In this article, we’re looking at the pros and cons of ductless cooling systems vs. old-fashioned window air conditioners. We’ll see how they stack up, particularly for older homes in Elgin, Il, Barrington, East Dundee, and other Fox River Valley towns.
Older homes are spacious, beautiful — and often too hot in summer.
Remember, residential air conditioning wasn’t available until the 70s. So, developers before that time didn’t design homes with this amenity in mind.
Of course, it’s an easy add-on if you have a forced-air system. Essentially, you just need an HVAC contractor to attach an AC condenser to your existing ductwork and vents.
But, that doesn’t help when it comes to all those old homes with radiators or hot water heating using pipes. There’s no way to attach a cooling system to those.
So, for decades, people in older homes have gotten around this using ceiling fans and open windows. Many houses have airflow designs that make that effective.
But, as the summers get hotter, that doesn’t work nearly as well. And, for a long time, window air conditioners were the next best bet.
This way, you could cool rooms without adding ductwork that changes the look and feel of your home.
But, of course, these had drawbacks as well. Today, however, there’s a solution out there that gets around most of those: Ductless mini splits.
In this article, we’ll take a quick look at how these work. Then, we’ll see how these solutions stack up against each other.
Ductless cooling systems are often called mini splits because they use two major components. An air handler in the rooms draws in warm air. It dehumidifies the air and transfers that heat to a heat pump outside that gets rid of it. The air handler then circulates the cooled air back into the room.
The two are connected by flexible piping that transports a refrigerant liquid back in a closed loop. The heat makes the coolant evaporate.
Then, when the heat pump expels that warmth, the refrigerant condenses again.
You can read a more in-depth explanation here. For now, however, let’s compare this to a more traditional AC setup.
Depending on the room you’re treating, a regular window AC may work almost as well as a ductless system. But there are a lot of considerations.
One benefit of window units has always been their ability to cool a small room very well. However, that ability diminishes quickly.
The bigger the room, the less that unit will reach. The same goes for space with a lot of nooks and crannies.
However, a mini split doesn’t have that problem. Their reach is enough to treat open space floor plans and rooms with high ceilings.
The air handlers use sensors to locate hot spots in the area. Then, fans inside the unit direct the treated air to where it’s needed most.
As a result, you get more even, customized cooling throughout a room or part of your home. You can control the exact temperature much more closely and get the setting you want no matter where you are.
Window air conditioners cost much less than a ductless system. You can pick up a window unit for around $100, or spend up to $500 for a top-of-the-line model.
However, mini splits usually start at $3,500. And, the cost goes up depending on how many rooms you want to treat and how many air handlers you need.
On the other hand, once the mini split is in place, you’ll spend MUCH less going forward.
A heat pump and air handler setup for your entire house uses a small fraction of the electricity that one window unit will use all summer. After a few seasons, that extra cost begins to even out.
Once we install a mini split, it’s there permanently. You never need to remove the air handler or anything like that.
For people who are tired of dragging window units out of storage, cleaning them, and then mounting each one in a different room, that’s a huge upgrade.
You also don’t lose sunlight with a mini split. Unlike the other units, they don’t sit in a window, blocking out daylight.
This is a consideration people don’t immediately think about — until they an’t hearc the TV or have a conversation.
Window ACs are notoriously loud. In some cases, they make nearly as much noise as a hairdryer. And, try to hear what’s going on over that.
On top of that, we mentioned how these models work best in smaller rooms. That means it’s even harder to keep your TV, music, or conversation far away from the noise.
You can opt for a more robust unit for a large room— but then the sound of it increases as well.
By contrast, the air handlers make about as much sound as leaves rustling outside. They’re around 20 decibels versus 40 to 60 for other options. Virtually any other sound masks them completely.
Here at Compass, we recommend ductless cooling solutions over window air conditioners, especially for older homes in the Fox River Valley.
Really, the only drawback to the mini splits is the higher installation price. But, compare that to all the extra benefits. Then, consider those much-lower energy bills every summer.
Ultimately, you get the best of both worlds this way: Luxury cooling wherever you need it without changing the look and feel of your home by adding ductwork. And, you get quieter comfort with lower energy bills.
If you want to learn more about these systems, or are ready to see how one would look in your home, call or email us at Compass Heating and Air. We’ll come out for a free consultation to answer all your questions.