There are a surprisingly large number of homes in Portage, Grand Rapids, and Three Rivers, MI that were built without HVAC ducting. Often older properties, they’re owned by people who are forced to rely on standing fans, ceiling fans, and inefficient window air conditioners for cooling. During times of record-breaking temperatures, these measures are hardly effective. The good news is that you don’t actually need HVAC ductwork to experience the benefits of whole-house air conditioning. Now that ductless mini-split air conditioners and heat pumps have arrived on the scene, it’s possible to bypass the use of ductwork completely.
What Are Ductless Mini-Split Systems?
Traditional central HVAC systems have one inside unit and one outdoor unit. When these systems create cooled air, they use a vast and complex system of ducts to move it throughout the home and distribute it to individual rooms. Unfortunately, aging HVAC ductwork can be responsible for as much as 30 percent of a home’s total energy waste. Cool, conditioned air can be lost via cracks, holes, and other structural damages in HVAC ducting. When HVAC ducting is used to transport conditioned air, insufficient insulation can increase total energy losses significantly.
Ductless mini-split systems distribute cool air right where it’s produced. Thus, there’s essentially no energy waste as part of the air distribution process. Moreover, the air that flows into your rooms from a ductless mini-split isn’t having to travel through a dust-riddled network of air ducts. This means that it will likely have far fewer contaminants such as pet dander, pollen, dirt, dust, and other debris when circulated.
Ductless mini-split systems have a single component installed outside that drives their cooling and heating operations. Air is distributed throughout individual zones or rooms by separate air handlers. These units are small, inconspicuous, and usually installed in discreet, out-of-the-way locations such as the upper wall or ceiling. Every air handler has its own thermostat, and every thermostat can be adjusted independently of the others. This setup allows for far greater levels of flexibility and customized comfort for everyone.
Homeowners can choose ductless air conditioners for spring and summertime cooling, or they can have ductless mini-split heat pumps installed instead. Ductless mini-split heat pumps provide both heating and cooling service. In most areas, they offer year-round functionality.
How Many Indoor Air Handlers Can I Have?
When you choose ductless air conditioning, your home will be divided up into distinct service zones. If you have a smaller home, you might choose to have just one to two air handlers installed. Many homes have a total of four indoor air handlers, and others have as many as eight.
You also have the option of choosing from different air handler colors. This way, your new cooling system can blend seamlessly in with all of your other interior design elements. There are currently options in white, grey, black, tan, and brown air handlers.
How Ductless Mini-Splits Stack Up to the Alternatives
Homes that lack air conditioners can be rendered uninhabitable during the hottest months of the year. A single window air conditioner cannot effectively cool down an entire building. Most window ACs can only cool down a single room. If you happen to have a larger and especially powerful window air conditioner, it might be able to cool down two small rooms. However, it’s guaranteed to create a lot of noise and use a lot of energy in the process.
There’s also the fact that window air conditioners block outside views and leave homes vulnerable to break-ins. If you have a window air conditioner on the bottom floor of your home, this unit may even make your property more appealing to ill-intentioned parties. Window ACs don’t just create a point of ingress for humans. It’s virtually impossible to completely seal these installations off. Small gaps and cracks around window air conditioners leave openings for insects, rodents, and other annoying pests. Worst of all, the noise that these units create can make it all but impossible to get a good night’s sleep.
Modern central cooling systems are far more efficient than window ACs. However, they’re not without their problems. For instance, if you had a central air conditioner in your home, this unit would cool down every room in the building before completing its cooling cycle and turning off. This is a major source of energy waste in homes with multiple unoccupied rooms.
In comparison, ductless mini-split systems are virtually noise-free during operation. With the zoned cooling they provide, you can selectively cool down the areas of the home that you’re using and not the ones you aren’t. Best of all, ductless mini-split heat pumps are currently recognized as the gold standard in efficient home heating and cooling systems.
The Potential Drawbacks of Having Your Home Retrofitted With HVAC Ductwork
The only other feasible way to enjoy whole-house cooling if your home was built without HVAC air ducts is by having the building retrofitted to include a functional duct system. These projects can be quite costly. They also tend to be more intrusive than people initially imagine. For instance, when homes are built with ducting during initial construction, HVAC air ducts throughout the building are completely concealed. In many retrofitting projects, this isn’t always possible.
Ductwork that’s installed during the actual construction of a home also takes up minimal space. The building’s walls are built right around the air ducts. However, when you add HVAC air ducts after your home’s construction, you’ll likely lose quite a bit of your home’s vertical area. Even though you probably won’t be losing usable area, your living environment will appear less open, airy, and spacious once the work is done.
Best Reasons to Add Ductless Air Conditioning to Your Home
Air conditioning is no longer a home luxury. Having a functional home cooling system is fast-becoming essential. As more areas throughout the nation are subject to record-breaking summer temperatures, not having a reliable cooling system can leave a building’s residents vulnerable to heat-related health issues such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and severe dehydration among many others. Excessively high levels of indoor heat can be especially dangerous for infants, small children, aging adults, and many pets.
Ductless air conditioning makes it possible to overcome the natural limitations of your home’s original design. With these systems, homeowners don’t have to pay to have their homes retrofitted with HVAC ductwork. Unlike the installation of post-construction ductwork, ductless AC installation doesn’t require residents to sacrifice indoor space or compromise on indoor aesthetics.
One of the very best reasons to install ductless air conditioning is the remarkable amount of value and appeal that it can add to your home. Ductless air conditioners instantly modernize older homes. They also make it easier for home sellers to attract qualified buyers. With the level of flexibility they provide, they allow consumers to control their carbon footprints, limit their energy bills, and still stay comfortable on even the very hottest days of the year.
Since 1961, our team at Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling has been providing cutting-edge heating and cooling solutions to residents of Portage and other areas of Western Michigan. We also provide indoor air quality services, geothermal heating, and home energy audits. To find out more about ductless air conditioning or to schedule installation service, call us today.