In an age of eco-conscious consumerism, ductless mini-splits are generating a lot of attention. However, they’ve been around since 1959. Mini-splits provide whole-house temperature control without the need for HVAC ducting. They’re perfect for older properties in San Marco, CA that weren’t built to support central cooling. They filter the air, regulate humidity, and provide adequate ventilation. They’re an all-in-one solution for indoor climate control during the summer months, and they’re incredibly efficient.

What Is a Ductless Cooling System?

Ductless mini-split cooling systems are functionally identical to air conditioners. They have outdoor condenser units that contain compressors, blower motors, blower fans, and condenser coils. At the interior of the building, mini-splits have one or more air handlers. Each air handler has an evaporator coil for heat transfer and its own thermostat for temperature adjustments. Copper refrigerant tubing and electrical wires connect air handlers to outside condensers.

Ductless AC Systems Offer Zoned Cooling

When installing ductless cooling systems, we divide homes into two or more service areas. Each service area or zone has a wall or ceiling-mounted air handler and a thermostat. This allows building residents to customize the temperatures in their immediate areas without sending conditioned air into other spaces.

Zoned AC eliminates arguments over central thermostat settings. It also eliminates the need to cool entire homes uniformly. In the right conditions and when properly installed, zoned cooling can reduce homeowners’ summertime energy bills by as much as 30%.

The Impressive Efficiency of Ductless Mini-Split Systems

The efficiency levels of ductless mini-split systems are nothing short of impressive. An air conditioner’s efficiency is determined by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating. SEER ratings are calculated by dividing an AC’s total cooling output over a single cooling season by the amount of energy that it consumes throughout this same time. Higher SEER ratings denote better and more efficient AC performance. The SEER ratings of central air conditioners range between 14 and 18. To compare, a ductless cooling system can have a SEER rating as high as 25.

New SEER ratings or SEER2 ratings work much the same, but they also account for the impact that ductwork has on air distribution and the resulting losses in cooling power. Unlike SEER testing, SEER2 evaluations involve the use of M1 blower motors to account for static pressure in HVAC ductwork. According to the University of Florida, static pressure, leaky ducts, and other duct-related challenges can result in the loss of 40% of a central air conditioner’s cooling output. Given that ductless mini-split systems don’t rely on ducting at all, these losses are nonexistent. Ductless air conditioners distribute cooled air right where it’s produced.

Converting Energy Into Cooled Air

Many of the most efficient HVAC equipment types convert all or nearly all of the energy they consume into cooled air or thermal energy. For instance, a high-efficiency, gas-fired furnace converts about 98.5% of the fuel it consumes into heat energy with the rest being lost as exhaust gases. In this respect, ductless mini-split systems are unlike any other HVAC equipment type. The cooling output of these systems can be three to four times higher than the amount of energy they consume. Thus, in the right conditions, they operate at efficiency levels of 300% to 400%.

How Ductless Cooling Works

Ductless air conditioners draw in warm air from building interiors. This air is then passed over the refrigerant-filled evaporator coils in their indoor air handlers. This refrigerant absorbs the air’s heat before it’s cycled back inside to lower the ambient temperature. Hot refrigerant is pumped outdoors to the condenser unit where its heat and humidity are released. This same refrigerant travels back into buildings to start the process all over again.

What Causes the Efficiency of Mini-Splits to Decline?

All heating and cooling equipment gradually loses efficiency as it ages. Accumulated wear, stubborn build-ups of debris, and other age-related factors contribute to declining performance. However, you may have heard that even new mini-splits can underperform when subjected to extreme weather conditions. This is because many ductless mini-split systems are ductless heat pumps that provide both heating and cooling.

These units have special valves that homeowners can turn to switch them from cooling mode to heating mode. When working in reverse, ductless heat pumps source heat from the outside air and funnel it indoors.

In summer, you can expect a ductless heat pump to perform at optimum efficiency. In winter, especially in colder regions, some heat pumps struggle to source enough outdoor heat to bring in. The closer that outdoor temperatures get to freezing, the harder these units must work to keep building interiors warm. In exceedingly cold environments, many entry-level mini-split systems will freeze up and stop working. Those that continue to function could operate at 70% efficiency while experiencing progressive efficiency losses as outside temperatures decrease.

Low-Ambient Mini-Split Systems and Year-Round Use

The good news is that San Marco, CA has the perfect climate for using ductless mini-split systems year-round. With temperatures rarely dipping below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, ductless heat pumps can consistently operate at 100% efficiency or much higher. As such, if you intend to use your new mini-split for more than cooling, you can do so without experiencing massive, seasonal spikes in your energy bills.

Your Home Envelope Still Matters

No matter how efficient your heating and cooling equipment is, you’re bound to deal with high energy bills if your home’s envelope isn’t sufficiently tight. Low-quality windows with air leaks, cracks and gaps in building materials, and large openings at the base of exterior doors are all sources of energy waste. Although installing a ductless mini-split is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and limit your overhead costs, you might need to pair this upgrade with added insulation and other efficiency upgrades.

Using Ductless Mini-Splits for Supplementary Cooling

Ductless mini-splits are also used for supplementary cooling in homes with under-served or unserviced areas. For instance, if you have remote rooms that aren’t connected to your HVAC ducting, you can install air handlers in these spaces for summertime cooling. People often use ductless mini-splits for supplementary AC in attached garages, garden rooms, attic bedrooms, and finished basements. Not only do these additions keep these spaces habitable when the outside temperature soars, but they also prevent warm indoor air from migrating to other areas. This limits the amount of work that central cooling systems must do, and it promotes longer equipment lifespans and lower energy bills.

Take Advantage of High-Value Incentives for Efficiency Upgrades

The high efficiency of ductless cooling systems could qualify you for some pretty significant incentives under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. By installing a qualifying ductless mini-split, you could obtain a substantial tax rebate to offset your year-end tax debt or increase your tax refund.

For more than two decades, we’ve been proudly serving San Marco, CA and the surrounding cities. You can count on us for exceptional heater, heat pump, and air conditioner installation, maintenance, and repair services. We also provide ductless mini-splits, indoor air quality improvements, and preventative maintenance plans. Get in touch with Oak Island Heating and Air Conditioning today to schedule an appointment!

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