How Do Ductless Air Conditioners Work?

What Is Ductless Air Conditioning?

Ductless air conditioning units allow for room-specific cooling units that deliver treated air where your family spends the most time. They’re energy efficient and adaptable to any home. The two main variations are heating and cooling mini-splits (AKA mini-split heat pumps) and cooling-only mini-split air conditioners.

Whether a part of a home renovation or HVAC upgrade, it's worth knowing how ductless air conditioners work to determine if they're a good fit for you.

Ductless Mini-Splits vs. Central Air Conditioning Units

Traditional central AC systems use a single outdoor unit and a central indoor unit to remove humidity and distribute treated air throughout your home. However, cooled air warms up slightly the further it travels through the ductwork, resulting in less efficient cooling.

Ductless systems eliminate the interior ductwork and treat air room-by-room instead.

How Do Ductless Air Conditioners Work?

Ductless mini-splits are a type of heat pump. They use a small exterior unit and multiple interior air handlers (often long, sleek overhead units) mounted on the wall or ceiling of a room. If you have a cooling-only unit, this will serve as your air conditioner. If you have a regular mini-split heat pump, it will also heat your rooms in the winter or during cold desert nights.

The system's simplicity makes it attractive for homeowners looking to add air conditioning to a home without ducts. It's also a smart way to pay just for cool air where you need it most.

The Benefits of Ductless Mini-Split Systems

Many homeowners choose a ductless system based on the advantages they offer. Here's what mini-splits do best:

  • Zoned cooling. You can control the temperature setting in different parts of your home. Turn the thermostat up in the rooms you’re not using to save money on summer cooling bills.

  • Four-season comfort. Mini-split systems connected to heat pumps can also heat your home during winter. In Las Vegas, where the temperature rarely dips below freezing, heat pumps are an efficient replacement for traditional furnaces that won’t see much use.

  • Energy-efficient. Conditioned air loses 20-30% of its energy as it travels through ductwork. Mini-splits are a zero-loss alternative. Heat pumps save even more energy compared to other heaters by harnessing heat that already exists from the air instead of burning fuel to make it from scratch.

  • Less invasive installation. Ductless systems often require fewer home renovations to cool efficiently, making them ideal for new-build homes constructed without ducts in place.

  • Ease of maintenance. Indoor units are often small and accessible, making your twice-annual ductless AC maintenance tune-up easier. They’re also more accessible for you to regularly replace the air filters.


Drawbacks of Ductless Air Conditioning

Mini-splits aren't the answer for every homeowner. Here are the possible disadvantages of mini-splits to consider before you choose a ductless system for your home:

  • Cost. Indoor units cost more than window AC units and require professional installation. (They do, however, now come with attractive federal incentives.)

  • Aesthetics. Unlike central air, mini-split units are visible in the rooms they cool. The air handlers are often sleek and low-profile, but some homeowners don’t like the way they look.

  • More frequent maintenance. Homeowners will need to clean or replace the indoor units’ filters every month to prevent dust and debris buildup instead of the three-month rotation for central HVAC filters.

  • Finding compatible systems. If you opt against installing ducts in your new custom home, you’ll have to find other compatible systems, which may be more expensive. In Las Vegas, a ductless whole-house humidifier can make your home more comfortable in dry weather.


Is Ductless Air Conditioning Worth It?

Most homes will benefit from switching to a ductless system—but some won't. That's why working with a reputable HVAC expert is an important part of deciding. We'll help you answer common questions like:

  • How many ductless units do I need? (Usually enough to provide 20 BTU of cooling per square foot.)

  • Do ductless AC units save money? (Though upfront costs are higher, ductless air conditioners can save money in the long run.)

  • Where can I install my indoor units? (A professional can install floor, wall, or ceiling ductless air handlers.)


One size never fits all when it comes to your family's comfort—and your budget! A One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating technician can help you choose the unit(s) that will maximize effectiveness and minimize aesthetic impact.

Let the Pros Get You Started with Ductless Air Conditioning

We've helped thousands of Las Vegas families beat the desert heat (and cold). Count on us for regular HVAC maintenance, emergency repairs, and energy-efficient upgrades that stand the test of time. Book online today or call (702) 602-8801.