Here in Salem, OR, we’re fortunate that we don’t have blazingly-hot summers. As a result, plenty of the homes here weren’t built with the ductwork needed to support central air conditioning. As temperatures continue to rise, it’s getting more difficult to weather the summer without reliable air conditioning. Hotter temperatures are pushing Salem homeowners to look for ways to retrofit their homes with air conditioning systems. Fortunately, there are now ductless air conditioners that make doing so easier than ever before. However, it’s important to understand how a ductless air conditioner works along with its pros and cons before buying one.
What Is a Ductless Air Conditioner?
To better understand what a ductless air conditioner is and how it operates, you must first know about some of the other types of air conditioners on the market. First, there are central air conditioning systems. Central air conditioners have a single outside unit to expel heat and a single indoor unit to produce cold air and distribute it through ductwork.
Then there are window air conditioners. Window units combine all of the parts you’d find in the outdoor and indoor unit of a central air conditioner into a single compact form factor. This design avoids the need for ductwork but isn’t very efficient.
A ductless air conditioner is like a hybrid of those two systems. It has a single outdoor unit to expel heat, like a central AC system. However, it has multiple indoor air handlers—up to eight in some systems—to produce cold air in each room where you need it. Then, there’s a small bundle of refrigerant lines and power cables that connect the indoor and outdoor units, making them a single system. This hybrid design makes ductless air conditioners a unique option for homeowners looking for a way to retrofit their Salem homes with air conditioning.
The Pros of Ductless Air Conditioning
The most obvious pro associated with ductless air conditioning is that you can install it in almost any home. Ductless systems are perfect for homes that weren’t built with in-wall ductwork to support central air conditioning. Installing a ductless AC is straightforward, too. First, the HVAC technician will place the outdoor unit on its level base. Then, they will install an air handler in each room you want the system to serve. To prepare for that, the installer will drill a hole through the installation wall. This hole, which will ordinarily be about 3” in diameter, allows for the refrigerant and electrical lines the air handler needs to connect with the outdoor unit to pass through the wall. Then, technicians will make the required connections, and you’ll be the proud owner of a new ductless air conditioning system.
Another pro associated with ductless air conditioning is its efficiency. Doing away with ductwork helps ductless ACs avoid some of the energy losses that plague central air conditioning systems. According to some estimates, ductwork imposes an efficiency penalty as high as 30% on the average central AC system.
Furthermore, ductless air conditioners often have SEER ratings comparable to the most efficient central AC systems on the market. Today, it’s easy to find ductless air conditioners with SEER ratings as high as 30. By comparison, the typical central AC installed today has a SEER rating of 14. Taken together, higher SEER ratings and no ductwork-related energy losses are an advantage that translates to lower operating costs in almost all situations.
Ductless air conditioning also offers homeowners more precise control over the temperature inside their homes. Since each room has a separate air handler, it’s possible to set individual temperatures in each room. This also means you can turn off air handlers completely to save money by not cooling rooms that aren’t in use. Plus, since each air handler has its own air filter, ductless AC systems tend to improve indoor air quality, too.
It’s also worth noting that the outdoor units of ductless AC systems typically take up less space than those of central AC systems. That means it’s possible to install them in a variety of circumstances, including mounting them on an exterior wall of your home, if necessary. Plus, their small size also means the outdoor units of ductless systems tend to make less noise than other kinds of AC systems. The same is true inside your home. The air handlers of a ductless AC system don’t have to run at high speeds for the majority of the time they’re on, which means they’re quiet as well.
The Cons of Ductless Air Conditioning
For all of their advantages, ductless air conditioners aren’t perfect because they do come with some cons that you should consider before deciding to have one installed in your home. One con is the upfront cost. A ductless air conditioning system that can cool your entire home may be slightly more expensive than a comparable central AC unit. This is partially because they’re more time-consuming to install, even though the task isn’t difficult.
Ductless air conditioners also require you to sacrifice wall space to accommodate their air handler units. Although most ductless system air handlers feature sleek designs, they still make a noticeable addition to your rooms. So, you’ll want to be sure you don’t mind the aesthetic aspects of the system you choose.
Another con associated with ductless air conditioning is that it requires more frequent end-user maintenance than a central air conditioner. Specifically, owners have to get used to cleaning all of the air filters for each handler in the system at least once a month. The air filters aren’t disposable like the ones you’d find in a central AC system and may get dirty faster, depending on the conditions in each room. And if you neglect to clean these filters, you can damage the air handlers, leading to premature component failures, which will lead to spending significant amounts of money for repairs.
Contact the Ductless AC Specialists
As you can see, there’s quite a bit to know about ductless AC systems. If you’re ready to learn more, Woodward Heating Air Plumbing can help. We’ve served the greater Salem metro area for over thirty years, building long-term professional relationships with homeowners. Our expert NATE-certified HVAC technicians strive to offer the finest HVAC services in the area and have the training, experience, and tools to effectively do the job. To back that up, we also have a variety of industry certifications. We’re a Salem Electric-approved heat pump contractor, and we’re PTCS Certified for air duct sealing and testing along with heat pump installation and testing. We’re also EPA-certified. Plus, we offer fireplace services, gas piping, and indoor air quality services. So, if you’d like to add ductless air conditioning to your Salem home, or have any other HVAC needs, contact the experts at Woodward Heating Air Plumbing today!