Which Ductless Air Conditioner Style is Right for You?

January 8, 2009 by Shawn Mack  
Filed under Technical Guide

“Mini split air conditioners have gained their popularity by their quiet operation and ascetic value.”

So you decided to purchase a ductless air conditioning system, but which system fits your needs? In the United States there are varying styles and shapes of ductless air conditioners. Below I have listed the most popular styles.

Window Air Conditioner: If you are over the age of 10 I’m sure you have seen this style of air conditioner sticking out of a window of your local apartment complex or main street store. There popularity comes from the inexpensive price and ease of installation. These are self-contained systems that just plug and go.

Through Wall Air Conditioner: These air conditioners are usually higher quality than the window units mentioned above. They are manufactured with a metal casing around the unit so that it can be built into a new or existing wall. Many units are a chassis system that let the customer pull out the guts of the unit while leaving the case securely attached in the wall. Through wall units will usually be deeper in size so there is adequate venting outside the exterior of the building. A through wall unit will most likely be stronger than a window air conditioner and can still hang out a window if a customer wishes.

Mini Split Wall Mounted: These air conditioners have been the bread and butter of the ductless revolution in the United States. Mini Split air conditioners consist of an outdoor unit (condenser), an indoor unit (evaporator), remote control and a refrigerant line-set. The indoor unit comes in many shapes and sizes, but the most popular size is an elongated rectangle. The outdoor unit of a mini split system resembles a medium size suitcase with a fan grille. The condenser and evaporator are connected with electrical wiring and insulated refrigerant line-sets. The outdoor condenser sits on a slab or plastic pad and the indoor evaporator mounts on an interior wall approximately 10 inches from the ceiling. Mini split air conditioners have gained their popularity by their quiet operation and ascetic value.

Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC): PTAC’s have gained their notoriety in the motel/hotel industry. If you have ever slept in a motel and enjoyed lovely hum of a PTAC you are not alone. These are self-contained air conditioners usually with large buttons or dials to either turn the temperature up or down, hot or cold. Through the years PTAC manufacturers have worked to lessen the decibel output of the units but self-contained air conditioners will always make noise because the compressor is working a few feet from your bed.

Ceiling Cassette Air Conditioner: Cassettes have the same components and operate similar to mini split wall mounted units with one exception; cassettes mount in the ceiling. Many businesses and offices will use cassette air conditioners because they fit in between ceiling panels and force air out in four directions. While most ductless air conditioners have a maximum of 24,000 btu.’s, ceiling cassettes can be manufactured over 60,000 btu. With the addition of line-sets, a ceiling cassette air conditioner will require an installer.

Ceiling Floor Air Conditioner: These ductless air conditioners haven’t had the success in the United States as the other units. Ceiling Floor units derive their name because they can be mounted horizontally hung from a ceiling or vertically against a wall near the floor. They are over twice as large as an indoor mini split system, but they can be manufactured at higher btu. sizes. The little popularity has been obtained from commercial applications. Ceiling Floor units will also require an installer.

These are basic styles of ductless air conditioners. I tried not to go too deep into each unit to give you a general overview of what is available. If you have any additions or comments please leave them in the forum for others to enjoy.

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12 Responses to “Which Ductless Air Conditioner Style is Right for You?”
  1. luffy Says:

    I think Through Wall Air Conditioner is the best style for our home..

  2. Charlotte Says:

    I (we) wish this were 2012 information! We have been ’sold’ a lot of information, but by heating/airconditioning sales people. We need un-brand-loyal information!

    We need to supply either 8 or 10 apartments with heating (with cooling possible) to replace a destroyed, and largely un-lamented ‘ceiling radiant heating’ system.

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  5. Bob's Uncle Says:

    I think I can answer some of the above questions. I’ve lived and traveled around a few places and have experienced each system sufficiently enough. Bottom line first. If Mini Split Wall Mounted air conditioners are as efficient as they claim them to be (ie. more efficient than through window units) then that would be the way to go for all of you. It’s what they are using all over the rest of the developed (and developing) world these days but as usual these days the US is slow to catch up with the technological program.

    Through the wall units and through the window units are an old design harking way back to the 1950s. I remember hauling in a nearly 200lb ugly brown beast that my poor old dad used to keep (he was never able to understand the concept of buying new things) and taking a whole afternoon out to mount it into the front window every June when the days turned hot and humid for about 25 years. These shenanigans started in the 1970s and lasted until he finally understood the benefits of getting a far more efficient unit that is far lighter and uses half the electricity and removes far more moisture. Moisture is the main problem in your air discomfort woes. Not only is it uncomfortable but it causes sticky floors, promotes mold growth and rot in your building. Now since they have been around for 60 years despite phony SEER ratings of central a/c systems, through my experience, through-window units with good draining ability (ie. a drain plug) and the highest SEER rating you can get you can cool your house and remove the moisture from your home just as well but result in much lower electric bills than with a central A/C. My friends and neighbors have always complained about high electric bills when they rely on their central air conditioning units. Window/through wall A/C’s cool the house slower than centrals do however and their design is ugly, cumbersome, noisy and require lots of installation/deinstallation effort and cleaning and maintenance at the end of the year. You can’t leave them in all year either because there will be a cold blast of air coming through their cabinets in the winter. But with a good efficent window a/c and a system of a couple box fans you’ll cool your house for much cheaper. But lets face it, unless you’re desperate having these ugly space sucking, light blocking units are incredibly dated despite their being on sale every spring lining the shelves at the home improvement stores for the past 30 years.
    Everyone thinks central a/c systems (ducted) are the best because afterall they have been ubiquitous for about 30 years. They are pretty quiet as long as you aren’t outside or a neighbor that likes to sleep with his window open (in that regard they are pretty rude) and they do a fair job of removing the moisture from the air as long as you have them on low and allow them to work for a while. Removing moisture from the air can not be done quickly without some serious scientific experiments. However, despite what they say, central a/cs wil eat up your electric bill. But aren’t they grand? Great 80s technology with swift clammy cooling using your ducts that were originally meant for heating eh? Here’s the serious problem with them. They spread mold and disease throughout the building. I lived in Hawaii and trust me my significant other woke up every morning sneazing and eyes watering because the building’s central A/c unit was never able to be properly cleaned. Even I had throat congestion issues every morning. This was a nice near the beach highrise too. Until they invent a system that can crawl through the ducts and completely clean out all the mold and dust (and I mean completely) central A/Cs are an epidemic waiting to happen. Central A/Cs are also subject to being robbed if you live in high crime areas. That outdoor condenser unit is easy to swipe.
    Now as far as those big traditional heating/cooling units seen in hotels and motels, now come on we all know how noisy, ugly and inefficient those things are. You gotta blast them as soon as you walk into the apartment and then if you want to sleep just hope it doesn’t warm up too much. If you leave them on your sleep will be a light and restless one for sure. (Not real practical for busy travelers though, ironically.)
    Now what the rest of the world is using that the US is resistant to be part of. (America notoriously hates doing something that everyone else is doing especially when they didn’t think of it first despite it being more efficient or higher tech. (It’s more like adolescent rebellion than a sense of independence imho) But mini split wall mounted units are the way to go. That’s how I came to this site, looking for those. Now granted they are more expensive, probably 3 times more than window units and they have to be installed in each major room in your house. However without solar and wind being widely adopted in our country (unlike the Germans who have their heads on straight) our electric bills are only going upwards every year as nuclear, coal and gas get harder and harder to procure (except the latter), clean and manage and the consequences of their usage become more and more costly. Solar and wind is only coming down in price (literally by the month). So you’re not going to necessarily want to cool your ENTIRE house to the same temperature ALL DAY LONG like a central a/c unit forces you to do. I like the quietness and compactness of the split systems. I’ll let you know in a couple years if they result in lower electric bills. I am confident they will.

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