Is a Ductless HVAC System Right for Your Home or Office?

If you’re considering solutions to better heat or cool a room or small area of your home or office, a ductless mini-split HVAC unit from Carrier can be a very efficient solution. Don’t confuse them with the old window units of yesteryear that were loud, dusty, and sucked down electricity like a sieve. Sleek new mini-split systems consist of a smaller outdoor condensing unit and a little indoor air handler which we call a head.

The indoor unit is generally mounted high up on the wall, though other shapes/sizes are available. They are generally a highly efficient heat pump that generates warm air in the cooler months and cool air when it is blazing hot. You can get them with heat and air conditioning or just air conditioning only. Most models come with a remote control, and you can add Wi-Fi, too.

ductless hvac provides extra cooling in the master suiteWhat types of situations work best for ductless HVAC systems?

Ductless systems are infinitely flexible because they don’t have ducts to install. They are installed with a small hole on the outside wall to connect the indoor and outdoor unit and can be installed in a day or less in most situations. They are best used to efficiently heat or cool the following:

  • home offices,
  • new additions,
  • condos,
  • upstairs rooms,
  • master suites,
  • children’s playrooms,
  • man caves,
  • sewing or craft rooms,
  • game rooms
  • employer conference rooms,
  • theater rooms,
  • guest rooms,
  • attic rooms,
  • garages, and
  • more.

If you have an older home with no space for ducts, they work very well and can help you avoid major construction. You can use them to help with creating comfort zones in your home so you can run your main thermostat a little lower. You can install them in rooms that are used more often and power down your home’s central air and heat so you are only using the air and heat that you need. We have also installed them in garages so that families can reclaim that space and be more comfortable.

In the office, if you have co-workers bringing in contraband space heaters to stay warm, a ductless system in that one area might fix the comfort problem permanently.

Should a ductless system be used throughout a home or office?

In most cases, the answer is no. While you can link multiple ductless air handlers to one outside mini-split condensing unit, most situations we see involve just one or two ductless systems to address climate control in a specific area or room. Ductless mini split systems are powered with electricity and are ultra-efficient with this application.

Depending on how large your home or office is, it is usually more cost effective to have a standard central air and heating HVAC unit to heat or cool an entire home or office. Multiple zoned ductless mini splits can be used throughout a home, but it is uncommon currently. If a home or office is built with mini splits in mind, it can work very well.

We would need an onsite review to give you the best advice about what might work best for your situation. In the Houston, Texas and Gulf Coast area, we generally have a milder climate so the amount of cooling and heat these units produce work very well for our hot, humid summers and cool winters.

When should a mini split not be used?

Mini split systems are not always the best idea in spaces where you expect the environment to be consistently dusty or giving off aerosols and particulates. A woodshop is an excellent example of a space that would be more challenging for a mini split system. Because the filtration in the system is not designed to handle dirty air, it can clog and greatly shorten the life of the system.

What if I have a large space to heat and cool?

Most ductless mini split systems are designed to handle from three-quarters to three tons of air conditioning.  If you have a space that needs more cooling (four tons and above), it might be a better idea to consider a Variable Refrigerant Flow system

Variable Refrigerant Flow or VRF is ductless air conditioning and heating on a much larger scale. They offer heating and cooling as a heat pump or heat recovery system. The reason they are so efficient is that they are able to operate at variable speeds — meaning they only use as much cooling or heating as is needed. By contrast, most central air and heating systems operate at one or multi-speeds. 

This technology was first seen in commercial uses and is becoming more available in the residential setting. Custom remodels and homeowners who are interested in adding the highest efficiency equipment can appreciate how efficient these VRF systems are.  Before these are installed, an HVAC professional takes precise calculations, so they can be custom-designed at the factory. 

Why are mini split systems so efficient?

 ductless mini split high wall unit on living room wallThere are several reasons that mini split air conditioners and heat pumps are so efficient. The biggest is that they don’t have ductwork which can suffer from air leaks, heat gains due to lack of insulation or attic location, and/or air pressure imbalances that can make an air conditioning and heating system work harder than it needs to. 

Carrier’s top of the line mini split system is rated at an astounding 42 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). SEER is a fancy term for measuring cooling output divided by energy used. The higher the SEER number the more efficient the cooling.  Compare this to most central air conditioning and heating systems that average between 15 and 18 SEER. Higher-end central air and heating systems operate up to 26 SEER.   

Are there other indoor air handler shapes besides ones that hang on the wall?

Yes. The indoor air handler for ductless mini split systems can be installed in a number of different ways. We most commonly see blower units for mini split systems that hang high up on the wall. Here’s the different ways the indoor blower unit can be configured:

High wall: These are the most common application that we sell. It is generally what people most think of when they see a ductless mini split unit in action indoors. A large rectangular blower unit or “head” hangs up high on the wall.

ductless mini split high wall unit from Carrier

Ceiling Cassette: These units are recessed into the ceiling so they are a bit more involved with installation. They are chosen because they have a streamlined look and they blend in with the existing room design. This option gives you the ability to add an additional ducted connection so you can link it to one other small room.  Typically, these are used for a master bedroom and adjoining bathroom. These are also useful in office spaces or retail environments that are maximizing wall space.

ductless mini split ceiling cassette from Carrier

Floor Console: These indoor blower units are situated on the wall toward the floor. They are most reminiscent of air conditioners commonly seen in some hotels and motels but they are much slimmer, quieter, and lot more efficient.

ductless mini split floor console from Carrier

Ducted: These indoor blower units can fit in-ceiling, under-the floor or vertically in the wall. They will require some ductwork which makes them not truly ductless but they are very flexible and highly specialized depending your home or office’s design.

mini split system ducted unit from carrier

Under Ceiling: These mini split air handlers are flatter and slimmer than the high wall units and can be used in an interior room, entry way or in a commercial application. We see these a lot in restaurants, especially pizza shops.

What other advantages do ductless HVAC systems have?

Ductless systems are ultra energy efficient and all the models that Carrier makes are ENERGY STAR® qualified which makes them inexpensive to run year round. They are also very quiet and help maximize room space, since the indoor head hangs on the wall close to the ceiling. With proper maintenance, they can last 15-25 years which is a great investment. The only regular maintenance task is cleaning out the filters monthly, which can be run through a standard dishwasher. Of course, we always recommend regular maintenance twice a year by a professional HVAC technician.

How do I learn more?

If you think a ductless unit might be a solution to a persistent heating or cooling problem, give the experts at Terry’s A/C & Heating a call at 281-495-7830. We have these ductless units in our own homes and can personally share the improvement they make for indoor comfort. We want to be your indoor comfort concierge! Find out what makes us different from other HVAC technicians in the Southwest Houston, Katy, Bellaire, Missouri City, Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, and Fulshear areas.

We are a factory-authorized Carrier dealer and we maintain, repair, and service all models of heating and air conditioning equipment, including mini split air conditioners, mini split heat pumps, and VRF mini split systems.