Should I buy a Ductless Air Conditioner?

by Team HomeServe |
Air Conditioning Units

How do you plan to beat the heat this summer? Could a new cooling system be in your future? If so, a ductless air conditioner may be the HVAC option for you.


Ductless cooling systems, otherwise known as mini-split systems, have two main components: the compressor that lives outdoors and the indoor units that mount on walls or ceilings. A few small holes with tubing connect the refrigerant lines to the interior units, delivering cooling efficiency to your spaces through single- or multi-zone systems.

Here's what to consider before purchasing a ductless air conditioner:

The benefits

Ductless air conditioners get major points for their efficiency when compared to the energy loss often associated with most central air conditioning systems. According to the Department of Energy, duct losses can equate to more than 30% of the energy consumption for cooling systems. The lack of ductwork can also be a benefit for allergy sufferers, as ducts commonly trap dust, pollen, dander and mites.

The small size and easy installation make ductless air conditioners ideal alternatives to window units in homes that don't have a central HVAC system or ductwork already in place. They only require a small hole drilled into the wall, which means ductless systems are less vulnerable to air leakage and other problems associated with window units, as noted by HGTV.

What's more, ductless air conditioners can efficiently cool individual spaces, meaning you can concentrate your cooling efforts to specific zones. This also makes them a great option for garages and other home additions that may not be connected to the central HVAC system.

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The drawbacks

One of the major disadvantages of ductless air conditioners are the steep upfront costs, which the DOE estimates are about 30% more than central AC systems and twice as much as window units. While your energy bills will be lower, HGTV points out that the climate, system use, and local electricity rates can impact how long it takes to see a return on your investment.

The mini-split units also require more frequent air filter cleaning and professional maintenance than other cooling systems. For some homeowners, ductless air conditioners can also be an eyesore that clashes with their interior decor.

The costs

According to the DOE, ductless air conditioners cost about $1,500 to $2,000 per ton of cooling capacity. When adding up all the equipment and professional installation costs, Fixr estimates a cost range of $1,800 to $7,000, with single systems coming in on the lower end and quad systems running $3,800 for equipment alone.

The best ductless air conditioners

While the size and capacity needs vary by space, Popular Mechanics recommends ductless systems made by Pioneer or Gree. Mitsubishi and LG also make popular models.

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