What is ducted air conditioning and how does it work?

What is ducted air conditioning and how does it work?

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Ducted air conditioning unit

As modern air conditioning continues to evolve with enhanced designs and new features, the range and variety are constantly increasing, which can make it difficult to make a decision on what kind of air conditioning system will be best for you. Split air conditioning systems with an indoor unit per room paired to an outdoor unit are one of the most common types used in UK homes, but the ducted air conditioning common in the US can cover multiple rooms whilst only needing a single concealed indoor unit paired with an outdoor. If you’re not keen on having an air conditioning unit on your bedroom wall or want heating/cooling throughout your entire home, a ducted system seems a sensible choice, making it seem strange they aren’t as common in the UK. There are several reasons why ducted air conditioning units aren’t as common as you would expect, but the main reason is because UK homes often lack the wall cavity space required for the concealed ductwork to be installed.


Read on to find out more about ducted air conditioning including how it works and what makes it different from other air conditioning systems.


How do ducted air conditioners work?


Ducted air conditioning uses the same air source heat pump technology utilised by all air conditioning systems and operates on exactly the same principles with just a few differences. All air conditioning systems use their outdoor units to absorb ambient thermal energy from the air and transfer it inside a building to be released by their indoor units when heating, or operate in reverse to transfer excess heat within the building to the outside for a cooling effect.

Whilst a split air conditioning system will have an indoor unit in the room you wish to heat/cool and a corresponding outdoor unit, a ducted air conditioning system will use just a single larger indoor unit concealed in either loft space or basement, This indoor ducted unit is connected with concealed ductwork to multiple rooms instead of dedicating an indoor unit for each room, although a ducted system does still require an outdoor unit to move the heat energy between locations.


Did you know? 

Ducted air conditioning systems are also sometimes referred to as central air conditioning systems, but they both refer to the same type of technology.


What are the benefits of a Ducted Air Conditioning system?


You can heat and cool your home without an indoor AC unit in every room

Ducted air conditioning systems utilise a network of metal ducts to connect a single concealed indoor AC unit to multiple rooms within an indoor space, providing hot or cold air via individual vents. Unlike split AC systems, individual indoor AC units are not required as the conditioned air is circulated entirely via the concealed ductwork.


Ducted Air conditioners only need one outdoor unit

As ducted AC uses the same method to provide heating and cooling as other air conditioning systems, they still require an outdoor unit to either absorb or expel heat. Although much like multiroom split air conditioning systems, ducted AC requires only a single discreet outdoor unit in order to function, requiring significantly less outdoor space for an installation.


You can independently control the temperature within individual rooms

Ducted air conditioning systems can have two different control methods, central control will set all connected rooms to cool or heat to the same temperature, although with zoned control you can set the temperature of individual rooms instead.  Although this feature is not always standard for ducted systems and usually comes with an increased purchase cost.


Ideal for large spaces in commercial buildings

Ducted air conditioning systems are generally more powerful as they are designed for use in multiple rooms, but similarly they are also capable of providing heating and cooling to large open plan indoor spaces with that extra power as well. This is why you’ll find ducted air conditioning systems quite frequently in locations like hotels, office spaces or even on the ceiling in large shopping areas as they are both effective and have excellent versatility in commercial buildings too.


Why are ducted systems so uncommon in UK homes?

Ducted air conditioning is still very uncommon in UK homes compared to split air conditioning systems and the main reasons for this include;


UK houses aren’t designed with concealed ducting in mind

Concealed ductwork requires considerable wall cavity space but UK homes are traditionally designed to retain heat and feature brick walls with small cavities as a result. This presents a problem if you’re looking to install a ducted system as minimal wall cavity space combined with insulation leaves very limited space to accommodate any concealed ducting.


Maintenance can be a challenge

For ducted air conditioning systems, airflow throughout the ductwork is key to its performance and energy efficiency overall, this makes it essential for these ducts to be maintained regularly to prevent dirt accumulation on filters, any leaks in the ductwork itself or vent blockages. This is especially important to in order to prevent the spread of mould and bacteria, not to mention performance-related issues created by obstructions that will result in the air conditioning systems needing to work harder in order to provide heating and cooling effects. As ducted systems in home utilise concealed ductwork, gaining access in order to clean the system fully and effectively can be difficult and time consuming, even for professionals, which can result in higher maintenance costs with a greater likelihood of ineffective cleaning.


Efficiency Limitations

Whilst ducted air conditioning can be a subtle way of cooling multiple rooms, the ducts themselves can be subject to general wear, particularly older systems which can then result in airflow leaks. It is these leaks that will directly reduce efficiency, resulting in higher energy usage but worse still, cooling throughout the rooms can become uneven as it struggles to reach and maintain temperatures. This results in not only a reduction in air quality, but it will be unable to effectively circulate air evenly around the room too. Similarly, if you opt for centralised control it will operate much like a gas-powered central heating system and will provide heating/cooling for all rooms, regardless of whether they require cool air or heating and will increase operation costs as a result.


Higher installation cost

Whilst ducted air conditioning systems do not require individual indoor air conditioning units as you would expect with split wall mounted units, they do require extensive ductwork throughout your home in order to connect the multiple rooms you intend to air condition. The concealed ducting is labour intensive to install, particularly when trying to accommodate for limited void space and is not only more complex but more time consuming to install in comparison to a split system too. This means that a ducted air conditioner system is significantly more expensive to install in comparison to split air conditioning systems, particularly if you opt for individual room control (zoned) as these systems are typically more complex and more costly as a result.


What is ducted air conditioning and how does it work? Call MAC today for more information or check our our website for a free No-Obligation Quote!


Whether you require an AC quotation for your home or business, MAC are specialists with years of experience installing and maintaining different types of air conditioning systems from Mitsubishi Electric, Daikin and more. We provide comprehensive solutions for a range of environments including residential households, retail chains and industrial sites with . Contact us today to speak to our knowledgeable team on 0121 730 4800 for expert advice on your ideal solution or to discuss your needs and requirements. But if you’re short on time, that’s okay too! For an instant price you can use our free, commercial and domestic pricing calculators to provide a free quote! You can even get in touch with us via WhatsApp on 07561 570 029  or send us a message to sales@midlandaircon.co.uk.



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