Mini-split HVAC systems offer advantages over traditional forced-air systems. Here are some of the benefits of mini-split systems:
Easy installation: If your home does not have ductwork, a mini-split HVAC system is easier to install than installing ductwork for a forced-air HVAC system. The outdoor unit of a mini-split system requires only a small hole (about 3 inches) to connect to the indoor wall units, making them easier to install. Additionally, mini-split ACs require less outdoor access than window AC units, making them more secure.
Better efficiency and air quality: Mini-split systems are more energy-efficient than traditional HVAC systems because they do not lose conditioned air to leaky ducts. Over time, ducts can tear or separate at the joints, causing the conditioned air to leak out of the ducts into unwanted areas, leading to increased energy costs. Ductless HVAC systems supply the room they are cooling or heating directly, so they do not lose any efficiency to leaky ducts. Some manufacturers also offer cleaning features on ductless systems, such as Trane’s “Auto Clean” feature, which filters the air multiple times to reduce moisture and provide cleaner air. Forced air systems require a separate air filtration system to improve air quality.
Built-in zone control: Each unit in a mini-split system is designed to only cool a small area, so you can keep different areas at different temperatures if needed. Each unit has its own thermostat, which means ductless systems essentially come with HVAC zone control. This gives you more flexibility in cooling and heating individual areas and can help save on utility bills.
Good for additions and renovations: Mini-split systems are efficient for supporting forced-air HVAC systems with cooling and heating, especially in new additions that may not have ductwork, areas that have heating/cooling problems, and spaces with unconventional layouts. The indoor air handlers of mini-split ACs can be mounted just about anywhere, as long as it’s flush into a drop ceiling or hung on a wall.
However, there are some cons of mini-split systems:
Cost: Ductless HVAC systems are approximately 30% more expensive than forced-air HVAC systems. The cost increases with the number of rooms that require heating or cooling, the size of the system, and its efficiency. However, mini-split systems with the ENERGY STAR label are designed to save energy and reduce monthly bills. You may also be eligible for a tax credit or rebate for installing an ENERGY STAR-certified system.
Appearance: Mini-split systems require an indoor unit for every area they’re cooling or heating, which means several units on walls or ceilings throughout your home. Some people may not like the way they look in their home compared to forced-air systems, which have smaller, more discreet vents that sit flush against the floor, wall, or ceiling.
Maintenance: Ductless ACs require cleaning of the reusable filter monthly to keep them running efficiently, unlike forced-air systems, which require the replacement of the disposable filter every 1, 3, or 6 months depending on the filter type. Restricted airflow can force the system to work harder than necessary, causing increased energy costs.
Performance in extreme temperatures: Mini-split HVAC systems are efficient in moderate temperatures but can lose efficiency when temperatures fall below freezing or rise above 95°-100°. Extreme temperatures usually require a more powerful forced-air HVAC system that can more efficiently heat or cool your home.
The installation costs of ductless AC systems vary depending on the number of indoor units, energy efficiency, cooling and heating capacity, and whether you’re replacing an existing unit.
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