Ducted Air Conditioner – Overview
Ducted Air Conditioner is a form of air conditioning that has many unique benefits. There are basically 3 types of air conditioners :
- Ducted Air Conditioner (a.k.a Central Air Conditioner)
- Split System Air Conditioner
- Evaporative Air Conditioner
Ducted Air Conditioners comes with an internal and an external unit. These are called compressors that handle the work of generating the cold or warm air. Ducted air conditioners use ducts and air vents to distribute the conditioned air throughout a home. These ducts are usually installed into the roof, wall and floor spaces, neatly hidden from sight. Air vents are installed flush into the ceiling and walls – giving a very minimalist design. For this reason, the ducted air conditioner is very popular with Adelaide and Australian home owners as it does not interfere with the interior decor of a home.
The Split System Air Conditioner is quite different from a ducted air conditioner. It comes with one compressor that serves a few wall units. These wall units – or fan coils/blowers – as they are commonly known, need to be installed into the walls of each room that requires air conditioning. The wall units can be rather bulky but recent models come in attractive designs and sleek builds that could blend nicely into a room’s design. Unlike the ducted air conditioner, split system air conditioning doesn’t use ducts. The cold or warm air is blown into a room or space directly from the wall units.
The Evaporative air conditioner is actually a form of ducted air conditioner. It also distributes conditioned air via a network of ducts. Installation is very similar to ducted air conditioning but instead of the internal/external units, the evaporative air conditioner has one central compressor box that is usually installed on the exterior roofing of a house. Evaporative air conditioners can only produce cooled air. It does not provide heating. So if you go with evaporative cooling, you will need to install a separate gas heating system or other space heaters.
Ducted Air Conditioner – Why Install One?
There are many benefits and features to a ducted air conditioner system. Before we look into these benefits, let’s explore the scenarios whereby a ducted air conditioner may be more ideal for a home.
Given the use of ducts and it’s ability to reach harder to reach places in a home, ducted air conditioners are very suited for installation in larger homes. Especially houses with multiple storeys and many rooms. Ducting can be easily run during construction into every desired room or space in a home. Ducts can also be run through each storey of a home, allowing one system to provide the heating and cooling for every storey of the home.
This is not the case for split systems. If you have a large multi-storeyed home, you will need to install many wall units and multiple compressors to support them. This can become quite cost prohibitive – both in terms of upfront and maintenance costs. Split systems are more suited for standard sized homes with 2-3 bedrooms.
Another reason ducted air conditioning is popular is because it doesn’t get in the way. In order words, it’s not obstrusive in design. Since all the ducting is hidden, you only see the air vents and these are installed flat against the ceiling and walls. Some call it the invisible air conditioner and many home owners love the minimalist design.
In the past, ducted air conditioners consume significantly more power than split systems and other forms of cooling. However, recent advances in inverter technology, has produced a new generation of ducted air conditioner systems that are highly efficient. There are now many models with 5-6 star energy ratings.
Ducted Air Conditioner – Features
Inverter – Energy Efficiency
Inverter technology has become one of the essential features valued by astute consumers. Especially with today’s electricity costs, everyone’s looking for the most power efficient air conditioner. The inverter technology allows an air conditioner to scale it’s power mode according to the amount of cooling or heating required. When more cooling or heating is required in a room, it steps up the power and when the room has achieved it’s desired temperature, it steps down the power.
inverter systems reduces wastage significantly and helps air conditioner systems achieve significant cost savings. Ducted air conditioners now mostly come with inverter technology. For this reason, many models are able to achieve very high energy star ratings. Inverter enabled ducted air conditioners have really closed the gap in terms of energy consumption and they now cost just about the same to run as split systems (of equivalent kw).
This is a key feature of ducted air conditioners. Ducted air conditioners come with zoning capability that is controlled by zone controllers. You can divide your home up into multiple zones, and create different climate conditions for each zone.
With the zone controllers, you can preset temperature, power modes, fan settings, air flow settings, timer functions for each zone. These settings are stored in the system and each time you turn on a zone, the air conditioner automatically conditions that zone per the settings. This is a very convenient feature and helps achieve maximum comfort in a home.
With zoning, you can also minimise wastage as you do not need to turn on all zones at once. You could turn on one or two zones, leaving the rest of the home turned off. This saves a lot of power as the ducted air conditioner only needs to cool or heat up a few zones at once.
Advanced Climate Control
This is not unique to ducted air conditioners as split system and evaporative cooling systems also have advanced climate controls. There is a plethora of settings you can configure to achieve the most ideal climate for your home. These include temperature controls, power modes, fan settings, air flow direction settings, preset timer functions and much more.
Since there are very few mechanical movable parts in a ducted air conditioner, and most of the action happens at the internal/external compressor units which are usually located in a secluded area of a home, ducted air conditioners are able to operate very quietly. They are much quieter than split systems (which produces some noise from the blowing of air into the room via the wall units).
Since air is distributed via ducts, the only noise you might hear is the air coming out of the air vents. This is usually inaudible unless the fan speeds are set to a high level or you pay close attention to picking up the noise. A silent air conditioner is desirable to most home owners.
Especially for large homes with complex layouts, ducted air conditioners are much easier to install and maintain. You only need to service the two units and clean out the ducts once in awhile. There are self-cleaning chemicals and features built into some systems that keep the ducts and compressors operating optimally.
With split systems, you need to clean each wall unit individually as well as the compressor. Imagine having a multi storey home with 2 split systems supporting up to 8-10 wall units. That could be quite a time consuming task to service that many units. Not to mention the cost per service.
Ducted Air Conditioner – Downsides
There are a few downsides to ducted air conditioners. These are not major but some home owners do consider them as barriers to adoption.
Higher Upfront Costs
If you research air conditioner prices, you will note that ducted air conditioning is probably the pricier option. A typical ducted air conditioner could set you back by $6,000 to $12,000, depending on the system size you require. This cost also varies by the amount of ducting work you require for your home. A split system usually costs up to 20-30% less (but again this depends on system size and layout). And an evaporative air conditioner also cost less to install.
You will need to weigh out the benefits against the upfront costs. Most home owners still choose ducted air conditioning as it does have many benefits and is ideally suited for certain home scenarios.
Higher Running Costs
Depending usage intensity and frequency, the cost of running a ducted air conditioner could be the highest – vs a split system or evaporative cooling. Of course, if you turn on all (or many) zones regularly, the ducted air conditioner will be kept running at a high power level, consuming far more power than if you just used one or two zones. Keep in mind that the more zones you turn on concurrently, the power consumption can escalate exponentially.
However, it is often difficult to compare running costs vs a split system. Since split systems normally cover less area and rooms, the usage intensity and frequency would be very different to central air conditioning.
In terms of running costs though, the evaporative air conditioner is the clear winner. Evaporative cooling could run up to 90% cheaper than a ducted air conditioner, as it uses the natural process of evaporation and not a refrigerative process.
In extreme cold or hot weather, a ducted air conditioner could experience momentary pauses or lapses in it’s heating or cooling. In very cold winters, the external compressor occasionally freezes up. The air conditioner will then “reverse” the hot air direction back to the external unit, in an attempt to defrost the unit. When this happens, the heating in a home may pause for a period of time. When the external unit has defrosted, the heating then continues in the home.
The reverse process happens for hot summers. Cooling may pause till the external unit is cooled down to an acceptable temperature.
These lapses usually go unnoticed but for some home owners who are more aware of such things, it can be a constant annoyance.
Ducted Air Conditioner – Should you get one?
Ducted air conditioners definitely has it’s place as one of the most popular air conditioner choices. Especially for Australia and Adelaide, where we experience rather extreme temperatures in winter and summer, a ducted air conditioner is a good all-in-one heating and cooling solution for the home.
Should you choose the ducted air conditioner? Here’s a few tips :
- Consider your home size and layout – Larger, multi-storeyed homes with hard to reach places? Get ducted air conditioning.
- Consider your budget – If budget is not a concern, get ducted air conditioning.
- Consider heating options – If you have seperate heating, Evaporative may be better as it has much lower running costs.
There are many other considerations which may affect your choice.
The best thing to do is to send your home plans in to an air conditioning company, and let the experts guide you on your decision. Jim’s Heating and Cooling has served the Adelaide and South Australian community for many years. Speak to us today and let our expert installers provide the professional advice you need to make the right decisions.
Need advice on Ducted Air Conditioner systems? Call Jim’s at 131 546.