For a house without ducts, what are my options?

What would be the best air conditioner for our house, which doesn’t have any ductwork? We live in a house with hot water radiators so there is no forced air ductwork that we could connect a regular central air conditioner to, and the room air conditioners we are using in our bedrooms are getting old. Plus they don’t cool the downstairs very well. Ideally we’d like an air conditioning system that keeps the whole house cool. The house is two storeys, around 1400 sqft.

Answer from Green Energy Efficient Homes

The best air conditioner for your application would be a ductless minisplit air conditioner, which allows you to have one outdoor condensor unit and an indoor unit installed in the wall of each room you want to cool. The indoor and outdoor units are connected with piping that transports only the refrigerant. We lived in a house in Costa Rica for a year in 2008-2009 that had ductless minisplit air conditioners in each of three bedrooms and the system worked great. The evaporators were all on inside walls in the bedrooms, and the system barely made any noise when running because most of the noise from an AC unit is in the condensor unit, which was up on the fat roof. Another good thing about ductless minisplits is that you can control the room temperature of each room separately, because each room has its own evaporator unit.

Another reason a this type of AC unit would be the best air conditioner for your situation is that you don’t lose window space to it. Having a window air conditioner in a window of every bedroom and every ground floor room is pretty unsightly. It also means you can’t open that window when the weather is cool enough that you want to draw outdoor air inside. With a ductless minisplit air conditioner you can open windows when the outdoor temperature drops (for instance overnight) and cut your electricity use by taking advantage of passive cooling.

Many ductless minisplit air conditioners have a high SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating, making them, dollar for dollar, much more efficient than central air conditioners. They are also more efficient in that they make it easier to control the heat of individual rooms.One problem with central air conditioners is that you have to cool the whole house to the same temperature – even rooms you’re not spending time in. With a ductless minisplit you can quickly cool a room when you need to use it. For example, you can cool a bedroom as you settle in for the night (or for a siesta) but while you’re up and about – in the living room or kitchen – you can let the temperature in the bedroom climb higher, and save the electricity you might have used to cool it. Most ductless minisplits these days have a remote control that lets you turn the unit up or down and they can throw out a lot of cold air in a short time to cool a room quickly.

Although it’s possible to install a ductless minisplit air conditioner yourself (assuming you’re relatively handy and know what you’re doing as far as electrical wiring goes), I would recommend hiring a professional installer. The money you save on installation costs could easily be eaten up by problems or inefficient operation down the line, since most home air conditioning problems are the result of incorrect system sizing or faulty installation. By hiring a qualified professional to size your system properly and install it correctly, you’ll get worry-free operation for many years. You can use the Quality Smith service to get three free quotes from qualifyed AC installers in your area; just tell them you’re interested in a quote for installing a ductless minisplit.

Quality Smith - get three free estimates on heating and cooling FAST!

The best air conditioner for your application is one that avoids any ductwork in your home. I would stay away from any proposed solution that involves ductwork in the attic. My sister’s home has hot water rads, and had attic ductwork to accommodate a central air conditioner, which cooled the upstairs only. Ducting cool air through a hot attic just doesn’t make sense, since even when well insulated the ducts tend to warm the air considerably before it gets to its destination.

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