What is a Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner?
This article will tackle about ductless mini-split air conditioner including important details you might need if you plan to purchase one. Continue reading below!
In terms of home heating systems, almost everyone would consider the highly sought after and most efficient unit. And this seems to be the reason why many want to install a ductless heating system, or also referred to as the mini-splits heating system. You’ll get to know more about this type of air conditioner throughout the post.
So, what is a ductless mini-split air conditioner?
Ductless air conditioner, or mini-split air conditioner, is a mini-version of the split central air conditioner system. It primarily composed of the following:
- an outdoor condenser that pumps cool air to the indoor components.
- an indoor unit that you could mount somewhere on the ceiling or wall which releases the cool air into the house.
- a conduit that connects the two including the tubes of refrigerant cooling, power cable, and a condensate drain.
With these components, an end result is a cooling unit that works a lot like the central air, yet it doesn’t require any installation of ducts in the attic or wall. If you live in a home wherein ductwork is never done before, or you are willing to switch to a more energy-efficient cooling solution then this type of air conditioner is the right one for you.
Top 5 Best Ductless Mini-split Air Conditioners
Number one bestsellers not only on Amazon. The most recommended mini split air conditioners. Yes, those are Pioneer WYS series ACs. Available starting from 9000 BTU up to 36000 BTU versions with coverage between 200 – 1200 square feet. The system also can be used as a heater, dehumidifier, and ventilation. Pioneer uses the latest technologies making their ACs are super-efficient with a SEER rating between 16 – 19.5. Each model consists of 4 parts – ductless indoor unit, outdoor section, installation kit, and remote controller.
- Super efficiency
- Available wireless internet remote access
- Remote control with LCD screen
- Various sizes
- Comes with heat pump
- Installation takes time and patience
- May need to buy an adapter separately
Similar to Pioneer, also Senville provides various sizes of air conditioners starting from 900BTU (for bedrooms) up to 30000BTU (large rooms, garages). Senville SENL series Mini Split Air Conditioners are compact, affordable, efficient and powerful as well. Each unit can work also as a heater thanks to the integrated heat pump. Senville offers very high SEER – up to 19 making them one of the best in the class. This Air conditioner does not need expensive ductwork, making the installation process easier and less costly.
- Washable filters
- Built-in heat pump
- 19 SEER (HE) High Efficiency
- Minimal Energy Consumption
- 5-year warranty
- Remote included
- Comes with poor instructions (may find better ones on youtube)
- May need extra tools for installation
Della offers 6 versions of ductless mini-split ACs starting 12000 BTU up to 24 000. Della air conditioners come with smart technologies including auto defrost, self-cleaning, timer, sleep mode, smart comfort, etc. Della offers also heating, dehumidification, and ventilation. One of the best features is “follow me remote control”. The sensor in remote adjusts temperature based on your distance from the air conditioner.
- Quiet operation
- Energy saving
- Remote with LCD display
- Many smart technologies
- The manufacturer recommends hiring HVAC professional for installation
- Remote comes with buttons your unit may not have included
Already 3rd generation ductless mini-split by MrCool. It comes with a variety of features, the latest technologies including Google assist and Amazon Alexa. This unit has improved efficiency ratings up to 19 SEER, it delivers high comfort and great performance. An air conditioner is designed to heat and cool up to 750 square feet large room.
- Full of newest technologies – app, Follow Me, etc.
- 19 SEER
- Low Ambient Cooling
- Remote control with LCD screen
- Can be installed yourself but need some additional parts such as a vacuum pump
Klimaire KSIV series air conditioners are available with 9000 BTU up to 36000 BTU. The unit can work also as a heater, the dedicated dehumidifier, it has several fan speeds including turbo function and sleep mode. The unit can clean itself and keep room temperature above 46 degrees F while you are not home during the heating season. The outdoor unit has an automatic defrost function.
- Low ambient heating & cooling
- Self-cleaning function
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Quiet operation
- Not good installation instructions
- If you install yourself you may need to buy proper tools and gauges
How Does a Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner Work?
This kind of air conditioner works like a regular air conditioner without the ducts. Yes, it is possible. Here’s how a ductless mini-split air conditioner works. The indoor unit would blow warm air from your home over the cold evaporator coils. And so, the refrigerant that is running through these coils absorbs the heat and brings it now to the outside unit. Here, the refrigerant dumps all the heat that is pulled from the home’s air.
In a regular split system air conditioner, this indoor unit is in the closet or attic. Ducts would carry the air of your home to the central location wherein it is cooled and returned to your home through more ducts.
However, in a mini-split ductless system, the smaller indoor unit is usually in the room that it is cooling.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner
Of course, every unit has its pros and cons. For the main advantages of a mini-split system, consider the following:
Improved Heating and Cooling
If each of the air handlers is put in a specific zone or room, it leads to improved cooling and heating of the areas. Also, you can control the temperature of these zones separately, at the same time, you’ll have the perfect living environment for adults, kids and the elderly. With that, each could adjust the temperature of the area and enjoy the comfort of the home.
You could also switch off the air handler units of the rooms that are not in use. And also, you cool or heat only the desired zones at different temperatures as you wish.
No Need of Ducts
Since mini-split systems are ductless, they are indeed the perfect fit for heritage homes and buildings. It will not require you to install expensive ductwork for being able to live in a temperature-controlled environment.
Flexibility in Placement
This is not a case to most add-ons. You could install the air handler in the false ceiling, suspend it from the actual ceiling or affix it on the sidewall based on the aesthetics of the room.
Better Energy Efficiency
This system offers more flexibility to homeowners with regards to energy efficiency. And since this unit is ductless, there will be no scope of losing cool or warm air through leaks and cracks in the ducts. Also, the complete system doesn’t have to continuously run in maintaining the temperature.
Rather, there is just a need for you to turn on the handlers of the rooms which are in use and reduce the carbon footprint. Having limited use of power, savings would definitely be significant.
Easy to Install
Because of the fact that there is no need for ductwork, the process of installation is indeed hassle-free. It is also less invasive since you only need an approximately three-inch hole to join the two units through a conduit.
On the contrary, here are some of the disadvantages of the ductless mini-split air conditioner:
Improper Placement Causing Short Cycling
Even if there is flexibility when installing the air handler, still it needs to be installed in the correct place to prevent short cycling. You might need the aid of a trained or professional technician in order to work out the most suitable location.
Installing this system or unit is indeed costly. It would be more expensive compared to installing the traditional split system. Most homeowners decline this system because of the expense.
Indeed, you cannot ignore the presence of the air handler. Though it is small, it’s still substantive in size and couldn’t be concealed and might spoil the beauty of your room.
You have to weigh down the advantages and disadvantages of this system so that you can decide whether it is the right unit to purchase and install.
What Are the Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Mini-Split Air Conditioner?
If you have an idea in mind to invest in a ductless mini-split air conditioner, few main factors must be kept in mind during your quest to make sure that you purchase only the best unit suitable for your needs. So, here are some of the most important factors to bear in mind:
Definitely, the cost is a very important consideration. Why? Well, that is because the cost of having this kind of air conditioner is also its main downside. So, if you are too tight when it comes to budget, think more than twice before investing in this one.
The most affordable models of this unit can cost up to $1000 and the higher-end units are about $5000. Expect to pay closer to the higher-end units if you want an air conditioner that is powerful enough to cool your large room or a multi-zone unit that could handle several rooms.
And if you want one which comes with a heat pump during winter then it would add another cost too. Don’t forget that you also need to allot a budget for installation and the ongoing energy costs. There might be skilled individuals that could install this kind of unit but most costumers would still need to hire an HVAC specialist for aid.
Power or BTU Requirements
Since the power of the air conditioner is measured in BTU, take note that if the BTU is high, the space to be cooled effectively is great too. You might see a certain room size that is provided in the specifications of the product. However, you might as well do the calculations according to the provided BTU information.
Number of Zones
You might find single-zone ductless air conditioners that are designed in cooling only a room and also there are multi-zone models that are able to take on many rooms. And as expected, the cost would go up for every zone added, yet if you live in a house having several rooms, make sure you get an air conditioner with the right numbers of zones.
Most ductless air conditioners would use the standard 110 to a 120-volt outlet, however, some larger models need a higher voltage. For a model that requires a 220 to 240-volt plug, consider the help of a professional electrician for an upgrade to make sure that you’ll not encounter any problem.
Certainly, this is a crucial factor that should be considered once shopping for the air conditioner unit. And if you want to save on installation costs, consider the type of volt outlet the unit needs.
You should know that ductless air conditioners are Energy Star Certified letting you have wide options to choose from with regards to energy efficiency. If you plan to cool more rooms or large spaces, then the needed energy would also increase. So, the option of cooling a single space at any given time would help you in keeping the use of energy low.
Check out the SEER rating if you try to decide between energy efficiency and multiple models. Every unit would provide a rating in the specs and take note that the higher the number is, the better the unit would perform in terms of overall energy use.
A ductless air conditioner can be considered as a big investment, that’s why you might not want to deal with costly repairs or even worse wherein you need to replace the whole thing. Some units come with warranties letting you know that you can count on the product a lot longer or get it fixed only with minimal trouble and cost. You might also consider the reviews and the reputation of the brand to know more about the unit.
Ease of Installation
When installing ductless vents, it is recommended that you should consider a professional HVAC contractor. Some mini-split air conditioner manufacturers require professional installation for you to take advantage of the warranty. You can talk to local contractors about their experiences in installing different kinds of mini-split units.
For additional features that you should also consider, here are the following:
- Remote Control. Some units might come with remote control intended for greater convenience. You should definitely consider this feature.
- Additional Uses. Most mini-split air conditioners also include a heating feature and some come with a dehumidifier function. Based on the climate of your location, it is wise to consider one which would provide heat during winter months.
- Reusable Filters. We all know that filters could get expensive. Choose one that you can clean and reuse for you to save a lot of money.
- Programmable Timer. This could also help in saving money by making it a lot easier to set the air conditioner to keep the space to a certain temperature and at a certain time a day.
Good to know that this kind of unit offers many placement or installation options and each offers advantages too. You can even mix and match these placement types to suit your needs. Here are the options:
Wall Mounted Units
These ones are the most popular type of indoor units which come with widest options of energy efficiency ratings, sizes, and BTU configurations. Also, they are the simplest ones to install and the least expensive as well.
Usually, they are installed near the ceiling of the exterior wall requiring 3” drilling into the wall to be connected to the refrigerant lines, connecting wire and drain tube. This unit must level against the straight and un-slanted wall.
If walls are too narrow, or you have high windows or the walls are blocked with obstacles like furniture, you might require the alternate placement type.
Ceiling Cassette Units
These units are obviously installed in the ceiling and recessed behind a decorative grill which lies flush with the ceiling. However, the units offer an unobtrusive and sleek look. Typically, the BTU configuration of this unit ranges from 9000 to 48000.
These are ideal to be used in a T-Bar or on some other commercial ceilings, but they might also be installed in a traditional ceiling once there is enough space in between the joists and above the visible ceiling vertically.
Plus, these units also need a clearance of 10” to 14” between the surface above and the visible ceiling. They often come along with a built-in drain pump making it a lot simpler to remove the condensation from the said unit.
Concealed Duct Units
These units are a hybrid between the mini-split systems and central air systems. This one employs ductwork. The units are installed in an attic, a dropped ceiling, a closet or a crawlspace. Ductwork will then be installed in order to carry the air to the target zone and via grille in the wall. The only visible element of this unit is the grill and it could be customized in order to match the area’s look.
Also, this unit has the ability to supply two neighboring rooms having one unit by branching its ductwork. And take note that the temperature of the rooms will be controlled only by a thermostat.
LG Art Cool Units
You can consider this one for a stylish alternative to the traditional wall-mounted indoor units. These are units designed to mount as a wall art via framing a photograph or painting with 20” x 20” size. The conditioned air flows out from the three sides of this unit to either heat or cools the room. This unit is stylish and also an unobtrusive AC choice only under 5 inches thick. And these units are intended for multi-zone or single applications.
Are There Available Operation Options?
Here are some of the available operation options:
- Heating vs. Cooling. Once you have a heating system, the mini-split heating option is considered supplemental but not totally essential. However, you are offering air conditioning to your home having no built-in heating. So, in this case, you might require a heat pump model. Sometimes, a basic single-zone mini-split system offers to cool only, but if you like both capabilities you have to make sure that the model you choose includes HEAT PUMP.
- Low Ambient Operation. Once you require the special capability to offer to cool to a space having outdoor temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you would need to choose for a system with such operation.
How to Install the Mini-Split System?
So, how exactly is it to install the system successfully? Well, here’s the installation process:
Look for Professional HVAC Contractors
It is stated in the law that a licensed HVAC professional is the one required to install the mini-split system for you. There is a need for you to do your due diligence in order to make sure that the technician that you hire is definitely certified.
This mini-split system runs on pressurized, and electrically charged materials could be volatile once improperly handled. Also, a poorly performed installation could cause system underperformance and operational inefficiency overtime.
And also, take note that manufacturers offer only parts warranties. The HVAC professional must provide the labor warranty so make sure to check their warranty terms before dealing with them.
Before installing the system, the HVAC contractor must schedule a consultation in your home to inspect the layout of the space and identify where to put the outdoor and indoor units. And it might also help to choose the desired placement types.
Time to Install
For simpler installation, it could typically be completed within a day but could be longer based on how big the system is. You have to have a plan in advance along with your contractor.
And of course, there is a need for you to consider the cost of installing the system since the price could vary based on certain factors like the size of the unit, placement type, and unit capacity. You can check with at least two or more HVAC contractors for comparison.
Are There Required and Optional Hardware for This Unit?
Since a mini-split system needs more than just the outdoor and indoor units in order to operate, there are additional components that aren’t included in the system package. That’s why there is a need to separately purchase these components or sometimes these might be provided by the contractor.
Condensate Lines and Drain Pumps
The same with other AC units, the mini-split indoor units would absorb humidity which condenses to the water, then must be pumped away. These drain pipes are considered part of the tubing which mini-split systems need to drain water down the piping to a receptacle like a bucket or a flower bed. And these pipes are supplied by the contractor often.
For those concealed duct units and high-mounted ceiling cassettes, the piping needs to travel upwards. Of course, water couldn’t flow upwards alone, so the said models need a drain pump that would pump the condensate away from the unit.
There are some brands that include a drain pump intended for these units. Or you may want to check such from your HVAC contractor on whether which pump to buy or not.
Refrigeration Line Sets
These circulate refrigerant in between the indoor and outdoor units. This line set has two semi-flexible insulated copper pipes – one larger and one smaller. This smaller pipe is the liquid line and the larger one is the suction line. Line sets are being measured in feet and they come in various lengths in order to accommodate several distances between the outdoor and indoor units.
Once buying these line sets, take note of the four factors – line set diameter measurements, distances between each indoor and outdoor unit, BTU configuration and the number of rooms.
Ceiling Cassette Grills
These units require a grill in order to conduct the air coming from the hidden unit to the room that it conditions. Manufacturers would always have the grill model in order to match the unit you buy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there a need for home modifications for installation?
A: Installing this kind of unit is a relatively straightforward process. It would require modifications like three small inches holes in the walls the refrigerant tubing is run through. The said holes could be drilled inconspicuously and might take up a lot of lesser space compare to a through-the-wall unit or a window unit.
Q: Can mini-splits be painted?
A: It is not advised to paint the unit because this would void the given warranty.
Q: Can the system work in snow or rain?
A: Of course yes. The outdoor compressor is intended to operate either in snow and rain.
Q: What is the usual mini-split system like?
A: The warranty would be separated into a parts warrantee offered by the manufacturer as well as the labor or service warrantee that the contractor would provide. In the manufacturer’s warranty, the parts warranty would be divided into two separate terms for indoor and outdoor units. Indoor units might have 2-year warranties and the outdoor unit offers 5 years and more. However, always review the warranty before purchasing it.
Take note of the details above in order to know more about a ductless mini-split system before purchasing one. The above information would certainly help you in picking the right unit that will surely meet your needs and standards.
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