Ductless Vs Central A/C Questions

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imbanachek
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2 expert, 1 community
Q:

I'm purchasing a small 1,200 sq ft condo.  The AC is very old and will be replacing it right away.

I've seen a lot of advertisement recently from Mitsibishi and Fujitsu about ductless split systems.  Seems like there are some real advantages, but bottom line trying to determine if it makes good financial sense to choose ductless over central AC.  Haven't found someone knowledgable about both systems that isn't trying to steer me to one or the other.

Prices seem to vary greatly on the ductless.  Seems like some really good ductless units are available on eBay from Top Sellers at much lower price than local shop would sell it which might tip the decision in favor of ductless.  This assumes that it doesn't cost and arm and a leg to find a professional to install it.  I'm not a handy man kind of guy.

Condo: 1,200 sq ft

Upstairs: 2 bedrooms and a bath

Downstairs: 1 bedroom, 1 bath, and large open area connect kitchen, dining, and living room

I would guess 1 split ductless could handle the upstairs and 1 split system could handle the downstairs.

Question #1: Is ductless worth considering in my situation as a central air alternative?

Question #2: If ductless is worthwhile, please pass along any insight, tips, cautions, and recommendations.

Question #3: Have I drank the koolaid on their sales pitch or are the below valid and good selling points for ductless?

Ductless system positive points:

1) Quieter inside and outside

2) Use less energy - supposedly 30% of efficiency is lost in ducts so potentially energy cost drop by 30%?

3) Ductless systems as whole seem to have much higher SEER rating

4) Abilitiy to choose not to cool/heat specific rooms

5) Few allergens / cleaner indoor air because there is no ductwork.

6) Inverter technology allows room to stay at more constant temperature

Question #4: Do ductless systems hold up as well and last as long as a traditional central AC?

Question #5: Is routine maintenance easy and inexpensive on ductless systems?  From reading, sounds like some have re-usable washable filters and some do not.

Question #6: Should it be easy to find a professional to install it and how much is a fair price for installation?

Question #7: Given these systems are not nearly as commonplace as traditional central AC, would you expect any problems finding good local technicians to provide warrantied repair service on a ductless system.

Bottom line - Is ductless AC a good idea or bad idea in my situation?

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The energy savings can be quite high using the mini-split systems. Many of them now only use one outside unit and can operate many ductless units throughout the home.

The filter systems are not the super high efficiency units you can provide with the central furnace and cooling units. But they can be cleaned.

Humidity control must be provided my external means.

The bottom line is both have advantages and disadvantages.

Personally if you already have a central system installed.  Get the home insulated and air sealed better to conserve energy then have a high efficiency heating and cooling system installed along with duct improvements as needed to balance the system in the home. 

As an audit firm and installation company for HVAC and Spray Foam.  We suggest fixing what you have rather then reinvent the wheel.

Last though on this. Some day you may want to sell this property.  And even though the new style mini-split units look real nice.  They still need to be mounted on the wall or ceiling of the room(s) which give the home a more commercial look then many people desire. 

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Was hoping for more specifics on the other questions. I'm sure if I had a larger house like Tom's, it may not make sense. For a small condo like mine, still not sure if 2 split systems might not do the trick better and for less money for my specific situation.

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Wow...lots of great questions.  I have both a central system and a split ductless system.  I use them strategically.  I used central for a good part of the house because I needed to get the cool air to many rooms.  If I had used split ductless exclusively, I would have needed far too many units for this to be efficient.

However, for my very wide open office area, I have a split-system that does a much better job than the central A/C, because it would have been too difficult/cost effective to route enough ducts to get this area the air flow it needed (South side of house...very hot!).  So in your case for the open area, SD might be a good choice but for the bedrooms, central.  You'll need to price it out both ways and see what makes the most sense.

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