Tag Archives: prices

Product Category Overview: Ductless Air-Conditioning, A/C and Heating Units

Ductless units go by a number of names, most of them referring to the lack of ductwork necessary for distribution of the warmed or cooled air. A few of the other names commonly used  are mini-split, mini-splits, and split-ductless.

Where Ductless A/C and Heating Can Be A Solution

These units typically work best in situations such as: room additions, garage enclosures, basement renovations, sunroom additions, workshops and garage apartments.  Primarily they are used in retrofits or replacement of small non-ducted indoor cooling and heating.  For smaller homes ductless can be a good choice for replacing space heaters and window units.  These can also be a solution where duct installation is either physically not possible, or not cost effective.  Finally, there are some indoor environments where ductwork needs to be avoided for health considerations, such as severe asthma cases or in hospitals.

A Brief History of Ductless HVAC Units
These clever units were developed in Japan, where the dense population and high energy costs called for features that window units or ducted systems did not provide.

Features and benefits

  • As the name indicates, there no duct work.  Since there is no ductwork, there is no loss of heating or cooling due to leaks in ductwork, or ducts being located in unconditioned space.  With these units,very high efficiency is available, up to 26 SEER.
  • The units tend to be quiet, because the compressor sits outside instead of closer to you, as in window units or other package units do.  Certain ductless models will qualify for 30% federal tax credit, up to $1,500, for 2009 and 2010 on parts and labor costs.   Be sure to get the qualifications of your unit in writing before purchasing.
  • Some models have up to four indoor air handling units connected to one outdoor unit. This means the one outdoor unit can handle up to four rooms or zones. This depends on how much heating or cooling the structure or each zone needs.  As is always the case in HVAC , the amount of insulation, the climate, and other conditions of the envelope (structure) affects the heating or cooling capacity required.
  • Since each zone gets a separate thermostat, this gives more flexibility on comfort and ways to save energy.
  • Some models offer features for added humidity control and air filtration.

Considering Buying A Ductless Unit Online?
On their website for the Mr. Slim ductless Mitsubishi states that they do not authorize or provide warranty for the online retail selling of its Mr. Slim air-conditioning and heat pumps. The company gives a number of reasons, with the upshot being you are much more likely to be satisfied with the performance if the unit is sized and installed by a professional HVAC technician.  This is consistent with all our research and feedback.  Unlike the older window units or portable models, although they have no ducts, they still require the running of lines for coolant, drainage, etc., and they have to be charged with refrigerant. While reading the latest on this topic, we did notice some Mistubushi mini-splits being sold online. If you are considering buying a unit online and having it installed for you by a licensed technician, you should ask for a copy of the warranty to be sent to you before purchasing. From what we have consistently read and heard, you will be better off going through a local HVAC service company you trust for everything.

Brands Of Ductless AC and Heating Units

If you want to compare features, below are some of the leading manufacturers and brands.
AmcorAire®
Comfort-Aire
Sanyo
Fredreich
Fujitsu
LG
Mitsubishi

Intital Cost vs. Lifetime Operating Costs

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ductless equipment costs more per unit of cooling: 30% more than a central split system and 50% more than a window unit.  Of course, the absence of ductwork and future costs related to it (periodic checking for leaks, cleaning, and eventual replacement) must be factored in. Also, ductless units are available in some of the highest efficiency ratings that can be purchased.  The savings in energy costs will offset the higher initial cost.  To determine the extent of that offset, ask your professional installer for an estimate of the monthly and total cost of ownership over the projected life of the unit.

If you have an experience or other info to share regarding ductless units, send it to us and we will post it, so that all our readers can benefit.

Flat Rate Pricing in Home A/C and Heating Repair

We frequently get questions from homeowners about repair costs for their central heating and AC equipment. In this post, we will give some basic definitions so you can understand cost related terms when you hear them. Basically, there are two pricing models, flat rate pricing or labor (time) and materials. First we will outline some features that all HVAC repair work has in common.

Trip and Diagnostic Fees
Known in the industry as “T & D” fees, among other names, this is the cost for the phone representative or dispatcher to make your appointment and get the repairman and truck to your house or building and diagnose the problem. No matter which pricing model covers the repair work, you are unlikely to get around the T&D fee. With gas at around $4 a gallon, the trip portion of this cost is mostly going up. Depending on the time of year and part of the country you are in, this cost ranges from about $50 up to $100 or more. When you call in to schedule the work, this is the number you will usually be quoted. The second part of the work, once the problem has been diagnosed, usually follows one of two pricing methods:

Labor (time) and Materials
This type of pricing, also known as “parts and labor”, has become less common. With this pricing structure, you “get the news” of the actual cost you will pay upon completion of the work. Under this model, you would be quoted the hourly rate of the repairman or repair crew plus the cost of the parts, refrigerants, and supplies. The most common concern about this model is that it focuses a lot of energy (not always positive energy, either) on how long the repair takes, especially if the repair truck has to go for parts, etc. In theory, the homeowner bears more of the risk or receives the benefit of lower labor cost, depending on whether the repair drags on for hours or goes really quickly. This is a good model to use if you know for sure that the repairman is technically competent, fast, focused, and honest.

Flat Rate Pricing
In the flat rate pricing model, the repairman has a manual that tells them how long it should take to fix the problem that has been diagnosed, usually to a fraction of an hour. He or she takes this standard number in dollars, adds the price of the parts and tax (if applicable for your area), and the total is the flat rate price you get quoted for the whole repair. Whether the repair actually takes less time or more time than the repairman’s book listed, your total cost was known and agreed to ahead of time. This method rewards fast workers and tends to reduce squabbles with customers over repair time. The main challenge: some companies provide pay incentives for volume and speed. These incentives can distract workers from being as thorough as they might be in the labor and materials model. Not finding all the problems leads to what are know in the HVAC industry as callbacks, which are unfortunate for the homeowner and repairman.

Having said all that, the flat rate model tends to be used more often now. You may not have the option for the labor and materials anyway. Under all scenarios, you should now be able to understand price quotes better and ask the repairman if he/she checked the whole system for problems or assumed that the problem they found first is the only one present.