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We’ve covered the size of a mini split air conditioner here and here, and what it costs here. But do you know how they work?

In this article, we’ll get right into the nuts and bolts: How these systems operate, what features they offer, and how they help you save money.

How Does Ductless AC Work?

A ductless AC uses dehumidification and heat transfer to keep your home cool. Air handlers draw in warm air and remove the water vapor. It uses refrigerant to send the heat to an outdoor heat pump, which expels that warmth outside. Then, the air handler pumps cool air back into the room.

The basic process isn’t all that different from traditional air conditioning. But, there are some critical differences in the setup. And, they can also provide heating —- something central air or window units can’t do.

Before we get into the differences, however, we’ll look a little closer at how this works.

Heat Transfer Process

It’s important to understand the heat transfer process because then it makes sense how a few seemingly unconnected air handlers in your home can make such a huge difference when it comes to comfort — and your bills.

So here’s what happens, in more detail: Each air handler mounted in your home has a small line connecting it to the heat pump outside. Most times you never see this, because we can run it in between the walls like electrical wires.

Anyway: That line contains refrigerant, or coolant, fluid. When the handler draws in warm air, the heat, or thermal energy, warms up the refrigerant. That coolant evaporates and travels out to the heat pump, carrying the thermal energy with it.

There, the heat pump releases the heat into the air outside. Then, the refrigerant condenses and travels back through the system to the heat pump.

Ductless AC vs. Central Air

Central air — or window units and portable models, for that matter — uses a similar process. The big differences are efficiency, performance, and how easy it is to install a mini split in any home.

With conventional central, the air from your home passes over a coil that cools it by removing the heat. The system also dehumidifies, because the more moisture in the air, the warmer you feel.

The coil then transfers that heat, or thermal energy, outside. That way, the air returning to each room through the vents is now cool and dry.

Portable or window models pretty much do the same thing, except they only handle one room at a time.

However, ductless takes this process a step further.

Better Air Circulation

First, by using a sealed line for the coolant, you don’t lose air along the way like you do with ductwork. Ducts, especially when they get older, have leaks where the air gets out. That means weaker air circulation in the rooms where you want it most.

Better Fans and Sensors

Next, each air handler does a better job than vents when it comes to reaching every inch of your home.

With forced-air, you get pretty good cooling. But, people still complain of hot and cold spots, especially in larger rooms or homes with open floor plans.

Ductless does a better job of evenly treating the entire room.

Each indoor unit has specialized sensors that detect those hot and cold spots in a room. Then, it uses the built-in fans to push treated air to the exact spots that need them.

Zoned HVAC

Finally, you can customize the temperature in every room with a mini split. Each air handler has a thermostat on it. This way, you control the temperature separately in each room where you have one installed.

Compared to central air, that would be like having a control on each vent in your home, instead of just one thermostat for the entire house.

Instead, with a mini split, you can set different rooms to different temperatures. People like to do this when they have a guest room they rarely use. Or, they can let the bedrooms stay a little warmer during the day, then cool them down at night when they’re up there.

Or, you can set each thermostat to the same setting and — maybe for the first time! — get true, even cooling throughout your entire home.

Saving Money With Ductless AC

Another bonus, besides better comfort? Lower electric bill with a ductless AC system.

Compared to any other setup — central, portable, whatever — a ductless system gives you the best comfort with the smallest impact on your utility bills.

Much of it has to do with that heat transfer process. Since the system runs in a loop, the heat pump doesn’t require much energy.

And, as we mentioned, you don’t have air leakage from the ducts. And, the sensors and fans treat the room faster, so you use less energy.

But, the big reason you save money is that a mini split doesn’t cycle on and off like central air. Instead, it usually runs in a low-power mode.

Regular air conditioning waits until it’s a little too hot, and then it turns on. Once things cool down, it turns off. It repeats this process a few times an hour.

It results in a lot of wasted energy stopping and starting all the time — the same way your car uses more gas in the city than on the highway. Plus, it’s always over-correcting and making the temperature fluctuate.

Instead, the low-power mode keeps a consistent temperature and uses way less energy to get the job done.

Ductless Also Heats

The last thing worth mentioning about how these systems work is that they also work in reverse. That’s right — your ductless AC doubles as a heater!

The heat pump can switch the transfer process, so it collects thermal energy from outside and sends it into your home to heat it. Even in the winter, there’s still some heat out there. The pump draws it in and amplifies it until it’s strong enough to keep you warm.

The average model can keep you warm throughout the fall and early spring when you’re still chilly. Or, upgrade to a Hyper Heat model that works in sub-zero temperatures.

Meanwhile, if you have more questions about these systems, or want to know if they’re a good fit for your South Jersey home, call or email us here at Broadley’s. Starting with a free consultation, in person or via video chat, we’ll help you find the system that’s perfect for you.