About Ductless Air Conditioning

close up view of a ventless wall air conditioner unit

Ductless air conditioning systems are like window AC units, except they go through the wall to the outdoors. They're a popular middle ground between central AC, with its vents and fans, and smaller units, which can be a little less powerful.

Here are some of the basics about these wall-mounted AC units, also known as split air conditioners, to help you choose whether or not they're the right type of cooling system for your home.

How Ductless AC Works

ventless wall mounted AC unit with remote controlDuctless air conditioning systems come in two parts—the outdoor unit and the indoor unit—hence the use of the word "split." The indoor unit draws air from the outside unit, pulling the air over cold cools and then blowing it into the room. The outside unit has a fan to cool those coils and a compressor that circulates refrigerant.

Ductless systems require multiple indoor units. There's no central air conditioning unit that drives cool air through ducts and out of registers in multiple rooms of the home. Instead, wall units blow cold air into individual areas of the home.

Why Go Ductless?

woman cleaning wall air conditioner filtersWith ductless systems, there are no air leaks. This is a huge plus, preventing unnecessary energy loss that adds money to your utility bill. There are also no heat gains or pressure imbalances with ductless designs. This system will save you about 30% of the electricity you would burn with a standard AC system.

In addition to being energy efficient, the ductless air conditioning system provides better air quality than standard systems. That’s because the air isn’t being carried through duct systems that may have dust, dirt, and debris inside that mingles with the air.

Some ductless systems have some pretty cool additional features, such as wireless control through your smartphone.

Why Not Go Ductless?

hands installing a wall mounted AC unitOne drawback to having a ductless air conditioning system is aesthetics. The units aren't usually all that attractive or stylish. They typically come in shades of beige and white. However, there are different unit types to choose from. In addition to standard wall-mounted designs, ceiling-mounted and floor-mounted options are available.

Another reason some people shy away from ductless systems is the cost. Because multiple indoor units are required, installing a ductless system can be a big initial expense. Be prepared to spend over $10,000 for a complete ductless system that cools the entire house with multiple units. Over time, the ductless system will pay for itself in decreased utility bills. However, the initial cost of installing one of these systems is prohibitive for some.

Maintaining the System

gloved hands cleaning a wall mounted air conditionerEach unit of a ductless system has a filter that should be changed regularly, sometimes as frequently as once a month. If you have pets or smoke, you may want to change the filter even more often. Make a master key showing the size of the flyers you need in each room of your home where duress indoor units are located. If you don’t change the filters regularly, the units will get dirty and work far less efficiently.

Choosing a Ductless Air Conditioning System

wall mounted AC unit high up near the ceilingGet an estimate of the cost by pricing indoor units for all the rooms of your home where you need them, and the price of the outdoor compressor unit. This will give you an idea of how much the system will cost.

Balance that cost against the potential upsides. If you plan on owning this property for several years, you'll enjoy lower utility bills because of the system, ultimately saving money. If you plan to sell the property, the ductless system will become a selling point that allows you to bump up the asking price a bit.

Make your ultimate choice based on energy savings, air quality, upkeep, cost, and style. If you do go with a ductless system, keep an eye out for these common issues to avoid.