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What Exactly Is A Ductless Air Conditioner & Can I Afford One?

What the duct!? A ductless air conditioner, a.k.a. a mini split AC, is super energy-efficient… but it’s also costly. Here’s what you need to know before you buy.

For many years, ductwork and air conditioners went hand-in-hand. In fact, most homeowners’ AC units still rely on a complex system of ducts that run throughout their house, carrying the air to vents. But there’s a new player in the heating and cooling game. If you’re considering an air conditioner purchase, you will likely have heard the term “ductless air conditioner.” These units are increasingly popular in both residential and commercial units, but are they right for you? As with all major home purchases and improvement projects, there are some pros and cons to consider. Here’s everything you need to know about mini splits, or ductless air conditioners, so you can make the best decision for your budget, needs, and cooling preferences.

What Is A Ductless Air Conditioner?

Both heaters and air conditioners can be ductless. These are wall-mounted units connected to an outdoor compressor. These wall-mounted units contain vents right on the model, which eliminates the need for air to travel through ducts and out traditional vents. The refrigerant and electrical components of the AC are what connect the outdoor compressor and the on-wall unit. In the case of a ductless air conditioner, the air is cooled and conditioned, then distributed directly through the unit’s vents. Unlike traditional central air conditioning, a mini split only cools the immediate area around it. This makes it similar to a stand-alone, portable, or window AC unit — however, it is not quite comparable to these smaller units. Let’s explore why.

Pros and Cons of Getting a Mini Split:

Pros of Ductless AC

Going ductless can save you major money on your energy bill. Experts estimate that around a quarter of energy output from traditional central air is lost inside the ductwork. By eliminating the travel time and pathways for air to move through, a mini split functions at a much higher efficiency. Not only is this great news for your monthly costs, it’s also good news for the planet. Additionally, traditional HVAC compressors are slower to turn on and off, which contributes to excess energy used.

Another potential reason to go ductless is that they’re easy to customize from room-to-room. With central AC, your whole family will have to agree on (or argue about) an ideal temperature. Ductless air conditioners allow each room to be cooled to a different temperature. For this reason, many homeowners who are downsizing, or whose children are no longer at home, choose this type of model. With ductless systems, you don’t have to cool — or pay to cool — rooms you aren’t using.

Cons of a Ductless

As with most high-efficiency appliances, a ductless air conditioner has a higher up-front cost (depending on the size and scope of the installation, prices could reach over $12,000. Ductless air costs more to purchase and install, so if you’re working within a tight budget, it might not be the right choice for your home at this time.

Regular filter maintenance is important with ductless air conditioners; the filter needs to be cleaned monthly. The small size of the unit and filter means it simply can’t handle major dust, pet dander, smoke, and other particles.

There are also aesthetics to consider. These models are sleeker and less obtrusive than window-mounted units, but they are still more visible than a discrete air vent situated close to the ground. It’s important to work with a trusted AC professional, so they can help you choose the ideal spot for max efficiency and minimal visibility. Installation is also a delicate job, which is one further reason it does not pay to DIY air conditioner installation.

Why Are Ductless Air Conditioners Expensive?

There are a few reasons it costs more to install ductless heating and cooling. First, you’re paying for energy-efficient technology. Some ductless units even come with ENERGY STAR ratings which, require an up-front investment. Second, installation can be costly — especially if you are completely replacing your existing central air system. Each room requires a separate unit, which can add up to greater equipment and labor investments.

Many homeowners are pleased with their ductless AC. After the installation, they enjoy quiet, efficient, and easy-to-use temperature controls. Whether you’re looking to make an energy-efficient investment, upgrade your current system, or downsize what you’ve used in the past, this could be a great choice for your home. Talk to the friendly professionals at Blanton’s Air today about going duct-free!

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