Panasonic Mini Split Air Conditioner

Photo: flikr by Keith Williamson.

Adding a central air conditioning system to an existing home with forced hot air heating is easy, just mount an air handling unit above your furnace, install a compressor outside and enjoy, but if your home was built with a ductless heating system you’ll have to install a completely separate cooling system.
Installing traditional metal ductwork to an existing home can be a very expensive proposition. It can sometimes double the cost of your entire air conditioning project. If your home does not have any pre-existing ductwork you should consider a ductless air conditioning system.

No Ducts No Problem
A forced air system has its advantages and if your home has ductwork already it will probably be your best whole house cooling solution. But there are disadvantages as well; the American government estimates that leaking or poorly insulated ductwork can waste as much as 30% of your AC cooling efficiency.

Ductless Air Conditioning Options
Here are some of the most popular dustless options. Starting with the mini split system, one of the most popular AC systems used around the world. This system has many benefits including ease of installation and energy efficiency. In the US this type of air conditioner is still relatively new so finding a qualified HVAC contractor may be tricky.

Mini Split Air Conditioner

Mini split AC mounted on roof

Photo: wikimedia commons by Smial.

A split air conditioner system has two major parts one outside (compressor) and one inside blower unit. Mini split systems components are much smaller than a standard split system. An outdoor compressor for a standard system usually is four feet by four feet, while a mini system uses one that can be a third that size. Because of this small size mini compressors can be placed in a variety of locations a standard sized unit cannot, such as rooftops or mounted to the side of buildings.

    Variable speed Inverter systems
    Most mini systems come with built in inverter technology. This energy saving feature controls the speed of the compressor motor, raising and lowering the cooling capabilities as needed. Most traditional air conditioners run at two speeds off or full, but an inverter system may run at full speed when started to cool a warm house down fast then lower the compressor speed to maintain a comfortable temperature. Think of this like a car, your car uses more gas to go from stopped to highway speed but once it achieves that cruising speed it eases off the gas and uses less gas to maintain speed.

    Running at lower speeds also produces less wear and tear on the whole AC system. With traditional air conditioners you may feel temperature fluctuations as the compressor turns itself on and off, but Split systems with inverter technology avoid this buy running at lower speeds rather than turning off completely. Inverter systems also make features like dehumidification, or turbo and sleep modes possible.

    State of the art features
    Mini split systems being a relative newcomer to the world of air conditioners usually come packed with many of the latest state of the art features. Some that you should look for are.

        1.Dehumidify Mode– this mode sets the inside fan to a very slow speed, which moves much less air through the cooling coil. This air has the humidity removed by the cold coil fins, while the low air flow keeps the cooling to a minimum.


        2.Sleep Mode– lets you set a much cooler bedroom temperature so you can fall asleep easier. Then slowly raises the temp after you’ve fallen asleep to save energy costs. This works much better than a simple timer that shuts the AC off at a certain time.


        3.Quick Cool Mode– also called Turbo Mode, This is a super high speed mode used to take a hot room and bring it to a comfortable temperature quickly.


        4.Auto Restart– can restart your air conditioner if a power outage hits while you’re not home. This is very useful if you live in an extremely hot location and have pets or family member with health issues that should avoid extremely high temperatures.


        5.Remote Control– most air conditioners come with remotes nowadays, but with split units this is a very handy feature and not just because the blower units are usually mounted on the wall near the ceiling, but because many of these remotes have built in thermostats that control the temperature in the room. This means if you keep the remote near you the AC will regulate the room temp to reflect your immediate proximity.


        6.Motorized Louvers– the louvers on an air conditioner control the direction that the cold air is blown. Usually up, down, left or right but motorized louvers move or oscillate to help eliminate warm or cold spots in a room.


        7.Programmable Thermosta – many units come with this feature built in, eliminating the need to buy a separate programmable thermostat. These thermostats can save you money by lowering cooling costs by as much as 50 percent.

    Ductless Heat Pump
    Some Mini split systems are capable of heating a home as well. They do this by running in reverse, which is why they are commonly caller reverse cycle air conditioners. These units are very energy efficient heating options but do have a few disadvantages. First they are not whole house heaters; they only provide heat in the rooms where the blowers unit is located. Second they can freeze up in colder climates. Even with these disadvantages they are a great heating option for smaller homes in moderate climates, or as a secondary energy efficient heat source.

For More Ductless AC options Read Part Two.
Mini split systems are only one ductless air conditioning option available. In part two of this article We’ll cover Two more, including one that uses ducts to cool the house “HUH”?

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  1. Keara Littner January 26, 2015

    It’s interesting that a mini split air conditioner can be put in places a standard one couldn’t because of its size. What kinds of spaces would a system like that be most useful for? I imagine it’d do much better for a small home or specific rooms than it would for larger areas.


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