In our effort to educate & inform the Lowcountry about their air conditioning options, this Part 2 (of 4) of our complete A/C guide will review the basics of ductless mini-split systems and some of the advantages & disadvantages of those systems.
Last week we reviewed the basics of the traditional air conditioning systems and heat pump systems widely used around the Lowcountry, but what if the area you want cooled (or heated) doesn’t have ductwork running to it or if you want more granular control over an area or room in your home?
While challenging solutions to those specific scenarios could be achieved with a traditional A/C setup, a more simple system type can offer you a better solution: ductless mini-split air conditioning.
Just as the name implies, this type of system works without the need to push air around in your home’s ductwork — thus being “ductless”.
The essential components of the mini-split system are very similar to the traditional system we reviewed last week but with a few different components:
The biggest omission from this list versus the traditional system is obviously the ductwork, replaced by special tubing that connects the mini-split’s outdoor and indoor units.
That tubing is important as it contains a refrigerant line, a power line and condensate line, all vital to the indoor unit’s ductless operation.
Unlike the traditional system which takes air from your home through ductwork into the indoor unit through the outdoor unit to condition and return it indoors, that entire operation occurs right at the mounted indoor unit, thus making the conditioning operation “mini”, so to speak.
The indoor unit on a mini-split system is typically mounted on an interior wall in the room or area you’re cooling, however there are varying models that allow you to mount in ceilings and floors.
Finally, the remote control allows you to turn on, adjust and turn off your system as needed (no need to getup and reach for a thermostat).
After reviewing the setup above you may be asking if it’s possible to cool an entire home with a mini-split system, and the answer is an emphatic yes.
Even in larger homes like on Kiawah Island and other areas in the Lowcountry, mini-splits are able to handle these larger spaces through “zoning”.
Each area in your home can be split up into different zones, each with its own indoor unit. Multiple indoor units can be connected to the same outdoor unit, but operate independently from each other allowing each room or area to be set to specific comfort levels.
There are few disadvantages when it comes to ductless systems, perhaps the only one being the familiarity of operation. Most homeowners are used to operating their systems using their traditional wall-mounted thermostats. Getting used to using a remote (and sometimes keeping track of it), can get some taking used to.
As for advantages, there are several. The first glaring advantage being the removal of the need for ductwork to cool your home. This means if you have an addition to your home, a pool house or other external building that needs to be cooled you don’t need to plan or run ducts from existing ductwork.
Removing ductwork from the HVAC equation of your home also means less cleaning and replacement, especially for those of you who have ductwork running underneath your homes. With the frequent flooding we get in the Lowcountry, ductwork cleaning/repair/replacement can run up your home maintenance budget in no time.
Another advantage of ductless operation is that you don’t need to run a large air handler to push air around your ductwork system, which can help drive down your energy bills every month.
Lastly, the granular control that ductless systems offer allows you to calibrate each room or zone to specific comfort levels according to specific needs. This is especially nice when you have areas with large windows and others that don’t — instead of cranking up your entire system to ensure one room stays cool, you can simply tweak the temperature setting in that area.
Next up in our complete guide to air conditioning in Charleston: geothermal heating & cooling explained.