Ductless, Split System Air Conditioning
The name of these systems is pretty well self-explanatory. There is no ductwork required for the use of these units, nor can ductwork be attached or added to the system. They are "split systems" because there is an indoor section and an outdoor condensing unit. The two sections are connected with copper lines for the circulation of the freon and electrical wiring. The first of this type of system was introduced for homes that had no ductwork to accommodate more conventional systems. The ductless systems are available for both cooling only and heat pump applications. Similar to conventional systems, these units can be customized to operate in the air conditioning mode when the outdoor temperature is below freezing. The market for ductless units has expanded and is now commonplace in everyplace from mechanical and computer rooms to boardrooms. There are a variety of indoor sections available from ceiling suspended to ceiling lay-in to wall mounted. The indoor units are compact, ultra quiet and in most cases controlled by a wireless thermostat.
If there was a difficulty in the installation of these units it is in finding a path to conceal the electrical and copper lines and locating a gravity drain. The drain is often the most difficult whether in residential or commercial applications. The drainage has to go downhill to a drain from the elevation of the indoor section. If the indoor unit is mounded on an exterior wall then the drain can terminate outdoors. In after-market installations there are only 2 choices if mounting on an interior wall... 1) remove drywall so a drain line can be installed or 2) install a "micro pump" that is concealed in the wall cavity that can pump the condensate water along the same path as the copper lines to outdoors.
There will be a price shock for the cost of the unit and the installation, exceeding $5,000.00 for a 12,000 BTU unit. Most of the manufacturers limit the size of their systems at up to 3 tons of cooling capacity. The Carrier unit with certain ceiling cassettes can go to 5 tons capacity. There are also units that can use multiple indoor sections connected to one outdoor section. Larger capacity systems cost considerably more than the 12,000 BTU system and the heat pump versions are even more money.
There are at least a dozen different manufacturers of ductless split system units on the market and we have been unfortunate to work on most of the different makes. When I say unfortunate, it is because getting parts for some of the systems is very difficult. Many suppliers will sell the unit, but have absolutely no inventory in parts. It is no coincidence with manufacturers like Mitsubishi, Sanyo and Fujitsu where the parts have to come from. The Carrier Ductless units are assembled in Mexico, but at least have a reasonable inventory of parts in the GTA.
Considering the price of these units, it may be prudent to look at alternatives, such as window air conditioning units, portable units or biting the proverbial bullet and installing a ducted system that anyone can service in the future that can also incorporate high efficiency heating.