21 Jan 2020

Ductless vs. Traditional HVAC Systems


Ductless vs. traditional HVAC systems: which one is the best?

The ductless heating and cooling systems market has been heating up over the past few years. In 2019, it was projected at $78.62 billion. What’s leading to the increased interest in ductless systems and how do they stack up to traditional HVAC systems? Let’s find out.

Ductless HVAC Systems

We’ve seen a greater demand for ductless systems recently in the United States. The systems in the homes built during the 2003 - 2006 housing boom are reaching their life expectancies. Homeowners are looking for better energy efficiency, smart home technology compatibility, and independent zoning when it comes time to replace unitary systems. 

What Is a Ductless AC Unit?

A ductless air conditioner has an outdoor heat pump connected with indoor air handling units via refrigerant lines. These indoor units can be ceiling-mounted or wall-mounted. 

Essentially, a ductless system works similarly to a traditional heat pump system. The only difference is a ductless system doesn’t require ducts. Each area of a home will have its own air handler to control the heating and cooling for that zone.

Ductless vs. Traditional HVAC Systems

Zoned climate control. Ductless, or mini-split units as they are sometimes called, win this round. Ductless systems allow homeowners to customize the temperature on a room-by-room basis.

Energy efficiency. There are differing opinions on whether ductless or traditional systems are the most energy-efficient. 

Some experts say that if a home is 2,000+ square feet, a homeowner will get better efficiency out of a central air system. Others point out that larger homes with unused rooms (think retirees and empty nesters) will benefit from ductless systems or hybrid systems because owners can turn off air or heat to those spaces.

With all that said, working with an experienced contractor and the right product, an efficient ductless solution can be provided for almost any climate and home.

Aesthetics. A ductless unit will be visible in the room it occupies. Central heating and air, on the other hand, is virtually invisible. Homeowners will need to decide if that matters to them.

Installation cost. If a home already has ductwork, it will be more cost-effective to install a central system. Those who own older homes without ductwork, on the other hand, will find it more cost-effective to go with the ductless option.

Heating concerns. Some ductless systems also provide heating through a heat pump. When it gets cold outside, the heat pump will reverse direction and bring warm air in. However, there’s a catch. Historically, ductless units don’t perform well in extremely cold climates. Those who live where temperatures drop below zero need to look at newer ductless models, get a fuel-based back-up for heating, or go with a central system instead of ductless.

Maintenance issues. Ductless units require monthly attention. Owners need to wash the units monthly. Otherwise, debris builds up and will lead to the need for professional cleaning that can cost hundreds of dollars. Plus, all that build-up can shorten the life of the ductless unit. 

Of course, central systems require maintenance too. Homeowners should follow the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance guidelines, which typically require the unit to be inspected annually or bi-annually

Help Customers Make an Informed Choice

If you’ve got customers trying to decide which type of system to choose, explain the pros and cons of both types of heating & air options. Also, be sure to explain the benefits of an HVAC extended warranty for the equipment they ultimately select. It will give them peace of mind and potentially save them hundreds or thousands of dollars in the event of equipment failure.

Learn more about the benefits of offering extended HVAC warranties to your customers, then register for JB Warranties' Premium Protection Plan.