The Evolution of Ductless Systems

Ductless Heat Pumps might not be as “new” as you may think. They have actually been available commercially since the 1970’s. In case you aren’t counting, that is over 40 years now!

Ductless systems were originally pioneered by Asian manufacturers and were developed as an improvement on the traditional window unit air conditioner. The plan was to provide spot cooling to homes and buildings where a more complete, whole-system approach was unfeasible due to either space or financial constraints, but ultimately serve as a much more comfortable and efficient cooling (and now also heating) solution.

Originally offered only as a wall-mounted indoor unit in system capacities of 7,000 to about 12,000 BTU’s, the ductless system delivered improved performance with greater efficiency and the beginnings of comfortable, zonal control of temperatures.

One of the key factors to the early success of the Ductless systems was the fact that with piping allowances of up to 15 feet, the small, compact condensing units could be placed in varied locations that melded well with space-restricted Asian construction methods.

As this concept was introduced around the world, there were demands unique to each region, both from a sales and design standpoint. This process has further evolved the technology of the Ductless Heat Pump, allowing it to advance beyond the original window unit “replacement”.

Some of the more significant advances have included system capacities up to 48,000 BTU’s, operating ranges as low as 0 degrees F and as high as 115 degrees F, and efficiency levels well above mandated standards. The systems have also evolved to offer more user friendly and intelligent controls and aesthetically pleasing options including wall mounted units, floor mounts, ceiling cassettes, and even “ducted” Ductless systems.

But perhaps the greatest evolution of the Ductless Heat Pump has been the birth of the multi-split and later the more sophisticated variable refrigerant volume (VRV) zone systems. These developments established a Ductless option to serve whole-house residential applications with multi-split systems for up to five zones. And on the commercial front, offering VRV systems with their modular approach can serve large-scale applications, sometimes with literally hundreds of zones!

The original technology of the Ductless systems was built on an R-22 platform and generally included effective rotary-style “standard” compressors, direct-drive fan motors, and standard heat exchangers. But this has changed. Inverter technology has allowed Ductless systems to optimize energy consumption in accordance with the changing ambient temperature, ensuring comfort in the space but ultimately saving energy at the same time. This technology works by varying the rotational speed of the compressor as the load fluctuates to deliver only the optimum amount of refrigerant to the connected load to serve the cooling or heating requirements and it results in superior energy performance.

With the advent of R-410A, the impact to ductless technology has been great. The systems have become, on average, 40 percent smaller, yet around 30 percent more efficient. At the same time, they are quieter, with more features.

Nowadays, you may find ductless systems installed in commercial businesses, residences, offices, churches, hotels, condominiums, health care facilities, restaurants, schools, and even storage facilities. A far cry from that original window unit replacement! And as the technology grows, new applications are arising everyday, further developing the scope of the Ductless product.

Whatever the future brings, it’s sure that Ductless technology will continue to be at the forefront of innovation and deliver customer-driven solutions, satisfying the demands of the market.


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