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What is a split air conditioner? - Definition, advantages & drawbacks

Are you shopping around for a new air conditioner? Consider doing thorough research as systems vary in operational principles and meet different usage requirements. For instance, if you need an AC to heat and cool the premise, you better opt for a reverse cycle unit. A window air conditioner might be a good option to cool a limited area, while a floor-mounted one suits spaces with tilted walls like attics. However, if you seek a one-size-fits-all solution, consider getting a split AC system. It is one of the most sought-after air conditioning units that satisfy the requirements of a vast majority of homeowners. AC split systems are portable, quiet, energy-efficient, and simple to install. They cool the specific home zones, allowing to monitor the temperature with separate thermostats. This helps to regulate energy consumption and optimize utility spending. Read on to learn what a split air conditioning system is. This article dwells on the pros and cons of ductless ACs, their advantages over central units, and other characteristics you should be aware of to make the right buying decision.

What is a split air conditioner? - Definition, advantages & drawbacks

Table of contents

  1. Split system AC vs. central AC - What to choose for your home?
  2. The advantages and drawbacks of split AC systems
  3. What are the pros of split air conditioning units?
  4. What are the cons of split air conditioning units?

As its name denotes, a split AC system is made of two parts - an indoor outlet unit that absorbs heat and an outdoor compressor that pumps cooled air inside. This ductless system is connected by insulated tubes that go through a hole in the wall. 

Speaking in detail about a split air conditioner's working principle, it is worth noting that the unit performs by pumping refrigerant gas through the cooling circuit. While pumping through the condenser, the gas cools down and turns into a liquid. After that, the refrigerant is pushed into the evaporator, expanding and going back into a gas. The temperature drops during rapid refrigerant expansion, and the gas transforms back into the condenser. This process has a cyclical character which means the air continues circulating until the set temperature is achieved. 

The crucial thing about split air conditioning units is that they have a reverse function, allowing to both heat and cool the premise. That is why they are so popular in climate zones with four seasons. For heating, the unit retracts outside air and heats it before pumping it back into the house. For cooling, the reverse cycle works. The unit pulls in the hot outside air, cools it, and then pumps it back into the house. 

AC split systems are commonly used in homes without ductwork as they can become a great addition to the current heating and cooling system while having optimal energy consumption. Mini-split air conditioners are more compact than central AC units as they don't require a series of ductwork networked throughout the ceiling. 

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Split system AC vs. central AC - What to choose for your home?

Are you looking for a new air conditioning system to keep the temperature inside your house comfortable no matter the weather outside? There are countless AC models and types in the market, so buying the right one for your home might be troublesome. 

Ductless and central air condition units are the most sought-after ones, so the chances are you will have to decide between these two options. These AC systems have the same working principle but vary in construction and cooling capacities. That is why you have to consider the space to install an air conditioning unit. Split AC systems are suitable for zone cooling as you can set the required temperature for every room where the head unit is installed. The advantage of mini-split systems over central units is that the latest ones rely on ductwork and cannot ensure adequate cooling in all rooms. However, central air conditioners are better for commercial buildings, offices, and big homes. They require a lower initial investment and are often manually controlled. Ductless air conditioners, in their turn, cost a lot to install, which might be a deal-breaker if you're going to mount multiple indoor head units around the house. Besides, split AC systems are difficult to dismantle and relocate. Those living in a rented house should better use a central air conditioner to avoid unnecessary spending. 

We recommend getting split air conditioning units if you seek an AC for home usage and have no budget restraints. Thanks to their energy efficiency and easy upkeep, you will get a better investment return than a central system may offer. Split units look stylish, allow simple temperature monitoring, and produce little to no noise, which is especially important for comfortable living. Besides, they're manufactured of light materials like aluminum and plastic that ensure the unit's unmatched thermal properties. 

The advantages and drawbacks of split AC systems

Installing a mini-split air conditioner is an energy-saving and stylish way to keep a comfortable temperature in the house all year round. These systems have a number of undeniable advantages that make them the go-to choice for millions of homeowners around the globe. Nevertheless, ductless AC units are not for everyone. You should know about their specifics and drawbacks to decide whether this type of system is right for you.

What are the pros of split air conditioning units?

  • High energy efficiency 

Split air conditioners are equipped with printed circuit boards that monitor output operation and perform complex communication. The systems can be regulated according to the set cooling or heating load. They are technologically advanced and have an utterly ductless design that ensures their energy-saving properties and reduces electricity bills. 

  • Cooling & heating functions

Ductless air conditioning units offer both cooling and heating functions that can be switched by a remote controller. The outside compressor can work as a cooler and a heat pump, making split-type air conditioners the best-selling ones in today's HVAC systems market. 

  • No ductwork is required

Unlike the traditional air conditioning systems, which are placed near the window and require a large hole in the wall to be mounted, split ones are ductless and are powered by a compressor set outside. That means you can save a bundle on pricy work performed on ducts. All it takes to install a ductless AC is to make a small hole in the wall for placing a tube that links indoor and outdoor units. Nevertheless, you still need an expert installer's assistance to avoid rookie mistakes.

  • Sleek design 

The interior modules of split systems don't take much space in the room. They are commonly mounted high on the wall and have a minimalistic design that can perfectly fit any interior. Besides, the indoor split units come in a variety of traditional shades, from noble gray to pure white and black. If you want to get rid of your cumbersome central AC, consider replacing it with a laconic split unit. 

  • Quiet operation

Ductless ACs are lauded for their silent operation, which means you can install them even in your kid's room. Split systems are virtually noiseless due to separating the inside air-blowing unit and outside compressor.

What are the cons of split air conditioning units?

The pros and cons of split air conditioning units

  • High initial cost

The drawback that can stop you from getting split-type ACs is their jaw-dropping price. They are more costly than other units by 25-30%. The average price of a 12,000 BTU split system is $4.350. The energy-efficient units with the highest SEER rating may cost you even more than $10.000. Besides, you should consider the installation price ranging from $650 to $2.000 regarding the complexity of the process. Nevertheless, the energy-efficient properties of the split unit outweigh the high initial spending, making it a beneficial investment for the long term. 

  • Compulsory maintenance

Split-type air conditioners require quite a bit of upkeep - from a routine drain channel and filter cleaning to coils and fins replacement. Outdoor condensers should also be adequately maintained to avoid operational issues. Split AC systems upkeep is not a simple task. That is why it's recommended to hire a professional HVAC inspector at least once a year.

  • Outside noise

The split air conditioning units don't produce noise inside the house. However, their compressor unit installed outside works loudly and can be heard through open windows or doors. Not to disturb your family and neighbors' peace, you can get a special sound blanket and put it over the outside unit. 

  • Tricky installation 

Avid DIYers with the right skills and tools may try their luck installing a split AC system independently. However, it is more complicated than central or window conditioning unit mounting. To make things right, you need expertise in plumbing and electrical work. Besides, setting up the indoor unit is risky as it involves height work. Consider hiring a professional AC contractor to prevent costly installation mistakes and validate the warranty. 

MyHomeQuote is always here to match you with certified HVAC contractors in your city. Our service is your best bet for getting the average cost of ductless AC installation services in your area. With MyHomeQuote, you can compare the available offers in real-time to make a well-thought-out decision on the company to hire. The experts from our network can advise you on the best air conditioner retailers and help you pick the unit according to your requirements and budget. Just leave us your request, and we will start our search for local HVAC contractors immediately.



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