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Ductless Air Conditioner vs. Central AC

Like any technology, ductless units come with pluses and minuses. However, the record shows that the advantages of ductless air conditioners outweigh the negatives for most residential cooling appliances. After years of refinement in Asia and Europe, ductless air conditioners have swept into the American market as a fully-evolved technology that is competing with both window units and central air conditioning. Still, many homeowners are just becoming acquainted with the systems and asking, "what does ductless mean?" Where the choice is between ductless or central air, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each system:

Ductless Air Conditioning Advantages and Disadvantages

Ductless units add flexibility to cooling your home. While each indoor air handler is engineered to cool a single enclosed room or living space, multiple ductless air handlers can be linked to one outdoor heat pump.

Dedicated thermostats offer independent temperature control in each room for optimal comfort and maximum energy efficiency. Because only the rooms in your house that need cooling get it in a ductless system, energy and utility costs are not wasted conditioning unused spaces.

Adding ductless cooling to a home is substantially simpler than central air. No new ductwork is needed, nor is there any need to expand existing ducts. The refrigerant lines can be from 50 to 65 feet in length, normally sufficient to enable an outdoor unit in the backyard to connect to an indoor air handler in a room at the front of your home. The chief physical alteration to your house is as simple as a single 3-inch hole in an exterior wall to accommodate the conduit that conveys refrigerant between the outdoor unit and the indoor air handlers. Connections for the refrigerant lines, electrical power and condensate drain line are made through the wall to the backside of the air handler for a neat and uncluttered installation.

Mitsubishi Electric ductless air conditioners eliminate the biggest energy-waster in a central air conditioning system: the ductwork. Residential ductwork usually doesn’t last the life of your home. Within a few years, joints and seams begin to leak conditioned air into unconditioned zones like the attic, wall voids or crawl spaces. This hidden leakage typically increases to 20 percent or more of the total amount of cool air circulating through the ducts. To compensate for this loss, a central air system runs increasingly longer “on” cycles, consuming excess energy and boosting cooling costs dramatically. Because each air handler in a ductless system is installed directly in the room, it cools without ductwork. Energy loss from ducts is zero and maximum SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) performance is achieved.

Still, some disadvantages come with ductless air conditioners. Installation is more complicated than window units, although less costly than a central system that requires ductwork or even just substantial duct repair. In addition, ductless units require installation by HVAC professionals with training and expertise specific to ductless technology—the local handyman who installs window units may not be qualified. The maximum allowable length of the refrigerant conduit may be a limiting factor in very large residences. Condensate drain lines, especially long spans, must be installed with precision so the line slopes downward all the way to the exterior outlet or drainage problems may result.

Central Air Conditioning Advantages and Disadvantages

Central air cools the whole house to the same temperature. This is an advantage to homeowners who require the same level of comfort in all rooms in their home, 24/7.

In package systems, central air can be combined with a furnace to make a single, all-season cooling and heating unit. Although some ductless units may incorporate a heating function, when temperatures drop below freezing supplemental heat may be required.

The disadvantages of central AC include the necessity to install ductwork that may not be physically feasible in some residences or is at least prohibitively expensive to install. Maintenance of ductwork to prevent energy loss also represents a long-term expense.

Another downside of central systems is that individual temperature zones in different rooms require the addition of expensive motorized dampers to control the flow of air through the ductwork. In ductless AC, every room with a dedicated air handler is an independent temperature zone and a single outdoor unit can accommodate as many as five indoor air handlers.

Where to Buy Ductless Air Conditioners?

Use our site to find a local Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Contractor. For answers to questions about how much ductless air conditioning costs and where to buy ductless air conditioners, please speak with your local Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Contractor.