Ductless AC Buying Guide

Man on couch enjoying ductless cooling unit

Ductless air conditioning units are a great alternative to installing new ductwork in older homes, which can cost upwards of $5,000 for larger homes. While ductless AC units are more costly compared to central cooling systems, they are an effective way of saving on home’s energy costs, as they can be installed in specific areas. 

What Is a Ductless AC?

Conventional HVAC systems normally have indoor and outdoor units. The unit works through an outdoor cabinet, which is regarded as the “air conditioner,” along with a series of vents and ducts. The vents and ducts connect the AC to the furnace and the air handler for heating and cooling, respectively. Installing this system is costly as well as time and labor-intensive. Often, the ductwork is restrictive and prone to dirt and dust, which makes the unit noisy. Smaller homes and apartments may not even have the space required to host such a system.

Also referred to as mini-split air conditioning systems, ductless systems work in the same way as central systems, but the evaporator coil and fan in a ductless unit are housed in the same enclosure. They are referred to as ductless systems because they do not require ducts or vents to deliver hot or cold air.

Mini-split air conditioning units comprise the indoor evaporator/indoor air handling unit that delivers the conditioned air into a room, evaporators mounted on a ceiling or wall, and the outdoor condenser/compressor that powers the indoor evaporator and is responsible for the transfer of heated or cooled air into and out of the room. The indoor unit is connected directly to the outdoor compressor through a refrigerant line, suction tubing, a power cable, and a condensate drain line as opposed to a complex duct system. Due to the absence of ducts and vents, mini-split systems are not predisposed to pressure imbalances, heat gains, or air leaks that could negatively affect their performance or efficiency.

Who Should Get a Ductless Air Conditioning Unit?

While most homes are designed to handle a central system, some of them are not. You may need to get a ductless unit if you face any of the following scenarios:

  • If you live in an older home where installing or adding new ductwork would affect the house’s structural integrity
  • If your living space is large enough that some areas are hotter than others
  • If you have expanded your living space and the new space is too far from the existing ductwork
  • If you have converted your basement or attic into livable space but temperatures are still uncomfortable
  • If your energy bills are unreasonably high

How to Buy the Best Ductless AC

While ductless mini-split systems have been in the market for quite some time, they are far from gaining as much popularity as traditional AC units. It is imperative to choose the right product for your heating and cooling needs, and for that, you will need a knowledgeable installer. 

  • Compare Ductless AC Cost

As mentioned, ductless AC systems cost more than central systems. A simple but reliable model could cost up to $1,000 with higher-end models as much as $5,000. Multi-zone units usually cost more compared to their single-zone counterparts. Additional features such as a winter heat pump can add to the overall costs. Be sure to consult your local HVAC professional for accurate installation by getting an in-home estimate. 

  • Consider the Cooling Area and the Unit’s Power

You need to establish whether you are looking into cooling single or multiple living spaces in your home. This will help you determine whether you should purchase a single- or multi-zone system. For a unit to be effective, the number of BTUs (British Thermal Units) has to be appropriate for the room’s square footage. Single-zone mini-splits start at 6,000 BTU for a 150-250 square foot room. Multi-zone units can have as much as 60,000 BTU, as is the case with YMGI’s Five-Zone unit. BTU measures the energy needed to raise one pound of water to one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. In this context, it measures how fast a unit can cool a space. Keep in mind that the higher the BTU number, the larger space the unit is able to cool. 

  • Consider the Types of Ductless Acs

There are two main types of ductless air conditioning systems: single-zone and multi-zone units. Single-zone units can only cool or heat a single space within your house, while a multi-zone system can condition 2-6 rooms. Multi-zone units are made to overcome temperature inconsistencies in the house through temperature zoning. Essentially, they feature an innovative climate control system that divides your home into different zones for effective heating and cooling. Multi-zone units offer you personalized comfort, significant energy savings, and better control over your cooling system. However, installation costs are higher compared to single-zone units. 

  • Energy Efficiency

Most ductless units produced today are Energy Star certified. Only cooling the room you intend to be in also helps keep energy consumption and costs low. Before settling on a unit, make sure you check its SEER rating. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) is the computed ratio of an AC’s cooling output over a typical season divided by the energy used in watt hours. The higher this rating is, the lower its energy consumption. 

  • Read Ductless AC Reviews

Reviews afford you some first-hand experience of how a unit works along with the unit’s efficiency rating, manufacturer’s warranty information, and comparisons with similar units. Reading these reviews ensure you purchase the ideal unit for your living space. 

  • Extra Features

Depending on the climatic conditions of the area you live in, you may need additional features such as a dehumidifier function, remote control, reusable filters, or a programmable timer. As this is a significant investment, you may need to choose one that has a warranty. This ensures that minor or major repairs will be taken care of. Under some warranties, the whole unit may be replaced if it proves faulty. 

Selecting an appropriate air conditioning unit should boil down to what gives you comfort and what’s within your budget. Before settling on one, make sure you talk to an HVAC professional. Some states offer perks in the form of rebates, particularly if your unit has heat pumps. 

Ductless AC Brands

  • Pioneer Ductless ACs

Pioneer is an established and well-known brand that has provided quality ductless ACs for years. Pioneer offers a wide range of ductless ACs to meet different needs and requirements. In terms of capacity, the ACs have capacities of between 9000-48000 BTU. When it comes to mounting, you can choose a ceiling, floor, or wall-mounted appliance.

The Pioneer WYS series, in particular, the Pioneer WYS012-17, is a good buy. The Pioneer WYS012-17 will cost you $768 with installation and placement costs affecting the final cost. This mini-split AC is easy to install and features a heat pump. It is also precharged and delivers a maximum efficiency of 17.2 SEER. This unit also features quiet operation, making it great for home and light commercial use. Buyers benefit from free tech support and five-year coverage on the compressor.

  • Senville Ductless ACs

Senville ACs feature mini-split, multi-zone, and portable ACs. The ductless ACs from this brand are some of the most advanced and high-end units on the market. Some of the popular Senville brands include the SENL-24CD 24000 BTU, SENL/09CD 9000 BTU, and the SENL/12CD 12000 BTU.

The SENL-24CD 24000 BTU is the most popular and costs an average of $1,099 for the unit alone. For this price, you will get an appliance with a four-in-one design that includes air conditioning, dehumidifier, heating, and fan functions. This unit also features Inverter Technology, ensuring efficient and powerful climate control, and Whisper Technology that supports quiet operation, making it perfect for bedrooms, living rooms, and commercial applications. Energy star certification and SEER ratings as high as 17 let you create a comfortable home environment without having to worry about higher energy costs. Multidirectional air vents promote air circulation while remote control capability ensures convenient operation. This Senville unit carries a two-year warranty on parts and a five-year warranty on the compressor.

  • Classic America Ductless Mini-Split Inverter AC

Classic America offers a wide range of high-performance, value-oriented ACs. The manufacturer integrates the latest innovations in its products and leverages technology, so you can operate your unit efficiently. 

The ductless mini-split inverter AC sells for around $700. For this price, you get a unit with a cooling capacity of 12000 BTU that delivers efficient, powerful, and dependable performance. This AC boasts impressive features including automatic air swing, timer function, sleep function, auto-restart, a three-speed fan, and an anti-freeze pipe sensor. The appliance also has a wireless remote control that lets you operate it conveniently. Automated temperature mode and independent zone control allow you to change the temperature depending on your needs. In terms of efficiency, the Classic America AC delivers up to 16 SEER.

  • MRCOOL DIY Ductless ACs

MRCOOL has highly efficient and easy-to-install air conditioning systems perfect for DIY projects. These ACs can be controlled from an Android or iPhone app and deliver reliable comfort when the weather heats up, making them a smart and economical choice. The great compressor quality ensures durable performance for a comfortable home.

The MRCOOL DIY 36000 BTU works great in rooms with high ceilings, which is not possible with most of the mini-split models in the market. You also get an AC with built-in Wi-Fi that allows you to change the unit’s settings through a mobile phone app. The system is easy to install, eliminating the need to call a technician to do the installation for you. The quiet operation ensures you enjoy a peaceful atmosphere whenever the unit is running. An intelligent inverter system and BTU rate of 36000 ensure even temperature control. With the inverter system, you can change the temperature depending on your choices.

This ductless AC carries a five-year warranty on all parts to the original registered user, a seven-year warranty on the compressor, and a one-year warranty on the remote control unit.

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