What Is Ductless HVAC?

hvac technician working on ac

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When working in the field of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), it can be helpful to stay informed of the latest trends. Ductless HVAC equipment is a growing trend. In fact, there have been double-digit increases in sales of ductless systems in the U.S. for each of the last five years. What is ductless HVAC and why is it becoming so popular? 1

What Are Ductless HVAC Systems?

Ductless HVAC units are also called ductless, mini-split systems. Two main characteristics of these systems are that they do not require ductwork, and their primary components are located in two locations with a compressor/condenser outside and a wall-mounted, air handling unit inside. These components are connected with a conduit. Inside the conduit are the suction and refrigerant tubing, the power cable, and the condensate drain. 2

With ductless heat pump and air conditioner options available, these systems can be used for heating or cooling. 3

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What Are the Advantages of Ductless HVAC?

  • Ductless HVAC systems offer advantages over traditional central HVAC systems. One of the biggest is efficiency. Unlike central heating and air conditioning units, ductless systems allow for zoning. Instead of providing the entire building with conditioned air, only the rooms being used are heated or cooled. The use of zoning and efficient HVAC equipment can reduce energy consumption by 20 to 50 percent.
  • Not only can home and business owners benefit from lower utility bills but experts have cited municipalities can also benefit, points out Joe Wood of New England Ductless. Historically, HVAC equipment has been sized to counteract the worst possible condition a building could experience. These systems always operate at maximum levels, even on days when the weather is not extreme. This wastes energy and taxes power grids. Thanks to their inverter motors, ductless HVAC systems can be modulated so that they’re not always operating at maximum power.
  • The lack of ductwork with these systems is also an advantage. Leaky ducts can cause a 20 percent loss of HVAC system energy efficiency. 4 In buildings built without ducts or that have old, faulty ductwork, a ductless system can be more affordable than ripping down walls to install or replace ductwork.

What Are the Disadvantages of Ductless HVAC?

  • One of the biggest drawbacks to ductless HVAC systems for consumers is the upfront cost. They can be 30 percent more expensive than central systems before the cost of ductwork is accounted for.
  • For cosmetic reasons, some people may not like seeing a unit hanging from their wall. They units come in white or beige, and they can’t be covered.
  • Ductless HVAC systems require frequent maintenance. Filters must be washed monthly. Ignoring maintenance can lead to the need for professional maintenance and even shorten the lifespan of the equipment. 5
  • Lastly, consumers may have a hard time finding technicians who are qualified to install and maintain ductless HVAC systems. Many HVAC companies won’t even recommend ductless units to their customers. 6

Working with Ductless HVAC

If you’re currently in HVAC training, you might find yourself working with ductless HVAC equipment when you graduate and enter the field. Already, the commercial ductless business has experienced significant growth as use of the technology has increased in schools and multifamily buildings. As consumer awareness of ductless HVAC in the residential sector spreads, demand for the equipment could be even greater. 7

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