Judging by its name alone, you may think that ductless heating and cooling refers to simple space heaters or fans. However, this is not the case. Ductless heating and cooling functions similar to the ubiquitous central heating and cooling systems most Americans enjoy today; it just does so without air-ducts snacking behind your walls and in your ceilings. Despite the lack of air-ducts, modern ductless heaters efficiently bring in warm air and push out cold air just like a central heating unit.
What is ductless heating & cooling?
The biggest difference between traditional central heating and ductless heaters is the presence they have in your rooms. I am sure many of you are familiar with the commonplace air vents littered across your home, you may not be familiar with the ductless heating unit. See examples of both below:
Why is ductless better that traditional central systems?
At first it might appear that duct-less heaters and coolers are just ugly boxes and baseboard hogs that couldn’t possibly outperform modern central heating, but ductless systems have many advantages you may not know about. Here are a few:
When your thermostat detects the temperature has dropped below your set temperature, it tells to furnace or boiler to start pumping air through your home. However, it does so by sending great volumes of hot or cool air out of the vents, and can make a lot of noise doing so. Duct-less heaters are much quieter because they do not need to move the same large volumes of air. They only need to heat or cool a single space, and thus their fans make less noise. This can be especially beneficial in bedrooms where a sudden blast of air from your vents can wake you up in the middle of the night.
When adding on to your home or building a new house, duct-less systems are the clear choice when you consider cost. The reason for this is simple: duct-less systems only require the mounting of a heater/cooler on the wall of the room and a connection to the exterior compressor. Central heating systems require you to lay down air-ducts throughout the house. When adding on a new room, tearing up floors and walls to add new ducts is extremely expensive and can disrupt your home life. Adding a new ductless heater is a simple as screwing in a bracket and running a few cords. Plus, it won’t break the bank either.
In addition to these benefits, ductless units double as heaters and air conditioners. While modern central climate control systems use the same air ducts for heating and cooling, you still require a separate furnace or boiler for heat and a separate condenser and compressor for air conditioning adding to the cost.
Ductless air conditioners and heaters are highly efficient when compared to air ducts, and it is easy to see why. A ductless unit only has to push a small amount of air through its vents because the air is heated and cooled by the unit in the room, rather than by a far away heater or compressor unit that has to force the air through small ducts running all through your house.
“Ductless heat pumps are as much as 40 percent more efficient than central air conditioners and 25 to 50 percent more efficient than forced air or electric resistance heating”
Article: What is a Ductless Heat Pump?
In fact, when you also consider that there are not ducts that can leak air or get blocked by obstructions ductless heaters are the most energy efficient way to heat your home. That translates to less money spent on the electric bill each month and a better overall home experience for you.
Unlike gas and oil furnaces, ductless heaters are entirely electric. This means that there is no risk of harmful gases like carbon monoxide leaking into the air and spreading throughout your home. Also each unit does not generate enough heat to be dangerous, unlike electric radiators in modern central heating systems, which eliminates the risk of burns.
Better Zone Heating and Cooling
One of the biggest issues central heaters and coolers struggle with is effective zone heating. Each part of your house is considered a zone, and because all the heat has to come from one central location it won’t always get distributed equally. This can lead to some rooms or parts of rooms being colder or warmer than others, meaning that nobody is truly comfortable. Ductless heaters solve this by offering a more personalized heater for each room, or easily controllable zones connected to a single ductless unit.
On top of that, with a ductless system you no longer have to heat or cool the entire home equally. Some rooms can be heated while others are cooled, allowing for greater flexibility especially in larger homes
A single zone ductless setup simply means that each zone in your house gets its own individual unit. Most central heaters can not have discreet heat control for multiple zones. This meansn that for a lot of people they only have one, maybe two, zones usually covering entire floors. Having a ductless unit in each room allows the rooms to be heated or cooler to their needs. This also means that you can have the windows open in one area of the house and the air conditioning on in another without negatively affecting your electric bill. For more information on single-zone heating and cooling, watch this short video below:
Multi-zone ductless setups function more like a traditional central heating system but in a more efficient way. A single heater/cooler unit is mounted on a wall, and then discreet smaller ductless units can be mounted in other rooms. The advantage of this over single-zone setups is that the temperature can be universally controlled by the central unit which is wired to the others, much like a central heater. Unlike a central heater, each of this units can be turned off so lesser used rooms do not get heated or cooled for no reason, which saves money and electricity. Learn more by watching the short video below:
Should YOU upgrade to a ductless heating and cooling system?
Naturally, the cost of upgrading your home is the biggest factor when considering whether or not a ductless setup is right for you. While the cost saving potential of ductless systems is great, is may not be worth entirely replacing your current system unless you were planning on upgrading. Even then it may end up being cheaper if you can keep using your existing air ducts and just need to replace your furnace or compressor unit.
However, ductless heaters and coolers are a great choice when adding on to an existing home or for rooms where running ducts is just not practical. Common places for ductless coolers and heaters are enclosed decks, extra guest rooms, and renovated attics and basements. The cost of running new air ducts can easily get above $10,000 while new ductless units are usually under $5,000 depending on their size.
You can even use ductless units to supplement your existing setup. Add them to rooms that usually aren’t heated or cooled enough by your central air to aid your current system without just turning the thermostat up or down, which can lead to an even more unevenly heated home. Just remember to check with a HVAC specialist first so you can find the best solution for your home.