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Ductless Mini Split AC: The Pros & Cons in California

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It’s an undeniable fact that the California summers are getting hotter and hotter each year. What are people doing about it? Installing air conditioning in their homes!

You might be wondering if ductless, or mini split system air conditioning is the best choice for your living space. Lots of Californians use central air conditioning as their main source of cooling because of the existing ductwork in their structure.

Ductless AC is energy-efficient and may be the right choice for staying cool during those heat waves. Let’s discuss the benefits and drawbacks of ductless air conditioning in a climate like Central California, which gets pretty toasty in the peak of summer.

What Is Ductless AC & How Does It Work?

Ductless air conditioning is a type of cooling system that doesn’t require ductwork, naturally. It delivers climate-controlled air directly into your living space from the indoor head unit.

A ductless mini split AC system has two main parts: an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, and suction tubing, links the outdoor and indoor units.

Ductless AC units are often used in homes or businesses that don’t have ductwork or only have ductwork in some areas. They can also be a good choice for adding cooling to a specific room or area of your home that doesn’t get enough airflow from your central AC system.

Air Conditioning Science

Mini split AC follows the same cooling principles as central AC. Using pressure and valves, refrigerant is passed between the outside and indoor unit. The indoor air handler contains a fan that moves air across evaporator coils containing cold refrigerant. As the air inside your home passes over these coils, heat is absorbed and sent back outdoors.
Cool air is now blown into the area where the AC head is installed. The cycle continues until the desired indoor temperature is reached. If you’re into thermodynamics, PBS has a great explainer video here.

Benefits of Ductless Mini Split AC

There is lots to like about mini split air conditioning. Trying to save energy is chief among them! Consider these positives if ductless air conditioning is on your radar.

Leading Energy Efficiency

Ductless AC systems don’t lose any cooled air through ductwork, so they tend to be more efficient than central AC systems. In fact, ductless AC systems can be up to 40% more efficient than older central air conditioning.

Metal ducts expand and contract over time with seasonal temperature changes. Eventually, this can lead to cracks and seams where cool air is lost during operation. Ductless AC doesn’t need to generate as much blowing power either, since the cool air is being disbursed directly into an adjacent living area.

You’re also only cooling the areas you want to. So cool air is never being blown into parts of your home that aren’t in use, needlessly cooling a room.
If you’re thinking of replacing your entire HVAC system with a heat pump, there are rebate programs available that incentivize energy efficiency. Heat pumps can heat and cool your home, and they are worth considering if your furnace is due for replacement. Learn more about heat pumps here.

California Tax Credit Incentives

Embracing energy-efficient technologies is not just good for the environment; it’s also beneficial for your wallet, thanks to various tax credit incentives available in California. Homeowners who opt for energy-efficient cooling solutions like ductless mini splits can take advantage of state and federal tax credits and rebates designed to offset the initial cost of installation.

These incentives not only make ductless HVAC systems an appealing choice from an environmental standpoint but also enhance their value as a smart financial investment. By reducing your energy bills and receiving tax credits, the question of whether ductless air conditioning is worth it becomes easier to answer with a resounding “Yes.”

It’s a Scalable Cooling System

Need only 1 room cooled, great! Want to keep multiple parts of your home chilly—no problem! The limitations of your cooling is dependent on the number of inside units, or AC heads, that your ductless system has.

This makes it easy to scale your cooling system to whatever capacity you need. If you’ve got a home addition that isn’t ducted into your central AC, then a single head might do the trick. But if your entire top floor gets warm in the Cali evenings, you can install a head in each bedroom.

Heads can be added as does your want for cool air. Or as your budget sees fit. So you can install ductless AC in the places that need it most and add indoor units later down the road.

Versatile Climate Control

A ductless AC system with several indoor units is called multi-split ductless air conditioning. A single condenser (or outdoor unit) can pair with multiple indoor units to supply cool, on-demand air to multiple areas of your home. This is also referred to as multi-head split system AC.

In most cases, 1 outdoor condensing unit can power up to 5 indoor heads. Or in other words, 1 ductless AC outdoor unit can cool up to 5 rooms in your home.

Multiple indoor AC heads allow you to cool each part of your home individually. So there’s a lot of versatility in what part of your space you want cooled and it’s easy to vary temperatures between indoor units. Each unit is controlled individually.

A ductless mini split AC system gives you way more cooling versatility compared to central ducted air conditioning, even compared to multi-zone central AC.

Can Install Almost Anywhere

Not every California architect was thinking about HVAC ducts when they designed a home. Some parts of a house just aren’t duct-friendly. For some homeowners, it’s either totally impractical or way too expensive to add ductwork to certain areas of their living space.

Ductless AC is here to save the day! Because mini splits can be installed almost anywhere, there are a lot of options when choosing where exactly you want cool air. As long as there is a flat space for the outdoor unit to sit (custom pads can be installed), it’s usually possible to add AC to any room.

Quiet Cooling

Ductless AC units typically operate at around 25 decibels, which is about as loud as a whisper. No whirring, humming, or grinding to interrupt dinner conversation or keep your little ones up at night.

Even though indoor heads from a mini split system are mounted right onto the walls or ceilings of your interior, the sound of operation shouldn’t ever be noticed beyond a very subtle hum.

Drawbacks of Ductless Mini Split AC

There are a few potential drawbacks to ductless air conditioning that you should keep in mind. For some homeowners, a mini split air conditioner just isn’t the best choice. These factors may deter you from going ductless.

Higher Initial Installation Cost

Ductless AC units can be more expensive to purchase and install than central AC units. Part of the reason is that a central air conditioner can piggyback on a lot of the work already done for your furnace. Central AC can use an existing pass-through to connect the indoor and outdoor units. And existing ducts channel cool air to living areas.

If you’re targeting a multi-split ductless AC system, the chances are it will be more expensive than a central unit if your home has existing ductwork. To cool just a single room, it’s worth speaking with your HVAC specialist and getting some product/price comparisons.

However, ductless AC units are almost always more energy-efficient, so they can save you money on your energy bills in the long run. Not to mention that most homeowners converting to heat pumps (which also cool your home) are eligible for rebates in California.

Visible Indoor Units

While ductless AC manufacturers are certainly evolving modern, sleek designs that fit in with contemporary indoor styling, there will be mounted head units in the rooms that require AC.

You may opt for concealed bulkhead installation, which hides the indoor head within your ceiling. But this is not always available and a more expensive install.

Our AC specialists will always help you select a mounting location that minimizes the aesthetic impact but also functions to cool your space efficiently. In certain rooms, it may be impossible to “hide” your ductless indoor unit. But after some time, your new cooling accessory may just become part of the atmosphere!

Bottom line: because ductless AC units are installed directly in the room being cooled, they are visible. Some people don’t mind the look of the indoor unit, but others may prefer the hidden ductwork of a central AC system.

Not Great in Super Hot Weather

Let’s be clear, the actual cooling capabilities of a ductless mini split air conditioner are the exact same as a central air conditioner. They remove heat using the same principles and could have identical components.

Ductless AC has fewer cooling points than a traditional home with vented ducts. Generally, a ducted home should have at least 1 air vent for every 100 square feet, which means multiple sources of cool air for each bedroom or living room.

A mini split system may struggle to keep up when the temperature outside is really hot. We’re looking at you, Fresno in July! If your home has a ton of windows (without drapes or blinds) or most of your windows face south, a single indoor ductless AC head may not be enough in the dead of the California summer.

But remember, you can always opt for a multi-split ductless installation.

Why Are Ductless Mini Splits Suitable for California?

The allure of ductless mini split systems in California is not just a trend but a testament to their adaptability to the state’s climate and residential architecture. California’s weather patterns, ranging from the sunny, dry conditions of the south to the more temperate, cooler climates of the north, demand a cooling system that can provide personalized comfort across different zones of a home. Ductless air conditioning is worth it for many Californians, especially when considering the efficiency and flexibility it offers. Without the need for extensive ductwork, these ductless systems are perfect for older homes common in California, where installing traditional HVAC systems might be invasive and impractical.

Moreover, the design of California homes, which often include open-plan layouts, high ceilings, and unique architectural features, can pose challenges for traditional air conditioning systems. Ductless mini splits, with their compact, unobtrusive indoor units, offer a seamless fit. They allow homeowners to cool specific areas without the energy waste associated with cooling unoccupied rooms. The ability to control temperatures in individual zones not only enhances comfort but also leads to significant energy savings, affirming that ductless air conditioning is worth it for Californians seeking both comfort and sustainability.

Is Ductless Air Conditioning Right For You?

Ductless air conditioning is a great choice for many homes and businesses in California. If you’re looking for an energy-efficient way to cool your home or business, ductless AC could be the perfect solution.

If you don’t yet have air conditioning or have recently added some indoor space to your structure, ask yourself a few questions to decide if ductless mini split AC is the right choice:

  • Do you have existing ductwork in your home or business?
  • Are you looking for a more energy-efficient cooling system?
  • Do you need to cool a specific area or room or your entire home or business?

As the temperatures in California rise year after year, one thing is becoming more true than ever—the open windows approach just doesn’t cut it! Ductless air conditioning is a popular choice for energy conscious consumers and homeowners that only truly need cooling in specific places.

Whatever your choice, Lee’s Air, Plumbing, & Heating is the team to call for warrantied, expert installation of air conditioners in California. We’ll help you weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for staying cool in Cali.

What to Expect During the Installation

Choosing to install a ductless mini split system in your California home is the first step toward enhanced comfort and efficiency. Here’s what you can expect during the installation process by Lee’s experienced technicians:

  1. Consultation and Planning: Our team assesses your home’s layout, discussing your needs to determine the optimal placement for the indoor and outdoor units.
  2. Installation: A small hole is drilled to connect the indoor and outdoor units. The indoor unit is mounted, and the outdoor unit is strategically placed for optimal performance.
  3. Testing: After installation, the ductless HVAC system is thoroughly tested to ensure it operates efficiently, providing immediate cooling relief.

The process is streamlined, minimizing disruption to your daily life and ensuring that your California air conditioning needs are met with precision and care. Now that you know what to expect, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for your air conditioning installation in Fresno.

Contact Us Today for Your California Air Conditioning Needs!

At Lee’s, we understand the importance of having a reliable, efficient cooling system in California. Our team of experienced technicians is ready to guide you through the benefits of installing a ductless air conditioning system, ensuring you make an informed decision. With tax incentives and the undeniable advantages of ductless air conditioning, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your home’s cooling solutions.

Embrace the change and enjoy a cooler, more comfortable home with Lee’s. Ductless air conditioning is worth it, transforming how you cool your space efficiently and sustainably. Ready to experience the difference? Schedule your ductless air conditioning system installation in Sacramento, CA, or the surrounding area today!

Thomas Howard

Written by Thomas Howard

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