Everything You Need to Know About Ductless Air Conditioners

By: Beth Krietsch
Modern living room with sofa and air conditioner - 3d rendering

When your home isn’t equipped with central air conditioning, ductless air conditioners can be an excellent way to keep your living space cool on hot days. Also known as mini-split air conditioners, these are a particularly good fit for people who are looking to cool a small space, save on energy costs, and avoid the hefty price burden and work involved in installing central air. The upfront costs can be high, but ductless air conditioners are very energy efficient and pay off in monetary savings over time. Read on to learn everything you need to know about ductless air conditioners.

How do they work?

Ductless air conditioners are commonly known as mini-split air conditioners because they are made up of separate indoor and outdoor pieces, rather than functioning through a single unit. Comprised of an indoor unit mounted to a wall, an outdoor compressor, and drains and cables that connect the two, ductless air conditioners cool the home without ductwork by cooling air as it passes through a condenser, and distributing this cooler air into your home.

Technician installing ductless air conditioner

Installation

If you’re skilled with repairs and other home projects, you’ll probably be able to install a ductless air conditioner on your own, but most people hire a specialist for the job. An improperly installed unit won’t provide the same benefits and can be problematic and ineffective in the long run.

How much will it cost?

Ductless air conditioners tend to be fairly expensive, typically costing between $1,000 and $7,000, plus the cost of installation. Higher priced options are usually capable of cooling multiple zones or rooms at a time. They can cost two times as much as window air conditioners and are typically 30% more expensive than a central air conditioning system. However, keep in mind that central air also requires duct installation.

Energy efficiency

Because they allow you to cool several targeted areas at a time without losing energy through ducts, ductless air conditioners are the most energy efficient form of air conditioning, capable of cutting cooling costs by around 30%. However, your energy bills will definitely go up if you haven’t been using air conditioning at all. Look for Energy Star labels when shopping to ensure you’re purchasing one of the most efficient units on the market.

Air compressor installation on pedestal.outdoor

Temperature control

Ductless air conditioners are excellent for temperature control because they allow you to cool one room at a time as opposed to central air conditioning, which cools the entire home. These units also provide a ton of flexibility, allowing you to keep different rooms at different temperatures.

Other perks

  • Allergies—Air conditioning ducts tend to accumulate dust, moisture, and debris, which can be problematic for people with allergies. With a ductless air conditioning unit, you rarely need to worry about allergies, as long as you clean the filter as recommended, which is usually about once a month.
  • Heating—Most ductless air conditioners can also be used as heat pumps, making them a functional component of the home throughout the year.
  • Lifespan—Most ductless mini-split air conditioners have a fairly long lifespan of around 12–15 years.

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