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Air Conditioning Options For Homes With No Ductwork

Many people never really think about their home’s HVAC system ductwork. Maybe they live in a newer home, where HVAC ductwork was present from day one, and they do not have to worry about how it was installed. But what about older homes, especially those that were initially built without air conditioning? Adding HVAC ductwork to an older home might seem impossible, but it can be done. Continue reading to learn about your air conditioning options if your home was built without AC ductwork.

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What is HVAC Ductwork?

HVAC ductwork is a system of ducts – or metal tubes – that transports warm or cool air from your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit to the rooms of your home.

Some types of air conditioning systems – such as central air conditioning units – use ductwork to operate. Other AC systems – such as mini-split and multi-split AC units – do not use ductwork.

Can You Install HVAC Ductwork in a Home?

Whether or not you can install new HVAC ductwork in your home, if you do not have existing ductwork, depends on the structure, size, and design of your home. AC ductwork is often up to 12 inches in width and can be about 6 inches in depth. This means that it takes a good amount of space to run the ductwork from one room to another.

Installing a drop ceiling might be a good answer for much older homes that are blessed with high ceilings, but this can affect the aesthetics of the property.

It might be possible to run ductwork through the walls, but that could mean tearing open those walls – and what if you have original plaster and lathe? That is not something you want to mess with.

Man inspecting an air duct for replacement

In addition, consider the AC unit itself. Most AC units are large and have certain requirements for placement, which might not work well for a home in tight quarters. Besides that, a large, modern AC system sitting next to a classic home might look quite out of place. Finding space inside for the necessary components can be a challenge too.

If installing new ductwork in your ductless home does not seem like a good fit, fortunately there are many AC system options that do not require traditional ductwork. In fact, ductless systems tend to be more energy-efficient than systems that use ducts. It may make the most sense to go with a “ductless” air conditioning system.

AC System Options for Homes With No Ductwork

Of course, the most common option for homes with no central air conditioning is the use of window air conditioning units. Drive along any street with older homes and you can easily count dozens of these little units sticking out of windows.

Though individual window AC units can be great for cooling one or two rooms – and they can be hidden a bit by appropriately-placed shrubbery or screens – they do not do much for whole-house comfort.

So what should you do if you are looking for an AC system that covers your entire home? If your home has no existing HVAC ductwork, here are your options:

1. Mini Split AC Systems

Also known as “ductless” split systems, multi-split air conditioning systems allow you to cool only one room instead of the entire home.

These targeted systems have an indoor air handler that is smaller than most of the larger systems on the market, as well as an outdoor compressor and condenser.

mini split illustration

Mini-split AC systems work well if you want to build an addition to your home, but do not want to expand your current system, or run the larger ductwork necessary to add the new room to the existing system.

2. Multi-split AC Systems

The major benefit of a multi-split ac system is allowing you to control temperatures in multiple areas of your home. It will also save you money compared to a central AC system or a high velocity AC system.

Multi-split AC systems work similarly as mini-split systems, but they include more than one air outlet – up to 5 total – and can cool multiple rooms of the home.

multi split illustrationmulti split ac

These systems also allow you to set different internal temperatures in different rooms of the home, since the system includes multiple controllers.

3. High Velocity AC Systems

High velocity AC systems can cool any room of the home. They tend to be best for older homes that were built with no HVAC ductwork.

These systems use 2-inch flexible tubing to deliver air to any room in the home. The small size and flexible nature of the HVAC ductwork means they can snake through crawl spaces, attics, and tight spaces that traditional ductwork could never possibly go.

The ducts are small enough that they can be quite unobtrusive and blend in with the décor of the room, even if it is in a historic home. The air handler is very compact as well, allowing for easier placement.

How Much Do Ductless AC Systems Cost?

The sticker shock is often what drives homeowners to go with window AC units and call it a day. However, if you are looking to make your home comfortable in the long term, want to enhance your home’s resale value, and prefer to avoid the potentially unsightly solution of window air units, these systems are a great investment.

  • Mini-split AC systems range between $1,500 and $8,500, with an average cost of $5,000. The price can vary depending upon how many rooms you want to cover with the system. The relatively lower price for the system is because there is no ductwork to run, and it is much easier to install.
  • Multi-split AC systems range between $3,300 and $6,000, and are priced just slightly higher than a mini-split system. The total cost depends on the size of the system you are having installed.
  • High-velocity AC systems are on a par with installing a larger system, costing between $20,000 and $45,000 on average. The benefit is that you can use unobtrusive ductwork and run the system all throughout the house, just as you would with a traditional system. The total cost of installation depends on the size of the AC system and any bells and whistles you might choose to include.

Talk to a Pro About Ductwork

You can further your AC system research by learning about more HVAC system options. When you are ready to talk to a professional about a ductless AC system, or even how to retrofit your home to handle traditional ductwork, Modernize can help. We will connect you with qualified HVAC experts in your area who can explain the best air conditioning options for your particular home.

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