If you're looking for a new air conditioner, there are a lot of options. If you don't have ducts and don't want to add them, you have two main choices: window units and ductless AC. Both can cool at least one room, neither require ducts, but which is the best option?
Here’s a brief guide to the main differences between window units and ductless systems.
A window air conditioning unit fits into a window frame or an opening in the wall and it provides cooling for a single room. These units have several temperature and fan settings so you can adjust them according to your needs, and many units let you just use the fan feature without turning on the air conditioning mode. Generally, window AC units have internal thermostats, and they run until they sense that the air in the room has cooled down to the appropriate level.
They are relatively easy to install on your own, but they can be noisy and difficult to control accurately.
Also called a mini-split, a ductless system consists of both indoor and outdoor components. The outdoor part houses the compressor and the condenser, while the indoor unit handles the cool air. Tubing carries refrigerant, electricity, and communication signals between these two components. Just like all other air conditioners, the refrigerant absorbs heat from inside the building and releases it outside.
If you are trying to choose between a window air conditioner or a ductless system, here are some of the main factors you should consider:
No matter where you install a window air conditioner, it compromises the security of your home or business. Intruders simply need to hoist the system out of the way to gain entry into the building. With a ductless AC system, the installation contractors only need to drill small holes in your outdoor walls in order to connect the suction lines, refrigerant lines, and power cables. That means that you don't have to worry about your ductless system creating a security risk in any way.
When you install a window air conditioner, you lose the benefits of having a window. You can't open the window to bring in fresh air, and you may even have to sacrifice a great view. In contrast, ductless systems can be placed nearly anywhere on your interior wall or ceiling. Additionally, window air conditioners are often considered to be temporary cooling solutions. Even people who use them year after year tend to take them down in the winter, and that can be time consuming and annoying. Ductless units are a permanent feature.
Window air conditioners are designed to cool a single room, and to cool multiple spaces or large areas, you need to buy multiple units. In contrast, a ductless system let you pair multiple indoor units with a single outdoor unit, and you can control all of the units separately. To increase your options, the indoor units come in a wide range of different designs, so you can customize your set-up to work with your space. Ductless systems also feature reversible heat pumps and are also capable of providing heat.
When it comes to energy efficiency, ductless systems are clearly the winners. Some window air conditioning units come with ENERGY STAR® ratings, but the SEER ratings on many mini-split systems are much more efficient. In addition, window air conditioners also tend to have a lot of air leaks — gaps between the unit and the window frame are practically unavoidable.
Achieving the ideal temperature control settings with a window AC is nearly impossible. The room almost always feels either too hot or too cold. In contrast, ductless systems have specialized sensors that can detect minute changes in air temperatures, and the system adjusts itself accordingly.
Installing a ductless system is usually more expensive up front than buying a window unit, but when you compare the cost of purchasing multiple units with the cost of a ductless system, the prices start to get a bit closer. However, you should also take into effect long-term operating and maintenance costs. Ductless systems are designed to last longer than window units. In fact, with proper maintenance and care, a ductless system should work for 20 years or more, and that helps to save money over the long run. Additionally, the energy efficiency of ductless systems make them cheaper to run.
If not properly sealed, window units can let in outside air, potentially increasing the presence of allergens, pesticides, and other irritants inside your home or office. Window units have filters which clean the air that passes through them, but over time, these filters tend to get extremely dirty.
On the other hand, ductless systems actually help to improve indoor air quality. They feature an allergen filtration system which reduces germs, bacteria, and viruses while absorbing odors at the same time. A trained technician can perform regular maintenance to ensure that your ductless system is working properly and delivering great indoor air quality.
Window AC units tend to be noisy no matter which settings you choose. On the other hand, a ductless system is designed for quiet operation with indoor decibel levels as low as 19 decibels, which is slightly louder than breathing and slightly quieter than rustling leaves.
For many years, window air conditioners have been the most popular choice for cooling one room at a time. They are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. However, now that people are aware of how much they can save in the long run, more people are switching to ductless systems instead.
At N.E.T.R. Inc, our expert technicians can help you choose the right cooling solution for your needs and answer any questions that you may have about ductless and mini-split systems. For over 20 years, we have provided ductless system installation, repair, and maintenance for residential and commercial properties throughout the greater Boston area. Contact us today and we'll be happy to provide you with a free estimate.