How to Get Started with Ductless Heating and Cooling

Ductless Heating

Ductless heating and cooling are also known as mini-split systems. If you’re considering this option there are benefits and drawbacks, but these systems are efficient and can maintain consistent room comfort as well as the traditional ducted HVAC systems. Here is everything you need to know about getting started with ductless heating and cooling.

What is a ductless system and its benefits?

The first step is to understand the system you’re installing. Typically, a ductless heat pump or AC unit is indoors and mounted to the wall with an outside compressor. A small hole is drilled into the wall and sealed to prevent air leaks. These units are energy-efficient and can reduce energy usage by eliminating duct work. Inverter-driven compressors speed up and slow down based on system needs versus shutting off like the traditional HVAC compressors conserving even more energy. On the downside, these systems take up more wall space but can be fit into the home design easily in most cases. Cons include the high upfront cost, the need for regular maintenance and the changes in home aesthetics but if these are all things you’ve considered and accepted, the benefits will likely save money in the long run.

Where should ductless units be installed?

Ductless can be used for whole-home heating and cooling or for new additions or rooms without duct work in place. It offers a good solution for hard to heat/cool rooms not already equipped with heating and cooling, but it can be installed in any room in a house or shop and it’s ideal for customizing temperature control in individual rooms.

Equipment and placement

There are two pieces of equipment for each unit. The inside wall-mounted unit for heating and cooling and the outside condenser. The condenser and the wall unit are connected by a three-inch conduit that delivers the air, and it is installed directly through the walls by drilling a small hole. Each unit is hardwired into the electrical system of the home. First determine the placement for the indoor units and where the conduit will be placed. There should be wall studs nearby to solidly mount the unit and hold it in place. Next, decide where the condenser will be mounted on the outside. You can either mount this to a concrete slab or to an exterior wall.

Determine the sizing needs for each interior unit

Perform the calculations for sizing. Coverage for a mini-split system is rated on a BTU system. For example, 9000 BTU heats and cools an area of 250 square feet of space. A 24,000 BTU unit will cover up to 1,000 square feet of space. This is a critical step to ensure that the unit placed in each room provides enough coverage without overkill.

Which units are the best?

Next, start comparing pricing for various brands, but make sure that the unit you choose is UL listed and meets code standards. Most HVAC manufacturers offer systems for DIY installation with pre-charged refrigerant lines for bypassing the need for a professional HVAC installer for charging. These kits also come with mounting brackets for the indoor unit and templates for precision hole drilling. It’s a good idea to go with units that are Energy Star certified to further reduce energy consumption and reduce the cost of operation.

Tools required

The tools you’ll need to have on hand include wrenches, hex keys, a drill and drill bits, a hole saw, wire cutters, screwdrivers, and a carpenter’s level. If you’re familiar with using these tools, you should be good to go. If not, you might want to consider hiring a professional installer. In addition, plan on hiring a professional electrician to connect the outdoor unit to the electrical system in your home unless you are a certified electrician.

Mounting and installation

Small holes must be drilled through the interior and exterior walls to allow for the flexible conduit connecting each unit to its condenser. After determining the precise location for mounting, drill the holes and run the conduit. This is the stage in which the electrical wiring is hardwired into the existing home system. It’s important to ensure that each hole is adequately sealed after installation of the conduit to ensure that there are no air leaks. Units must be mounted firmly, using the brackets that come with the kit in the recommended location.

Other features to consider

Many homeowners are moving towards converting their dwellings to smart homes. You can purchase a mini-split system that includes a remote control for the operation of each unit. If this is your choice, it’s a good idea to choose a system that comes with Android and Apple apps which can be connected to the system and to your home network at the time of installation. This allows you to control the system through your mobile device. It’s not necessary to include this feature but it’s definitely something to consider if you enjoy the convenience of remote control of heating and cooling systems in your home.

Maintenance

Mini-split heating and cooling systems do not have the traditional duct work associated with traditional HVAC systems, but there is some maintenance required. These systems come with a filter system. The filters should be regularly cleaned and periodically replaced to ensure the safest and efficient operation of the unit, as well as its longevity.

Final thoughts

Installing a mini-split system is easier than ever if you have a few basic skills and a little experience with the required tools and equipment. While there are pros and cons associated with ductless heating and cooling, the benefits are realized in the energy savings and lower electrical costs through time. Kits are made specifically for do-it-yourself installers but do take care to make sure that you bring a professional on board for any required tasks you’re not certified to complete, such as electrical, if that is the case.


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