Here in San Antonio, TX, air conditioning is more than a luxury — it’s a necessity. However, rising energy prices mean that homeowners here are always looking for ways to cut their AC operating costs. The best route to doing so is, of course, improving their AC efficiency. In the quest to do so, more and more people are discovering the amazing efficiency benefits that ductless AC systems have to offer. Here’s how the efficiency of ductless AC systems compares to traditional ducted systems and how they deliver their unbeatable efficiency. Plus, we’ll detail some of the disadvantages of ductless AC systems so you’ll understand the potential trade-offs you might make by installing one.
The Efficiency of the Average Central AC
In San Antonio, just like elsewhere in the U.S., the majority of homes rely on traditional, ducted central AC systems. These systems offer efficient cooling by leveraging powerful blower motors and compressors that can cool large volumes of air while using less electricity than comparable window units. This is possible because larger fans move more air with the larger surface area of their blades, even while spinning at lower speeds.
To understand the efficiency of the average central AC system, though, you need to understand the scale used to measure it. It’s called the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER rating system. It offers a simple efficiency scale that consumers can use to compare the efficiency of different AC systems.
A SEER rating reflects how much energy you can expect a given AC to use during an average cooling season. More specifically, the formula measures an AC’s energy usage at a fixed indoor temperature and a variety of outdoor temperatures ranging from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the real world, though, the scale’s easy to understand. The higher the SEER rating number, the more efficient the AC.
For central AC systems installed here in San Antonio before 2015, it’s not uncommon to encounter systems with SEER ratings between 10 and 13. However, all ACs installed between 2015 and 2022 must, by law, have SEER ratings of 14 or higher. At the beginning of 2023, that minimum went up to 15, but such systems are only now beginning to replace the oldest ACs in the area.
The Efficiency of the Average Ductless AC
By contrast, the average ductless AC system you’ll find for sale today has a SEER rating of 20. It’s even possible to find ductless AC systems with SEER ratings of 30 or higher, depending on how much you’re willing to spend. That’s well above the average central AC system and even better than the best central AC systems on the market today, which top out at about 26 SEER.
This disparity in efficiency is a big reason that so many San Antonians are now installing ductless AC systems in their homes. However, it’s also important to understand how a ductless AC manages to deliver such high efficiency. It’s also important to know how a ductless AC’s operation differs from conventional central AC units.
The Secrets of Ductless AC Efficiency
One of the biggest secrets to the high efficiency of ductless AC systems is right in their name. Since they don’t use ductwork to carry cooled air throughout your home, they’re able to avoid some of the energy losses inherent in ducted AC systems. Those losses are typically much bigger than you’d think.
According to efficiency studies, the average residential ducted AC system suffers an efficiency penalty of 25% to 40% via duct-related energy loss. This can happen due to leaky ducts, poorly insulated ducts, and other issues that prevent cooled air from reaching its destination. By eliminating ducts from the equation, ductless AC systems avoid those losses, yielding a tremendous efficiency advantage. However, it’s not their only advantage.
Ductless air conditioners also offer more precise temperature control than a central AC can. This is because they offer zoned cooling by default, and central AC systems do not. This means homeowners with ductless AC systems can set individual temperatures in each room, eliminating unnecessary cooling. Or, they can opt to turn off cooling to the rooms they’re not using, reducing energy use even further.
On top of that, many of today’s most efficient ductless AC systems employ inverter technology. This allows them to precisely control their energy use. With inverter technology, a ductless system uses only the exact amount of electricity needed to reach and maintain your set temperature. That’s something central ducted systems struggle with since most operate at just a single speed, regardless of cooling demand.
Ductless AC systems also deliver more targeted cooling than central AC systems do. This is because each air handler produces cool air on demand for the room it operates in. Plus, most ductless AC air handlers feature motorized fins that direct the cool air to exactly where you want it. Some even feature advanced heat-sensing technology that allows them to direct cold air to hot spots within a room. That results in more efficient cooling and improved comfort, too.
The Cost of All That Efficiency
It’s worth pointing out that ductless AC systems, while offering excellent efficiency, do come with some disadvantages, too. One is that they cost a bit more than a comparable central AC. For example, a 24,000 BTU ductless AC system — which is roughly equivalent to a mid-size central AC — costs between $3,000 and $9,500, depending on the system you purchase. That’s at least double what the average 24,000 BTU central AC system would cost.
Plus, the installation costs involved in putting a ductless AC into your home may be higher, too. This depends largely on how many rooms you’re planning to cool. Since a ductless AC requires an air handler in every room you’d like the system to cover, there’s substantially more work for an installer to do. This also means you’ll have to live with those air handlers, which, although small, may clash with your home’s décor.
Trust the Ductless AC Experts
Ductless AC systems can help you lower your home’s energy bills as long as you’re willing to live with their slight disadvantages. If so, Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating is the place to turn. We’ve served homeowners in and around San Antonio since 1990, priding ourselves on offering the ultimate in customer service the whole time. That’s how we’ve maintained an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and amassed countless 5-star customer reviews.
We offer comprehensive HVAC services, including HVAC maintenance plans, installation, and repairs. That includes the latest in ductless AC technology from well-known manufacturer Lennox. And that’s not all. We also offer duct cleaning, duct repair, indoor air quality services, and a plethora of other useful services. And if you need some financial flexibility to help you afford the HVAC system your home requires, we also offer financing on approved credit.
For ductless AC systems and all of your home’s other HVAC needs, contact the experts at Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating today!