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Switching to a Ductless Heating and Cooling System? The 6-Step Process

Ductless systems aren't widely-adopted in the United States, but they're growing in popularity as eco-friendly, space-saving, efficient alternatives to traditional forced-air systems. If you're already sold on the advantages of ductless heating and cooling, but aren't sure where to begin, that's okay. This article will walk you through the six-step process of switching to ductless heating and cooling.

  1. The in-home consultation. Having a qualified contractor visit your home not only ensures that you'll get a system sized to your house and energy use, but it also eases the process of finding and qualifying for utility incentives in your area. Your contractor should also be up-to-date on tax credits and other incentives to help homeowners make the switch.

    It's important to get an expert opinion – ductless systems can't be installed by the home handyman. Proper sizing and expert installation are essential for the proper operation of a ductless mini split. In fact, even if you're still at the stage where you're considering whether or not you should be switching to ductless heating or cooling, a consultation can help clear up and questions you may have – and you're under no obligation to make the switch after a consultation if you decide it's not currently right for you.
  2. Unit selection and sizing. With input from your contractor, a ductless system will be selected to match the heating, cooling, and zoning needs of your home. In some cases, such as switching to ductless, zoned heating and cooling, more than one outdoor unit may be warranted.

    Ductless mini split sizing is a little different from conventional heating and cooling appliance sizing, as it primarily takes into account the heating and cooling loads of limited spaces. Because of this modularized approach, and because the small indoor units are generally installed out of the way (high on interior walls) switching to ductless heating and cooling results in installations which take up less usable space in your home.
  3. Outdoor unit installation. The outdoor unit will be placed near its associated indoor unit, on a level area outside your home. The outdoor unit houses the condensing coil and its cooling fan, a variable-speed compressor and an expansion valve.

    Outdoor units should ideally be shaded from direct sunlight, and have a clearance of about two feet from any vegetation to allow for proper airflow.
  4. Refrigerant line installation. The refrigerant line, along with a power cable and condensation drain, need to be installed and tested to ensure that there are no leaks in the system.

    The refrigerant line is an insulated length of copper tubing, which circulates from the indoor unit to the outdoor unit and back. Refrigerant in a ductless mini split serves to convey heat from one part of your environment to another, discarding heat outdoors in the summer and extracting heat from the outside air to heat your home in the winter.
  5. Indoor unit installation. These units are generally installed high on interior walls, usually in the main living area. This unit contains the evaporator and an oscillating fan, rated for quietness, to circulate conditioned air through your living space. It's connected to the outdoor unit through a hole approximately 3 inches in diameter; this hole should be well-sealed to prevent air leaks.
  6. Operation. Ductless systems are set up to allow remote control, and can be programmed to change their operation at night. Once installed, they should be tested to ensure that they're operating as expected, and over the course of their operating life spans they should be given routine maintenance to ensure continuing efficiency. This maintenance will include keeping filters and coils clean and free of dust or other obstructions, and can usually be performed by the homeowners themselves, though an annual visit from a qualified contractor is recommended, as with any HVAC system.

Switching to ductless heating and cooling may seem like an involved process, but installation typically takes less than two days, and often can be performed within one work day. To learn more, or to schedule your initial consultation, visit us online to find a qualified contractor in the Virginia area.

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