Ductless split systems provide benefits and opportunities that regular heating and cooling systems cannot provide. But for the most part, ductless systems have yet to replace traditional units; they are still classified as a niche market product in the United States.

On the other hand, a ductless system is sometimes a contractor’s only option when dealing with challenging installations. For example, two contractors in California have taken on jobs that prove ductless systems are not just a luxury but sometimes a necessity.

Move Over, Ptac

Rajan Hingorani is the owner of Southern California A/C, an hvac dealer and distributor. Recently, Hingorani had to help a few contractors out of some unique installation dilemmas by recommending split ductless systems.

One of Hingorani’s customers, John Choi, of John’s Aire Company, was hired to install air conditioning systems into 73 rooms at a Days Inn motel in Hollywood, CA. With most hotels and motels, the typical cooling unit is the ptac. In this motel, the ptac system would not work.

The motel Choi was asked to work on had no space outside the building. This made installing a ptac impossible, since the units are installed into a wall and half of the unit rests outside. In fact, when construction begins on a new motel, the ptac is installed as the rest of the building is constructed. With most buildings, the air conditioning system is installed after the completion of the construction.

According to Hingorani, Choi came to him and asked him what would be the alternative to using a ptac in a motel. Hingorani says that the immediate choice was to use a ductless system. Choi is currently installing Carrier ductless mini-splits into each room at the motel. Not only are the ductless systems a space benefit, but according to Hingorani, the units are ideal for hotels.

“The units are nice looking and aesthetically pleasing to the eye,” he said.

He also says that ductless mini-splits have features not found in ptac’s. Hingorani explains that one of the more unique factors of ductless systems when compared to ptac’s is the noise factor. Ptac’s can be much noisier than the average ductless unit.

Hingorani also says that ductless systems are much more energy efficient than ptac’s. According to most manufacturers, ductless heat pumps have an 11 SEER and ductless air conditioners have a 12 SEER.

With these benefits, it would seem as though ductless systems would replace ptac’s as the dominant choice in motels and hotels. Hingorani believes that ptac manufacturers have nothing to fear. The major reason is price. Ptac’s have a lower cost than the average ductless system.

Hingorani says that with a job like constructing a new motel, ptac’s will be the choice because they do the job at a lower price. Hingorani explains that ptac’s are so common with motels that an alternative to room and spot cooling is not even seen as an option.

The majority of hotels cool rooms with ptac's, but ductless systems can be used as an efficient alternative.

Small Homes, Tight Situations

Another customer of Hingorani’s, Al Moore of Central Systems, also found himself in the predicament of installing cooling units within a small space.

Recently, Moore was chosen by the state government to help in a project that requires installing and retrofitting air conditioning in close to 44,000 homes. Currently, Moore is working on 300 of them. These homes were built several years ago in areas near airports, including LAX, John Wayne Airport, and the San Diego Airport.

In the last few years, several complaints and even lawsuits have been filed because of the level of noise from the airports affecting nearby neighborhoods. Due to the amount of complaints, the state initiated a noise-abatement program. The program provides homeowners with a variety of solutions, free of charge, to cut back on the noise level of planes passing overhead. This includes installing thicker windows and doors, wall doubling, and providing air conditioning systems.

For homeowners with no air conditioning system, the only option during hot days is to leave windows open. For those who live near an airport, the home will be cooler, but the noise will be hard to bear.

Moore has been contracted to install air conditioning into these specific homes. But the job has not been without its problems. Moore has had to install ductless mini-splits in close to 50 of the homes he is responsible for.

“It was definitely a space factor,” said Moore. “These are very small houses and old.”

In some cases, Moore found that two neighboring homes had been built very close to each other. This situation made it nearly impossible to install any type of outside air conditioner. With other homes, due to their age, the installation of ductwork would be extremely difficult.

Another factor in choosing to use the mini-splits was equipment noise. The homeowners were already dealing with noise issues and a quiet system was very important.

“The ductless system was the quietest thing that we could find for this project,” said Moore.

Sidebar: Abraham Speaks on U.S. Energy Crunch

MACKINAC ISLAND, MI — Speaking at the 2001 Leadership Policy Conference of the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Chamber of Commerce for southeastern Michigan, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the United States is being handcuffed in its ability to act on the energy crunch due to the NIMBY syndrome, or “Not in my back yard.”

People want more energy, but they don’t want the projects in their area, Abraham believes. Power plants, oil and natural gas pipelines, and oil refineries have all seen local opposition.

“Americans love their energy,” stated Abraham. “They just don’t like the sources of it. At least they don’t want the sources of it in their neighborhood.”

However, he said that trying to avoid increased energy production by requiring reduced consumer consumption would see widespread opposition.

“Are Americans really ready for steep taxes on gasoline and electricity, [mileage] standards high enough to virtually ban SUVs from the highway, or the moving of energy-intensive businesses and jobs offshore?” he asked. “I doubt it.”

Publication date: 06/18/2001