More and more Torontonians are asking us about ductless air conditioners these days. They’ve heard they’re great, but want to know more.
Here are some of the most common questions we get from homeowners just like you.
1. What are ductless air conditioners? Are they the same as “mini-split” systems?
A ductless air conditioner is a lot like a central air conditioner, in that it consists of an indoor unit (the evaporator) and an outdoor unit (the condenser).
The main difference is that a central AC system directs cool air to the air handler attached to your furnace. That’s how it connects to your home’s ductwork to distribute cool air.
A ductless system, on the other hand, sends cool air to a slender box that mounts to a wall or ceiling in a room.
With both types, the indoor unit and outdoor unit are connected by a thin line. The refrigerant passes through this cable, absorbing heat in the rooms of your home and taking it to the outdoor unit where the heat is released. With a ductless system, the power supply and moisture drainage are also bundled into this thin cable.
Any cooling system that has separate indoor units and outdoor units is called a split system. As ductless systems are smaller, they’re sometimes called “mini-split” systems. Split systems are different from all-in-one cooling systems like window-mounted air conditioners or even your refrigerator, in which heat is released from the back.
2. Why would I use a ductless air conditioner?
There are tons of advantages to a ductless air conditioner!
- They’re perfect for older homes without ductwork. Installing ductwork not only expensive, it’s incredibly messy and inconvenient.
- They’re great for home additions that aren’t connected to the ductwork system in the rest of the house.
- Because of their thin lines that only require a small hole in the wall of your home’s, they’re less destructive to install.
- They’re usually much more energy efficient than central air conditioner systems. With a ductless system you’ll spend less money on electricity.
- They cost less than central systems.
- They work better and look better than portable or window-mounted air conditioners.
- They’re more secure and convenient that window ACs or portables.
- If noise bothers you, you’ll be glad to learn that ductless systems are quieter than central ACs.
- If your home has areas that are hard to heat or cool (especially top floors), a ductless system offers a less expensive was to get a zoning system.
As you can see, ductless ACs work in a lot of situations.
3. Sounds good, but do ductless systems have any disadvantages?
They’re not completely invisible like central air conditioners. Some people don’t like having the indoor unit mounted on the ceiling or wall of their rooms. The good news is that they’re less intrusive than portable air conditioners, because they’re smaller and don’t take up floor space. They blend in so easily that most people forget about them.
Ductless air conditioners can blend in seamlessly with your decor. Image courtesy http://aroundclock.com.
Ductless air conditioners also may not have enough cooling power for very large homes.
4. What kind of maintenance do ductless ACs need?
The maintenance is the same as for a central air conditioner. Ductless systems have a protective dust filter that should be replaced when it gets dirty. How often you need to do this will depend on how often you use your AC, how often you clean, and if you have pets that shed. Generally, once or twice a season should be fine. Some have additional filters that absorb odours or improve air quality in other ways.
The outdoor unit should also be checked every spring to make sure the vents are free of leaves, grass and other debris. In fall, you should protect it with a plastic covering before the snow flies.
We recommend a yearly maintenance check and tune up every spring to ensure optimum efficiency and long lifespan.
5. How much do ductless ACs cost?
It’s hard to provide an exact number because there are so many variables:
- The square footage of your home will affect the amount cooling power you need.
- Some models are more energy efficient than others.
- You can get systems with one or multiple indoor units.
- Installation costs can vary with different types of homes, and where the outdoor unit is placed will make a difference too.
- Some ductless units, called heat pumps, can also provide heating in fall and winter.
- Whether a manufacturer or government rebate is happening or not.
Costs will start from a few thousand dollars and up. While that may sound vague it’s important to know that you really need to request a quote for your specific needs and home size.
6. Why are ductless air conditioners more efficient that central air systems?
Avoiding the use of ductwork means you save as much as 30% of the energy used to cool your space. Ducts are not always properly designed, and are not always sealed tightly. Often most of the cool air goes to the basement or ground floor instead of the top floor where it’s really needed. Homeowners also sometimes block vents with furniture or heavy drapes.
7. What does a SEER number mean?
SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency rating. It’s a measure of how much cooling power you get versus the energy used. The higher the number the better, and in Canada the legal minimum SEER for a central or ductless AC is 13. They can reach as high as 26 or 27 with current technology.
You may also have seen EER numbers. This stands for energy efficiency rating, and are not generally used anymore as they don’t factor in the seasonal adjustment. The EER number for an AC is generally slightly less than the SEER number.
8. I’ve noticed some of your ductless systems are heat pumps. What does that mean?
A heat pump is a lot like an air conditioner, except that it can also work in reverse. In summer, a heat pump will cool your home, moving the warm air from the inside to the outside of your home. In fall and winter it switches and starts bringing warm air indoors.
Heat pumps can be useful if you don’t want to rely on your furnace as much. Our climate here in Toronto gets cold enough that you will still need your gas furnace on the very coldest winter days.
Heat pump efficiency is measured as HSPF or heating seasonal performance factor. Like SEER, it compares the heating output to the energy used, and the higher the number the better. Right now HSPF numbers go to about 10.
What Other Questions Do YOU Have?
If you’re considering a ductless system for your home, but still have questions, we’re here to help. You’ll find we’re friendly and easy to talk to, and won’t be constantly pushing you to buy.
Go ahead and ask us your questions!