Ductless systems, also known as ductless heat pumps or ductless mini-splits, are highly efficient heating and cooling systems. These safe, reliable units provide even heating and cooling at a fraction of the cost of traditional electric options. Ductless systems use heat pump technology to distribute warm or cool air throughout a home.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average American homeowner spends more than $2,000 annually on heating and cooling bills. A traditional ducted HVAC system is more wasteful because the home can lose up to 25% of its energy through the ducts. Removing the ductwork creates a more energy-efficient house overall. Ductless systems are quieter and more discreet, as well.
If you and your family members can never seem to agree on the thermostat, consider this: Ductless is also ideal for creating independent temperature zones in different rooms. Yes, you can install zoning in a traditional ducted system, but it won’t be as efficient.
Whether you choose to configure a ductless system in single or multiple temperature zones, the indoor units can be strategically positioned to heat and cool one room or an entire building. The versatility of ductless technology eliminates the need for inefficient ductwork.
The knowledgeable, trained professionals at Pileiro Heating and Cooling can install the components of a ductless system quickly, and you can begin enjoying lower energy bills while staying more comfortable in your home all year long.
If you choose a ductless system, you can enjoy the following benefits:
- Significant savings on your monthly utility bills
- A smaller carbon footprint from using less energy
- Combine heating and cooling in one efficient system
- Easy, affordable installation
- You might be eligible for local utility rebates or federal tax credits
How much do ductless heating and cooling systems cost?
Nationwide, the average upfront cost to install a ductless system ranges between $2,500 and $5,000. However, if you are hoping to get one of these systems installed, the amount you should plan to budget can vary widely. That’s because there are so many factors affecting the price tag, including the following.
- Where you live: The average year-round temperatures you experience can affect your annual heating and cooling needs.
- The configuration of your system: Will you choose to create multiple different temperature zones throughout your home, or use your ductless system to heat and cool your entire house?
- The manufacturer of the system: You can expect to pay more for name-brand systems. However, these larger companies usually invest significantly in research and development to ensure higher-quality, longer-lasting products capable of outperforming their competition.
- System features: Ductless systems tend to be very technologically advanced, compared with traditional HVAC equipment.
- The square footage of your house: The size of your home will dictate the size of your system.
- Removal fees: The cost to haul away any old HVAC equipment and address unused ductwork will also be part of your bottom-line price.
- Difficulty of installation: An HVAC installer could charge higher fees if they have to work in cramped or hard-to-access areas, or if there are various factors complicating the installation.
- Energy efficiency of the unit: A number called the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, will indicate how efficiently HVAC equipment runs. The higher the number, the more energy-efficient it will be, but it will also be correspondingly more expensive.
Ductless Technology Is an Investment That Pays for Itself
If you replace your existing central heating/cooling system with a complete ductless solution, you could expect to pay double or triple what it would cost up front to replace your old HVAC system with another traditional ducted unit. Initially, this higher cost might make it seem as if ductless technology is out of your reach. However, you shouldn’t necessarily let this deter you. There are many financial advantages to making the switch. For instance:
- By eliminating the need for an air distribution network, ductless mini-split systems can help you save substantial amounts of money on labor and installation costs, compared to a traditional HVAC project.
- After installing ductless technology, your energy bills will also be lower, which means your ductless system will eventually pay for itself over time. Your payback period will depend on factors including how frequently you rely on the system and your local electricity rates.
- There’s no need to tear down walls or undertake an expensive home remodeling project to access or reconfigure the ductwork.
- You won’t have to worry about losing energy and money through inefficient ductwork in your home.
- When you install more energy-efficient appliances, you can often take advantage of money-saving rebates and incentives.
- You will no longer need to pay for maintenance, inspections, repairs and periodic cleaning of your ductwork.
Get a Cost Estimate for Your Ductless System Today
Whether you’re looking to install a new home comfort system or upgrade a current one, it’s smart to consider the environmentally friendly and financial benefits you can take advantage of with ductless technology.
If you are exploring ductless solutions, your best bet will be to work with a reputable HVAC contractor like Pileiro Heating and Cooling. Our technicians are trained to calculate appropriate system sizing, and can also tell you about additional considerations that might affect the cost of your ductless heating and cooling system. The techs you hire should be too.
Pros and Cons of Ductless Systems vs. Traditional Heating Systems
As with any investment you make in your home, there are advantages and disadvantages to switching your traditional HVAC system to a ductless one. What are the upsides and downsides you should weigh if you are exploring this option?
Pros of Ductless Systems
Ductless systems come with many advantages, such as the following.
- Quiet and discreet: Ductless technology keeps a low profile, especially compared with alternative solutions such as a window-mounted A/C unit. If you install one of these on your property, you will barely notice it’s there.
- A flexible solution to year-round home comfort: If you tend to run hot, while your spouse always complains about how cold it is, a ductless system can end those constant arguments over the thermostat settings. With a multi-zone system, you can install multiple air handlers to control the temperature in individual rooms or regions of your home.
- More home security: Window-mounted HVAC units can provide a tempting target for would-be thieves. In contrast, a ductless system only requires a small, three-inch entry point to install.
- A safer home: Ductless units don’t have any of the risks from fumes or fire associated with gas or electric space heaters. There is also no need to worry about the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning, as you would with a regular gas heater.
- Improves your indoor air quality: According to the EPA, the health risks of breathing indoor air are significantly higher than breathing the air outside, especially if you spend most of your time inside. If anyone in your family has respiratory issues such as allergies and asthma, they’ll breathe easier if you install a ductless system. Why? Because you will no longer have to worry about your ductwork trapping pollutants and allergens such as mold, pet dander, pollen and volatile organic compounds and circulating them throughout your home.
- Benefits Mother Earth: These days, most of us are looking for ways to live greener lifestyles. You might already be doing environmentally friendly things such as recycling, composting or eating less meat and are wondering if there’s anything else you can do to help combat climate change. Switching to a ductless system can help you minimize your carbon footprint by making your home energy use much more efficient. That’s because up to 25% of your heated and cooled air can escape through inefficient ductwork. By keeping more of this energy in your home where it belongs, you can reduce your impact on the environment.
- Saves you money: Savvy homeowners are always on the lookout for solutions that can save them more of their hard-earned money. Because ductless systems are so energy-efficient, you can expect to see significant reductions to your monthly utility bills. Over time, your new solution will pay for itself. You might also be eligible for incentives, tax credits and rebates that will save you even more.
- Installation is easier: Experienced HVAC techs can complete a ductless system installation much more quickly than they can with a traditional HVAC system – often within the same day. There’s no need to tear down walls or undergo extensive remodeling with a ductless system, because installation only requires drilling a small hole.
- No need to maintain ductwork: Ductwork requires periodic cleaning and preventive maintenance and repairs. A ductless system eliminates these needs.
- Ideal for temperature control in stand-alone spaces: If you’re renovating a home to add a freestanding garage, sunroom or man cave, ductless systems are much more efficient than other heating and cooling solutions. A properly sized ductless system for the new space won’t overload your existing HVAC system.
Cons of Ductless Systems
Ductless HVAC can be an excellent solution, but it isn’t right for everyone. Here are some downsides you should consider.
- Higher upfront investment: In some cases, ductless systems can be two to three times more expensive to install than a traditional HVAC unit. Many homeowners find this cost to be a deterrent, even though the energy savings associated with ductless heating and cooling means you will eventually recoup those expenses over the life of your system.
- Appearance: In contrast with small, easy-to-ignore air registers, the indoor air exchangers of ductless systems can take up a fair amount of space. Installers usually mount them on the wall in plain sight. Because their function is to circulate the air, you can’t cover them up in any way. If you’re concerned about aesthetics, ceiling-mounted units can be less disruptive.
- More need for maintenance: To keep the air exchangers operating properly, you’ll need to remember to remove and clean the filters every month – more often if you smoke or have pets. If you ignore the need to do this, you will eventually reduce the efficiency of your system and potentially lead to the need for more expensive repairs down the road.
- Limited heating capacity: A ductless heat pump has somewhat limited ability to extract warmth from cold air. If you live somewhere where the temperatures in the fall and winter regularly drop below freezing, a ductless heater may not provide adequate heat, and you may need to supplement with a backup heating solution.
Every Choice Has Advantages and Disadvantages
Any significant change to your home’s heating, cooling and overall energy efficiency isn’t a decision you should rush into or make lightly. As you now know, many factors go into helping you choose whether to stick with a traditional HVAC system or go ductless.
After consulting with you and evaluating elements such as the square footage of your house, a qualified contractor can determine the size of the ductless unit or units you will require and their approximate costs, and advise you as to whether ductless heating and cooling is a practical solution for your home. If you have any neighbors or friends who have already had ductless systems installed, you can ask them about their experiences with it as well to help you determine if it’s a good long-term investment for you.
Once you’ve chosen the ideal system for your home, our experienced professionals can help ensure the correct installation. And don’t forget to schedule preventive maintenance – both central air conditioners and ductless systems need regular tune-ups to keep them running efficiently.
Different Unit Sizes, Categories and Their Options
Much like a traditional air conditioner, a ductless system will have at least one outdoor unit, or condenser, connected to an indoor unit called the evaporator via thin tubes of refrigerant. However, the difference between a ductless system and a regular central A/C unit is that an A/C system uses an elaborate system of ducts to carry the conditioned air through the space.
If you’re having one of these systems installed, you’ll need to decide whether you want the indoor evaporators to be wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted. You will also need to determine if you want to use multiple indoor units to create separate temperature zones within your home, as well as the amount of cooling you need. Read on for more details on each of these choices.
Though ductless systems are designed to run quietly and discreetly, one thing to be aware of with indoor units is that they are larger and somewhat more conspicuous than the small HVAC registers you might be accustomed to. However, you have options to make them less obvious. Wall-mounted units are one choice. You can also choose a suspended, recessed or concealed ceiling unit. Regardless of what you decide, you will need to have a certified HVAC technician to install your new system.
A single-zone ductless system is the most straightforward option, since it only involves one outdoor condenser connected to an indoor evaporator. However, you can create individual temperature zones within your home by attaching multiple indoor units to the outdoor condenser. These indoor units can control the temperature independently of each other, making them ideal if you want to maintain different temperatures in areas such as your living room, home office, bedroom and workout room.
How Much Heating and Cooling Do You Need?
British thermal units, or BTUs, are the measurement HVAC manufacturers use to determine how much energy it takes to meet your comfort needs. A basic rule of thumb is that it takes 30 BTUs for every 1,000 square feet. However, there are other factors to consider as well, such as the age and energy-efficiency of your house and the draftiness of your space. A professional HVAC installer can calculate the right size for your home after evaluating these considerations.
Ductless Systems vs. Central Air
Which choice is right for you? Here are some of the questions we ask our customers to help them decide.
Do You Have Existing Ductwork?
This question is the make-or-break factor for most property owners. If you already have ductwork in your home, it will be more cost-effective for you to stick with central air. However, if you have no ductwork, you are an excellent candidate for a new ductless installation.
We often see this with homeowners who have decided to build new additions, such as an in-law apartment, a sunroom or a rec room. These add-ons usually aren’t connected to the ductwork running through the rest of the home, so they’re a perfect choice for a ductless unit. The best part is that ductless systems are easy to install, because it only takes a three-inch hole to run the connection through.
Do You Need Separate Temperature Zones?
If some areas of your home get much hotter or cooler than others, or various members of your household have different temperature needs, a zoned system is your solution.
You can get zone control in both central or ductless, but it’s less expensive with a ductless system. Why? To get zoning control with a central air system, you need an HVAC technician to add dampers to your ductwork.
How Big Is Your Home?
If your home is 2,500 square feet and larger, you will likely get better efficiency from a central air system. If your home is 2,000 square feet or smaller, consider ductless.
Is Energy Efficiency Important to You?
With central air, the quality of the ductwork and the installation job influence how efficient a system will perform. For example, poorly designed or installed ductwork can cause energy leakage from a home, tanking the efficiency of a central air system. In that case, a ductless system can save both money and energy, and eventually pay for itself in the long run. Modern ductless systems also have higher energy-efficiency ratings than standard central air systems.
What Is Your Installation Budget?
In most cases, there is a larger up-front cost to install a ductless system than there is with a traditional central air unit. Though there is more of an initial investment required, the ductless system will lower your energy bills and help you see significant savings on heating and cooling your home over time.
Do You Prefer Your Air Conditioner to Be Inconspicuous?
When you’re indoors, central air systems are virtually unnoticeable. A ductless system, in contrast, does require a larger wall- or ceiling-mounted unit. While manufacturers do take time to make these units as sleek and stylish as possible, they are more visible than the small vents associated with traditional HVAC systems.
Are You Sensitive to Noise?
Ductless systems tend to run much more quietly than regular HVAC units, though there are exceptions to this rule. If noise levels in your home are important to you and your family, ask your technician for recommendations on the quietest options, along with the decibels they produce.
Having a Ductless System Installed
Regardless of whether you choose to go ductless or stick with the more conventional route, you should not attempt to install an HVAC system on your own. Even if you consider yourself a fairly handy person, the specialized tools, knowledge and equipment it takes to complete one of these installations are likely out of your reach. It requires years of training to become familiar with all the complexities of heating and cooling systems. Not to mention, an inexperienced DIY installation attempt could end up costing you more money in the long run if you void your warranty right out of the box. Your best option is to contact a reliable company like Pileiro Heating and Cooling to help you select and install the system that’s right for you.
Determine the Size System Needed (“Load Calculation”)
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to heating and cooling your home. If you buy a ductless system that is too large or too small for your home, you’ll negate all the energy-saving benefits of these units. You’ll also probably have higher repair bills over the lifetime of your system because it will have to work harder to keep up with your home’s energy needs, thus creating more wear and tear on the unit.
Correctly sizing a ductless system will depend on several factors, including the following.
- The square footage of your home
- How well-insulated your house is
- How many windows you have, and how tight the seals are around them
- The climate where you live
- Whether you want to add multiple indoor air handlers to create different temperature zones
The more indoor units you want, the more accurate these calculations must be, which is why we always recommend having a professional do this load calculation for you.
HVAC manufacturers and technicians measure the capacity of air conditioners in British thermal units, or BTUs. Ductless systems can cool a larger area at the same BTU level as traditional window air conditioning units. To give you an idea, consider this approximate sizing guide.
- 350 square feet = 9,000 BTU
- 500 square feet = 12,000 BTU
- 750 square feet = 18,000 BTU
- 1,000 square feet = 24,000 BTU
- 1,250 square feet = 30,000 BTU
- 1,500 square feet = 36,000 BTU
Don’t make the mistake of assuming bigger is better when it comes to your home comfort. Buying a unit with a higher BTU rating won’t automatically be the most efficient choice you can make. Instead, you should ensure the size of your unit is proportional with the size of the space you’re heating and cooling. The best way to do so is by working with a professional who is trained to calculate size accurately and determine the amount of BTU needed to heat and cool your home.
The vast amount of information available online makes it seem as if anyone can become an expert on virtually any topic in a matter of hours. These days, it’s easy to find in-depth tutorial videos that promise to teach DIYers all manner of home improvement projects. Should you trust what you see on YouTube and take matters into your untrained hands? The answer is usually no. Online tutorials, no matter how professionally put together or well-intentioned they might be, are no replacement for the years of training it takes to become a licensed HVAC technician.
Why Should You Leave Installation to the Pros?
Consider the following reasons to trust a reputable professional with your HVAC installation.
- Safety: Professional HVAC installers have all the correct personal protective equipment to get the job done efficiently and without putting anyone at risk. Installing any type of HVAC system involves working with chemicals and high-voltage electricity. It’s not a scare tactic or exaggeration to say that untrained HVAC installation could be deadly.
- Licensed and insured: Less reputable companies may not have taken the trouble to get contractor’s insurance, which means if there are any mishaps or accidents while they’re working on your property, you might get stuck paying for any damages out of pocket.
- Save money in the long run: You might think DIY HVAC work is a smart idea because it will save you money. However, if you void your warranty with slipshod work, or you miss a step or two along the way, you could end up costing yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than you would if you’d called a pro in the first place.
It’s not worth your time or effort to gamble with untrained DIY repairs. The team at Pileiro have proven their commitment to professionalism and quality by maintaining a membership with Air Conditioning Contractors of America and by being part of HomeAdvisor’s Top-Rated Pro network for the past several years.
Top Mini-Split Brands
There are many leading manufacturers of HVAC equipment such as ductless systems, making it challenging to know what’s best for you if you’re just starting to do your research. How do you select durable, affordable equipment that will provide you with reliable home comfort for many years to come? Here are the top brands.
Mitsubishi: While you may recognize this brand name more as an auto manufacturer, they have earned an excellent reputation in the home heating and cooling industry as well.
Mitsubishi makes several different models of ductless mini-split systems, so you will do well to compare various models to evaluate how they’ll hold up to your needs, based on factors such as whether you want to create a zoned system.
MRCOOL: This manufacturer’s mini-splits come with Wi-Fi control, efficient operation and long warranties. Their extra features include both heat pump and leak detection technology.
Panasonic: With products designed to operate efficiently in virtually any climate, Panasonic has created the mini-split comfort solution you’ve been dreaming of. Many Panasonic ductless models feature Energy Star ratings, eco-conscious operating modes, intuitive cooling and heating and more.
Most models from this brand provide cooling, heating and dehumidification modes, making them ideal for year-round use. Their powerful airflows will make your space more comfortable in any season. Panasonic has taken convenience into account, too, including remote controls that let you operate and monitor your new air conditioning system from anywhere in the room.
Perfect Aire: This aptly named company produces a range of indoor air quality products, including ductless mini-split/heat pump systems. Available in single-zone designs between 9,000 and 24,000 BTUs of cooling power, they offer maximum comfort in any room from small bedrooms to large basements. In addition to being quiet and effective cooling options, they provide year-round comfort with heat modes, horizontal swinging louvers for even air distribution and unobtrusive indoor designs.
Senville: Since 2005, Canada-based Senville has built a reputation as a customer-friendly North American manufacturer of home comfort solutions, including easy-to-use mini-split systems. All their units feature high-efficiency features, and some models have even earned an Energy Star rating.
Impecca: Impecca mini-splits offer efficient ductless heating and cooling to single zones in your home. Like other mini-split heat pumps, they’re also quieter and more efficient than other room air conditioners. Various Impecca-made models include features such as remote controls, programmable temperatures and variable fan speeds to meet your heating and cooling needs year-round.
Pioneer: If you’re looking for a brand that strikes a balance between affordability and durability, Pioneer should be on your shortlist. Pioneer units are also known for their high SEER values, so if you are prioritizing energy efficiency, you may want to give this Japanese manufacturer a try.
Daikin: This inventive company has a line of mini-split systems that are known for their comfort and efficiency. Many of their models have earned an Energy Star rating. Daikin’s selection of ductless systems include models with heat pumps, so you can rest assured of year-round comfort. All Daikin ductless systems come with remote controls for additional convenience. The Daikin 19 comes with the Daikin Comfort Control App, enabling you to operate your climate control from anywhere. Many Daikin mini-splits also feature energy-saving options such as eco modes, sleep settings, programmable timers and more.
LG: The LG brand is a household name when it comes to appliances like refrigerators and washer/dryer units, so if you choose to go with an LG mini-split, you can count on that same level of innovation and reliability. LG ductless models are some of the quietest and most effective available today. They also come with several features anyone will appreciate, such as remote control capabilities.
If you’re selective about your home decor, you’ll appreciate the lengths LG has gone to design their units to be as low-profile as possible. And, regardless of the size of the space you’re trying to cool, LG has options for you, ranging from 9,000 up to 24,000 BTUs.
Whynter: This manufacturer provides a full line of easy-to-use ductless split systems offering multiple operating modes to take the guesswork out of your home comfort. These high-quality products also place a priority on energy efficiency, featuring high SEER ratings and Energy Star certifications. Whynter backs its products with generous warranties as well to ensure your peace of mind.
Friedrich: Along with their high SEER ratings, Friedrich mini-split air conditioners and heat pumps combine Energy Star-rated efficiency with whisper-quiet operation. Featuring multiple modes, air sweep louvers, programmable features and powerful cooling capacities up to 33,000 BTUs, Friedrich ductless mini-split systems keep temperatures within an ideal range, while helping save you money on installation and cooling costs.
Friedrich’s inverter technology accelerates the cooling process and maintains a comfortable room temperature. Their ductless air conditioners deliver the cooling power of a traditional central A/C, while providing the customizable convenience of a window air conditioner.
Friedrich ductless heat pump models are available for single and multi-zone configurations for flexible comfort. Each Friedrich mini-split air conditioner also comes with an LCD remote control, a 24-hour programmable timer and a reusable air filter.
In the Market for a Ductless Mini-Split System?
Is a ductless mini-split right for you? If you’re looking for an easy way to save money on your energy bills, improve your home’s indoor air quality, create multiple independent temperature zones or provide climate control to an addition to your home, you might wish to consider adding one of these efficient, durable systems. As you’ve seen, multiple factors go into deciding what’s best for you. Be sure to reach out to qualified HVAC technicians with any questions you have!