Ductless systems are efficient and a great choice in certain situations. But they’re also well-marketed products that aren’t always the best choice for your home.
So let’s break it down. When should you purchase a traditional HVAC system? And when is ductless the way to go?
We recommend you consider a traditional system if:
You have an existing duct system in your home. Using a traditional HVAC system may be not only a more cost-effective solution but a more effective one for the space you’re trying to heat or cool. If you already have this infrastructure, you may want to continue using it.
You’re interested in variable speed technology (VST) systems. These systems are highly efficient (they’ve caught up with ductless) and are designed to keep the temperature incredibly steady. If you already have ductwork, it’s a good idea to look into this option before deciding to go ductless.
You’re currently using an inefficient heating method. If you’re upgrading from, say, baseboard heaters (or what we call the “toaster” method), a traditional system is going to be much more efficient and cost less. It may make sense to go with a traditional system with ductwork, depending on the size of the structure you’re heating.
We recommend you consider a ductless system if:
Ductwork just won’t fit: Either you don’t have an existing duct system or it’s going to be cost-prohibitive or physically impossible to install one.
The area you want to condition is under 1,000 square feet and has an open floor plan. Ductless systems are especially effective in an open area because conditioned air can reach every corner of the room.
You need to heat or cool an area that does not have a crawlspace or attic. For a traditional system, you need a large space where you can put an air handler. If you don’t have one—no problem. A ductless mini-split doesn’t need the extra space.
You need to heat or cool a bonus room or other unique space, such as a workshop, ADU, craft area, or music room. One advantage of a ductless system is that you can have full control over the temperature in a specific area.
Ultimately, choosing a system is about the space and what you hope to accomplish with your new system. Do some research and then have an HVAC systems expert take a look and give you their professional opinion.