A ductless HVAC system can be a great way to get comfortable temperatures without having to do messy ductwork installations throughout a building. They let you adjust temperatures on a room-by-room basis, and they can be more efficient than central HVAC systems. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind before getting a ductless HVAC unit on your property. They have some unusual installation and maintenance requirements that you should be aware of.
More Complex Installation
Unlike a traditional HVAC system, a ductless system will inevitably involve placing small holes in several of your exterior walls. These holes are needed to connect the interior air handlers to the outdoor unit that actually cools the air. This involves a bit more work than simply hooking up an AC to existing ductwork.
Instead of just connecting various components, you will actually need to adjust your walls themselves. In addition to drilling holes for various HVAC lines, the handlers also have to be mounted on the wall. Depending on your system, you may need special brackets or other installation equipment.
To get the best results, you will need to find experienced HVAC technicians who work with ductless systems all the time. Because installation is a little complex, you should expect it to take a little longer and cost a little more than ducted central air. It is important to get every step of the installation done correctly because otherwise your HVAC system could fall down or your home could be damaged.
Air Handler Breakdown
One of the key things that differentiates ductless AC from traditional is the higher number of air handlers. Traditional systems just have a single air handler and blower while ductless HVAC systems have one in each room. Since there are more handlers overall, your chances of having one break down go up a little.
The good news is that it is usually very easy to fix or replace a ductless HVAC with a broken handler. Since they are situated in an easy-to-access places, your technician can more easily see what is wrong. The other advantage is that you do not have to sweat or freeze until the technician gets there. The rest of a ductless system will keep functioning even after one handler breaks. This means that the rest of your home will stay reasonably cool.
Refrigerant Line Leaks
In any air conditioning system, there is a risk of the refrigerant line developing a leak. However, ductless HVAC systems have a higher risk than usual because each air handler has its own refrigerant line, and these refrigerant lines travel all over your home. Having so many refrigerant lines means any part of your system may be a little more likely to get a leak.
When left untreated, you end up with excessively low levels of refrigerant. Over time, this can end up blowing out compressors or motors. Therefore, it is very important to keep an eye out for any leaks and fix them as soon as possible. Potential signs of a refrigerant line leak include:
- Strange hissing noises from inside air handlers
- Frozen coils in your air handler
- Unusually high electric bills
- A system that needs to run longer to cool
- Warm air coming from your vents
- An HVAC system that has stopped running
Limitations to Your Home Decor
Ductless HVAC systems typically require a small air handler to be mounted on the wall in each room you want heated or cooled. This handler is fairly compact, but it is still bulkier than a small ceiling-mounted supply vent like you would use with a central AC. A ductless AC cannot be blocked because it will not be able to function properly. Furthermore, there is not always a lot of leeway in air handler placement due to the fact that the shape and materials of your walls will dictate where the handler can be mounted.
This can lead to some unique requirements for how you arrange your furniture and window fixtures. Your ductless system may require that you move your sofa to another wall or remove the valance above a window. Typically, the indoor air handlers are streamlined enough to not cause any major problems. However, thinking about how you may have to shift things around to accommodate the system will avoid any unpleasant surprises after installation.
Water Leaking Into Walls
Just about every AC system comes with a chance of leaks. Your air conditioner is always removing excess humidity from the air, and then it needs to drain that water away through a pipe. If the pipe gets clogged or broken, water can drip down. In a traditional AC system, this just leads to water dripping across your floor or ceiling.
Spotting a water leak is a little more challenging in a ductless system. Since the connections go through the walls, water can end up spilling down in the space between your walls.
The big problem with a water leak in the wall is that water will weaken the materials inside it. Eventually, the air handler may come crashing down, leaving behind a big, soggy mess in the wall. Moisture in between walls can also result in mold growth and other health hazards. Routine maintenance can help reduce your chances of this happening since it may spot potential weak spots in your drain line before they get worse.
It is also a good idea to gently run your hands over the wall around the air handler every now and then. If you feel any dampness, see bubbling paint or smell anything strange, you may want to get it checked out.
Complicated Control Systems May Be Required
If you want the simplest possible control unit for your ductless system, you can just use the remote that comes with it. Most ductless HVAC units have built-in thermostats. You can use buttons or a remote to set the temperature for each room, and the system will function accordingly. However, things get a lot more complicated if you want to use a smart thermostat or unite all of your ductless systems on a single traditional thermostat.
It is possible to change the way your ductless system is controlled, but it might take a bit more time. Some brands of thermostats may sync with a house-wide controller or programmable thermostat. Other brands may require you to install Wi-Fi adaptors or sensors in each room. These can then hook up to traditional thermostats like a Nest or ecobee.
Going to all the work of hooking up each handler to a programmable thermostat may be worth it. Though it takes a little extra effort, it can help your home save even more energy and remain comfortable at all times.
If you are thinking about getting a ductless mini-split system, turn to JW Plumbing, Heating, and Air. We provide high-quality air conditioning installation throughout Los Angeles. Our team can also assist with repairs, installation and maintenance for other plumbing and heating systems. When you are ready for high-quality HVAC services, give us a call.