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How Ductless Heating and Cooling HVAC Systems Works

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Sometimes, it's just not possible to install air ducts in a building or structure and set up a typical HVAC system. However, that doesn't mean that these types of buildings are incapable of supporting any type of HVAC system and are forced into an eternity of hot and humid air. That's where ductless HVAC systems come into play.

In this article, we're going to review what exactly a ductless HVAC system is, how it works, and how this type of system is maintained in the long-term.

What Is Ductless Heating and Cooling HVAC?

You've probably been in a building supported by a ductless HVAC system before without realizing it. Unlike regular HVAC systems that require a seemingly never-ending maze of ducts through the interior of a home or building, ductless HVAC systems connect directly to an outside air source.

Rather than depending on one system to force air through an entire home or building through ducts, these systems bypass the need for ducts by using individual air sources rather than a single air source for the entire structure.

How Does Ductless HVAC Work?

Let's think about how regular HVAC systems work first.

An outdoor air system (like an air conditioning unit) sucks up outdoor air and forces it through the ducts in your home. All vents in the home are connected to this duct system, which means that a single unit supplies all the air your home needs.

So, how do ductless HVAC systems work?

These systems usually require a wall unit in at least one room in your home. With the assistance of an outside compressor, the outside air is forced through a small tube that connects to your indoor unit.

Instead of needing an entire duct system that causes the air to travel through the entire length of your house, you can easily get outdoor air inside your home with a ductless HVAC system.

These systems consist of a very simple design that's much easier to understand than the average duct HVAC system.

How Is Ductless HVAC Installed?

The good news is that ductless HVAC systems don't require any excessive damage to the ceilings or walls in your home. All you have to do is properly install the indoor and outdoor air system and your system is ready to go.

Here's a brief overview of the installation process for a ductless HVAC system:

  • Purchase a mini-split system. You need to make sure that you're choosing a mini-split system that'll work in your home. That means you have a choice between multi-zone and dual-zone mini-splits. Dual-zone mini-splits are definitely the easiest to install and will provide heating and cooling to your entire home.
  • Install the inside unit. Choose a wall that borders the exterior of your home, as this system will need to connect directly to the outdoors. Make sure that you're installing this unit at least 6 feet off the ground. Force the refrigerant pipe through the wall so it connects directly near the outside unit.
  • Install the outside unit. You need to select a location that'll allow you to connect the refrigerant pipe that's linked to your indoor unit. Take all precautions necessary to connect the refrigerant pipe and wiring, completing the connection between your indoor and outdoor units.

The setup is pretty easy, but you need to make sure that you're following your manufacturer's instructions. The owner's manual for your ductless HVAC system will be your best friend during the setup process.

Can You Use a Ductless HVAC System to Supplement a Central HVAC System?

In most instances, there's no real need to install a ductless HVAC system if you already have a functioning HVAC system that performs as it should. However, there are quite a few reasons that you might want to use a ductless HVAC system as well as a central HVAC system.

First off, some areas of the home just might not have any connectivity to the HVAC duct system that you currently have. That means these rooms are prone to getting extremely hot and humid in the summer months.

There's also the possibility that you added an addition to your home in recent years. Most times, it's extremely expensive to add an addition to your home that also extends the current ductwork of your central HVAC system.

In both of these instances, it's much more cost-effective to invest in a ductless HVAC system than paying a professional. It'll save you a lot of money in the long run, and there's really no need to connect all areas of your home to the central HVAC system if a ductless system works just as well.

How Do You Maintain a Ductless Unit?

Just like any type of indoor HVAC system, ductless units require frequent care and maintenance to ensure that they're working as they should.

Maintaining the System
It sounds easy enough, but dusting the exterior of your unit is one of the simplest ways to care for your ductless HVAC unit. By dusting both the inside and outside units, you can be sure that no dust or dirt is entering your home and that no blockages occur as a result of unwanted debris.

Another way to keep your system clean and running smoothly is by making sure no object or furniture item is too close to the system. This will prevent the excess buildup of dust and debris that can really hold your system back. If buildup has compromised your filters or pre-filter you should consider removing and replacing them with a new one. Search with your unit’s model number to find replacements.

Cleaning the System
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to caring for your ductless HVAC system is keeping it clean. That means you should be:

  • Removing the filters and taking care to wipe them down completely.
  • Clean the outside unit with water and dust as appropriate.
  • Make sure that the pipe connecting the indoor and outdoor units are clean and free of dust, dirt, and debris.