Contractors Guide to Ductless Mini-Splits

The AC & Heating Connect staff did some research on the facts about ductless mini-split systems that might be of interest to contractors and distributors as they plan for the future growth of this segment.

Ductless Mini-Split System Sales Have Declined

While the ductless segment has posted impressive growth rates in the U.S. since 2005, the growth rates have been slowing recently and the largest ductless segment (small, single evaporator systems) have not grown at all since 2010. These sales remain stable at about 260,000 units per year, or only about 4% of total unitary AC shipments. Some larger VRF-style commercial systems continue to grow at higher rates, but their numbers in the U.S. remain small at only 28,000 units per year. There also appears to be some densely populated urban areas, which are growing faster than the overall segment.

Ductless Mini-Splits Are Not Efficient For Whole Home Retrofits

It is important to remember that ductless mini-splits are probably not ideal whole-home HVAC solutions in the U.S. due to the economics, which favor ducted replacements. The installed costs associated with using mini-splits to cool and heat an average 2,000 square foot home or business with ductless mini-splits would cost almost three times the cost of simply replacing a central AC system with another ducted system. Even in a space where you had to provide new ductwork for the central system, you could still expect to spend about 50% less on a typical central AC system installation versus the more expensive ductless options.

Possible Energy Loss From Ductless Mini-Split System

If you are considering a ductless mini-split which uses a lot of long exterior refrigerant line sets you should be careful to account for the potential energy losses from those lines. Even if properly insulated, lines running to second floor evaporators with significant exposure to the sun will like have losses and lead to underperformance during peak demand if not sized properly.

Comfort Concerns When Using a Ductless Mini-Split System

It is important to discuss the unique features of a ductless cooling system with your customers since these systems are common in the U.S. and are not well understood by many U.S. consumers. The typical comfort experience with mini-split systems could provide a real challenge for American consumers who are used to central AC systems with good airflow exchange, filtration and humidity control. Cold and hot spots are also common with ductless systems due to the spacing of the indoor units.

For more information on ductless mini-split systems, click here.

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6 thoughts on “Contractors Guide to Ductless Mini-Splits

  1. This is probably a more accurate site here to review, vs. this one…
    http://oilandenergyonline.com/ductless-mini-splits-are-taking-off/

    The growth on Mini Splits is exploding in the US, and HVAC Dealers would be foolish not to learn, embrace and jump into this market. It may not be for everyone home, just like ducted systems aren’t for every home. Just because this ducted systems are how we’ve done doesn’t mean it’s the best way. In Southern markets, where “flex duct” is used, it is VERY inefficient and loses much more efficiency than a ductless system with exposed lines sets would. And if you insulate the line sets, which you need to, then the loss doesn’t outweigh the benefits of ductless.

    • I agree with JValentine. I work for an HVAC company and consumer demand in the US for ductless splits seems to be booming. I’ve noticed online retailers advertising these systems a lot, and it appears like homeowners are getting more comfortable with buying the systems themselves.

      I’d guess that ductless splits are going to really continue to grow in popularity due to the impressive energy efficiency. Mitsubishi has systems that easily provide heating and cooling even at extremely low temps (-13F), and there’s other manufacturers (Gree, Daikin, Fujitisu) that are doing the same.

      In Texas, we see a lot of demand for mini splits, particularly in rural areas.

  2. well if the hvac companies werent such friggin vultures and were honest with their potential customers, instead of half saying oh, im concerned with this or im concerned with that, and the other half saying they can fix the problem. its confusing to get the skinny on this situation and theres too many thieves in this industry. i simply want my home cooler than outside. ive seen the ductless systems in action and they work well. there are crap units out there…sure. but there are some good ones. its all about having a tech with common sense to place the units in the best spot.

    • Common forced air ducted systems are also available in 13 to 25 SEER and typically have much lower initial installed cost than ductless – especially in homes that have pre-existing ductwork. Any common ducted system replaced with a high efficiency forced air system, will also provide superior comfort and indoor air quality due to the ductless system’s limited air circulation within the structure. Ductless system are best applied in small zone or specialty applications that do not have pre-existing ductwork.

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