While not new, ductless mini-splits are gaining traction in the Jacksonville area as a viable alternative to ducted central AC systems. They come with a variety of advantages, and you can install them in nearly any residential or commercial setting. Unfortunately, ductless AC systems tend to cost more than an equivalent central AC system. However, a cursory look at the sticker prices of ductless AC and central AC systems doesn’t tell the whole story. Here’s everything you need to know to decide for yourself if a ductless AC would be cost-efficient for your home.

What Is a Ductless AC?

First, it’s important to understand the physical and operational differences between a ductless AC and a conventional central AC system. The most obvious difference is that a ductless system relies on a single outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handlers. In a ductless system, you need an air handler installed in each room or part of your home you wish to cool. Each air handler connects to the outdoor unit via a bundle of refrigerant lines and electrical cables. This allows a ductless system to produce cool air directly in each room rather than in a single, centralized location.

The Cost of Ductless AC

On average, it costs approximately $5,500 to install a conventional central AC system, assuming your home has preexisting ductwork that doesn’t need significant alterations or repairs. Installing a comparable ductless AC system can cost twice as much or more, depending on how many air handlers your home requires. That is the reason so many homeowners dismiss ductless systems as a viable option out of hand. However, upfront cost isn’t the only thing to consider. It’s also necessary to compare the two system types in terms of standard features and operating costs, too. Only then is it possible to make a true comparison.

The Operating Costs of a Ductless AC System

In almost all cases, it will cost less to operate a ductless AC than it would to operate a comparable central AC system. There are a variety of reasons for this. One is that ducted AC systems often experience energy losses of up to 30% via ductwork air leaks and convective losses. That gives ductless mini-splits an immediate built-in efficiency advantage. Plus, the average ductless mini-split on the market today has a SEER rating of 20, and many come with ratings substantially higher than that. For comparison, the average central AC sold today only has an average SEER rating of 15. All of this translates into mini-splits using far less electricity than comparable central ACs and wasting far less energy as they operate.

It’s also worth pointing out that a ductless AC doesn’t force you to cool your whole home like a central AC system does. With a mini-split, you can turn on just the air handlers you need and set each to a different temperature if you wish. As a result, owners of ductless AC systems often save a great deal because they rarely turn on all of their air handlers simultaneously.

Though it’s impossible to provide a concrete energy usage comparison between the two options, it is possible to come up with a reasonable estimate. Consider, for example, that the average central AC uses 3,500 watts of electricity while running. If you use that system for eight hours a day and pay 15 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, that translates into about $4.20 in operating costs per day or $126 per month.

For comparison, the average ductless AC consumes about 1,500 watts while running, and that assumes that you turn on all of your indoor air handlers. At that rate, it would cost you half as much to run your mini-split. And even less if you turn off one or more of its air handlers. If you’re like most people in Jacksonville, you likely rely on your home’s AC for up to 8 months out of the year. That would cost you roughly $1,006 for your central AC and a maximum of $504 for a ductless system in electricity costs each year. Over the average 15-year lifespan of your mini-split, that means you’d save at least $7,560 in electricity by installing a mini-split instead of a central AC system. In other words, the higher upfront cost of the mini-split should more than pay for itself over time.

The Added Benefits of a Ductless AC System

Although the upfront costs of a ductless AC are higher than a comparable central AC, they also come with some extra benefits that make the cost easier to justify. One of the most important among them is that mini-splits offer more even cooling than the average central AC system. Since a ductless AC produces cold air exactly where you need it, you gain far better control over the temperature conditions in your home. Then, you don’t have to worry about hot and cold spots throughout your home, like you often do with a central AC system.

Ductless AC systems also offer zoned cooling by default. Each air handler has its own thermostat, controls, and power settings. This gives everyone in your home the chance to customize the temperature to their liking in whichever room they occupy. For comparison, you’d need to spend between $1,700 and $4,500 to install a zoning system for your central AC system. And even then, most zoned central AC systems only support about four cooling zones and don’t offer room-by-room temperature control like a ductless mini-split.

Zoned cooling adds the energy-efficient benefit of only cooling the rooms that you are occupying and allowing the other rooms to stay warmer and use less electricity. Single-zone central air systems cool every part of the house with equal effort. This takes more energy than limiting the extent of your cooling footprint.

Ductless AC systems also generally do a much better job of dehumidifying your home than comparable central AC systems. Here in Jacksonville, with our 88% average humidity level, that’s a big deal. In some cases, switching to a ductless AC can eliminate the need for standalone or whole-home dehumidifiers. That not only helps you save even more electricity but also improves your comfort and safeguards your home against mold and moisture-related damage.

Your Local Ductless AC Specialists

Now that you know that ductless AC systems offer a cost-efficient cooling solution here in Jacksonville, count on J&W Heating and Air + Plumbing to help you choose the system that’s right for you. We offer comprehensive HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair services, including working with the latest in ducted and ductless AC solutions. Our NATE-certified HVAC technicians can install and service either system type to help you meet your comfort needs. Plus, we offer complete plumbing services, too.

We’re locally and veteran-owned, as well as licensed, certified, bonded, and insured. We’ve served the local community here for over 58 years and are Better Business Bureau-accredited with an A+ rating, too. So, if you’re interested in a new ductless AC for your Jacksonville home, contact our experts at J&W Heating and Air + Plumbing today!

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