of the application or the type of environment.
Aside from performance, energy-efficiency should be non-negotiable when you’re looking for right cooling and heating system for your specific space. Between PTAC and ductless mini split, the latter is way better. Due to the integration of more advanced technology and components, there’s no question that ductless mini split systems are just on the top on right now in terms of energy-efficiency. Even when compared with many new-generation traditional AC and heat pump systems, most ductless mini splits will still have the edge.
Cooling and Heating Performance
Outside energy-efficiency, the cooling and heating performance of a system should be the main consideration when you’re choosing your next AC unit. After all, comfort is what you’re after; and how the system performs determines its effectivity as a cooling and heating solution.
While PTAC systems work decently enough in terms of cooling and heating a room, ductless mini splits are designed with better range and capabilities that make their cooling and heating function a notch higher than any other systems, including PTACs.
Typically built with better compressor technology and advanced functionalities, ductless mini splits are completely capable of providing you with the exact and really precise cooling and heating comfort regardless of the outside temperature.
While both PTAC and ductless mini split can be used for commercial and residential applications, PTAC would never become a popular choice when it comes to specific residential space. Mainly a commercial-grade system, PTACs are utilized mostly in commercial spaces and hospitality businesses like hotels. The ductless mini split system is just too versatile and it can be installed in almost all types of environments, regardless of size, condition, and limitations.
If there’s one thing that truly separates PTAC from the ductless mini split, it would be the latter’s capability to be used for single-room and multi-room applications. Ductless mini splits are not just a single-room solution; it is specifically designed for temperature zoning, which means it can be used as a whole-home cooling system by simply installing different air handlers in different rooms inside the house. Usually, one ductless system can have multiple air handlers installed in different spaces and connected to just one compressor.
Both PTAC and ductless mini splits can be connected to a wall thermostat, which can be wired or wireless. Many ductless mini split systems, however, have automation capabilities. Most advanced mini split models can now be connected, accessed, and controlled directly and remotely via any smart wireless device, such as a smart phone and tablet.
Another excellent aspect of ductless mini split’s control capability refers to its function as a temperature zoning solution. Since each air handler can be controlled independently, you can have an option to set a different temperature for different rooms by simply controlling the specific air handler or indoor unit that is installed in each of these rooms. With this capability, a mini split system becomes an ideal solution for controlling temperatures for different rooms, which ultimately eliminates the usual issues on hot spots and cold spots that you normally experience with a ducted system.
Design and Space-saving Capability
A PTAC is a 42-inch wide ductless air conditioner, which means it is bulky. When installed, PTACs normally protrude, and this does not always sit well with people that are particular with spaces and design. Ductless mini splits, on the other hand, are designed compact and unobtrusive, making them perfect for rooms where you want the unit to just simply blend all together with the overall interior design.
Choose Ductless Mini Split Over PTAC
It must be noted that, indeed, there are advanced PTAC systems with better capabilities and better level of flexibility that might work for homeowners and even technical people like architects, engineers, contractors, building managers. In other words, while most PTACs have certain serious issues, they are not at all bad. Compared with traditional systems, PTAC is not a bad choice, especially if you need it for a single-room application. That’s a fact. ETAC, from Gree, for instance, provides an enhanced version of PTAC. If you think PTAC remains your best option, then might as well choose an enhanced version of the system like Gree ETAC. Nonetheless, it does not take away the fact that ductless mini split trumps PTAC in many aspects that really matter, whether, in terms of efficiency, performance, flexibility, cost-savings, eco-friendliness, control system, and others, the latter will always be the best option. So, if you want an upgrade to a really better system that can provide you with a higher level of comfort and energy-savings, ductless mini splits are hands-down the best choice.
For your best options, ComfortUp offers some of the best selections. Find the ductless system that fits your needs and application by visiting www.comfortup.com.