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Both a ductless mini-split system and PTAC can be used to effectively create AC zones. They’re compact and they are relatively easy to install since no ductwork is needed to run both air conditioning systems. Both systems also have heating and cooling capabilities.
So, how do these two compare when it comes to heating and cooling spaces?
How They Both Work
To run a ductless mini-split system, you will need an indoor air handler unit, an outdoor compressor unit, plus a line set that connects the indoor and outdoor units.
A mini-split cools a space by absorbing heat and humidity via the indoor air handling unit. The warm air passes through two sets of coils to create cooler air. The cold air is then released through the indoor unit. The cycle repeats itself until the desired temperature is reached. The process is reversed if the units are set on heating mode.
The system can also serve up to 8 AC zones depending on the capacity of the compressor unit. In this case, all indoor units can function independently from one another. Each zone can be set at different temperatures and can be turned on and off individually.
PTAC (Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners)
Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners or PTACs work as a single unit system. All components are enclosed and integrated into one package. The compressor, condenser, evaporator, expansion valve, and all other components function within the unit.
It functions similarly to a mini-split system but since it is a packaged unit, it can only serve one space. The unit is installed through a wall and the warm air is exhausted outside the building.
PTACs are also reversible so it can be used for both heating and cooling spaces.
Installation Cost Compared
Cost is always a huge consideration when it comes to choosing an air conditioning system.
With mini-splits, it does get expensive. The range is between $1,500 to over $15,500 depending on the brand, model, and the number of units to be installed. This range includes the system, labor, and material costs.
A PTAC unit is much cheaper costing between $700 to around $1,500 excluding installation labor and materials cost.
Energy Bills Compared
Although mini-splits can be expensive at first, the savings come in with energy-efficiency. Most mini-split models are Energy Star rated and are integrated with advanced inverter technology.
Lower energy consumption equals lower energy bills. Plus, the more energy-efficient it is, the friendlier it is to the environment.
PTACs have also come a long way when it comes to energy efficiency. However, it still doesn’t come up to how efficient mini-splits are.
Ease of Installation Compared
Mini-splits and PTACs are relatively simple to install.
With wall-mounted mini-splits, the contractor would just drill a 3-inch hole to the exterior wall for the conduit that connects the indoor unit to the compressor outside.
It isn’t complicated when it comes to construction but installation must still be done by professionals. HVAC experts will know if enough refrigerant is running through the system and they can also check for leaks. Leaks will prevent your system from functioning efficiently and safely. Any sort of water or refrigerant leak can be dangerous for your machine and home. Refrigerant and electrical lines should only be handled by professionals as well.
A mini-split installation can be a little more complicated if a ceiling cassette or floor unit will be installed. This requires a carefully planned mini ductwork and the construction job will be more extensive.
When it comes to PTACs, it is much less complicated. A handyman can simply cut through an exterior wall and secure the unit in its spot with a protective sleeve. For the exhaust, a metal grille will have to be made to protect the unit from the outside.
Home Structure Considerations For Both
Both systems can be placed in virtually any space. All you will need is enough wall space.
In this case, mini-splits have some advantages since they can be installed on the ceiling, floors, or an interior wall.
The outside compressor unit is also easy to make a spot for. For ground-level installation, they can be placed on a safe and secure spot outside. For secondary or higher-level units, the contractor will have to build a strong platform for the compressor to safely sit on.
You can only install PTACs through an exterior wall since it requires an outside vent. Not all buildings will be able to accommodate PTAC casings as well. Since they do take up outside wall space, many buildings will have to check for aesthetic and safety requirements.
Home Design Considerations
With a mini-split system, there are more options when it comes to the air handling unit. Ceiling cassettes and floor units can be used if homeowners would like to do away with the large wall units.
This isn’t the case with PTACs since the units come in one package that is large and difficult to camouflage.
Mold, Mildew, and Pests
A mini-split system is probably the safest when it comes to mold, mildew, and pests if it is properly installed. All its components need to be sealed. Since the indoor units and the outside compressor are connected through a tightly sealed conduit, it is almost impossible for pests to infiltrate the system.
Most mini-split units are also integrated with air filtration systems to avoid air contaminants.
There are PTACs that come with air filters as well. However, it’s structure is not easy to seal and secure. You have a large hole through an exterior wall so it is accessible to small pests and other air contaminants.
You can connect both mini-splits and PTACs to a wall thermostat for easy accessibility. Most mini-split and PTAC units also come with remote controls as well.
But the advantage of the latest mini-split models is that they can be accessed through the smartphone. The latest versions are now built with Wi-Fi connectivity so that owners can have remote access to their units. An app can be downloaded to check for current temperatures and switch control settings.
Although AC zoning is possible for both, mini-splits are more efficient when it comes to creating multi-zoned systems since you can attach several indoor units to a single compressor.
With PTACs, you would have to install a unit per room. This means more wall cutting and more energy consumption.
There is also the issue of cost. If you are getting a PTAC since the units are initially cheaper than mini-splits, you will have to get close to the installation costs of a multi-zoned mini-split system. Added to that would be the rising energy costs.
If the intention is to create a lot of AC zones, then multi-zoned mini-splits will be more practical than having several PTAC units installed around the house.
Mini Split Pros and Cons
- Lower Energy Bills
- Easy Installation
- AC Zoning
- More Options for Unit Types and Placements
- Inner Wall Mounting
- Heating and Cooling
- Initial Costs
- Large Indoor Air Handlers
- Should Be Installed by Professionals
PTAC Pros and Cons
- Easily Installed
- AC Zoning
- Heating and Cooling
- Handyman Installation
- Large Indoor Units
- Through the Wall Installment
- Less Energy-Efficient
- Prone to Pests, Mold, and Mildew
It is ideal to choose between a mini-split system and a PTAC if you need to have multi-zoned air conditioning for your home. Different homes and different homeowners have varying requirements, though.
If you prioritize energy-efficiency, air quality, and home aesthetics, then it is better to go for a mini-split system. If you would like to save on the initial costs then PTACs can be a better fit for your budget.