Comfort Without Ductwork

  • Was your home built without a central heating/cooling system, instead using hydronic heating (through radiators or baseboard heaters) and window-mounted A/C units?
  • Are you thinking of building an addition onto a home that has central air, but want to avoid the expense, possible structural damage, and other complications of new ductwork?
  • Would you like to turn an unheated, non-air-conditioned attic into an additional living space?
  • Do you want to transform an unheated, non-air-conditioned garage into an art studio or workshop where you can work comfortably all year?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s time to consider installing a ductless heating/air-conditioning unit. These units are typically referred to as “mini-splits” because they involve two separate pieces of equipment: one inside the house and another outside. They are mounted on an outside wall near the room’s ceiling, or sometimes on the ceiling itself. (The “mini” refers to the fact that the inside, air-handling unit of the system is much smaller than a conventional forced-air furnace.)

There are two basic varieties of ductless systems. One provides only cooling and is used primarily to replace window-mounted or through-the-wall air conditioning units in structures heated hydronically or electrically. The other integrates both heating and cooling for year-round comfort.

Cooling-only ductless units are more expensive and more complicated to install than window air conditioners—but they tend to be more energy-efficient. Ductless systems are permanently installed, eliminating the need to remove and store your window air conditioners once the cooling season ends. They also remove the potential security risks represented by window-mounted or through-the-wall units. Too many homeowners don’t secure their window air conditioners adequately simply because they want to avoid the hassle of removing them at summer’s end.

Generally, all ductless systems work in the same way. The air-handling element of the system is mounted inside the room, on a wall or ceiling; a small blower fan is housed inside the unit to help with the convection of the circulating air. The other element—a compressor (i.e., heat pump)—looks and performs like that used in central air systems. It’s installed on a concrete slab outside the structure, near the same wall the inside unit is mounted on, although these two units can be separated by as much as 50 feet and still function perfectly.

The two units of a ductless system are connected by a conduit that passes through a three-inch hole drilled through the structure’s wall. The conduit houses a copper tubing “loop” through which the system’s heat-exchange medium (usually freon) circulates. An electrical conduit brings power from the outside compressor to the inside unit of the mini-split. The conduit usually also carries a small drip tube through which condensation can escape to the outside. In some cases, a separate conduit is provided to handle the dripping. The compressor unit on the outside is wired for electricity, and this power is carried to the inside unit by the electric wires passing through the piping conduit:

In the proper setting, a ductless mini-split heating and cooling system is by far the most energy- and cost-efficient alternative to central air. But heed a word of caution: Colder regions require a system that includes an added heating element integrated into the wall-mounted air-handling unit of the system.

If you’re thinking of installing one or more mini-split, ductless heating systems, or if you have any questions about the best unit for your home, give Synergy Services a call. One of our certified service technicians will visit your home and help you choose the perfect ductless unit to get the job done effectively and affordably.