Best Way to Air-Condition a Third Floor or Attic in Havertown, PA
A finished attic or third floor is usually the hottest part of the house in the summer. So, even if you have central air, this area’s still a problem.
However, ductless cooling does an excellent job in these situations. They can isolate the problem areas and fix them. Plus, they’re energy-efficient and quiet.
And, installation is simple and straightforward. You don’t need any extra work done on your house to accommodate your new setup.
Maybe it sounds too good to be true. And, perhaps a decade or two ago, it was.
But, these setups have been becoming much more popular over the last ten years. And, the technology behind them has improved a lot, too.
In this article, we’ll go through how these work and why they’re especially well-suited for this part of your house.
Along the way, we’ll also compare them to other cooling options.
How Ductless Cooling Works
With ductless cooling, an air handler in the room draws in warm air, dehumidifies it, and sends it to an outdoor heat pump through a small refrigerant line. The heat pump extracts the heat from the air and sends it back to the air handler to circulate in the room.
First, as the name implies, you don’t need ductwork. For a third-floor room, we would mount the air handler almost directly above the heat pump.
Then, we’d run the refrigerant, power, and drain lines through the wall behind the unit and outside.
Even if you used this setup for your entire home with multiple air handlers, that setup would be about the same.
People often call these systems “mini splits” because they consist of these two relatively small components.
So, the first significant advantage here is that you don’t need to build ductwork that reaches the top floor. Designing, fabricating, and installing all that gets very expensive very quickly.
And, it will take up a lot of room in a space that usually has a low or sloped ceiling. Or, that otherwise doesn’t offer a whole lot of living space.
Benefits of Ductless Cooling in a Third-Story Room
Along with easy installation, ductless cooling is great for a third-story room thanks to these features:
- Zoned HVAC for Each Area
- Low Operating Costs
- Whisper-Quiet Operation
Let’s break these benefits down a little further.
Zoned HVAC for Each Area
Each air handler has a thermostat built into it. So, it tracks the temperature of the room where it’s located — not the temperature in the living room three stories down.
Having one thermostat for the entire home is part of why your bedrooms are usually too hot.
Hot air rises and collects on the top floor of your house. That’s where it’s meeting the heat coming in from the sunlight. Then, it has no place to go.
Meanwhile, your downstairs is cooler, so the thermostat shuts off the AC.
With ductless, you always measure the temperature in the room you’re treating. So, if that attic is hotter than downstairs, the air handler stays on to cool it down.
The indoor unit also has state-of-the-art sensors and fans. These especially come in handy for loft areas divided into two rooms. Or, ones with different nooks and crannies.
In those cases, the system identified hot spots in its zone. Then, the fans direct the cooled air directly to those areas.
Low Operating Costs
Here’s where we’ll mention the one sticky point for a lot of people: The upfront cost. Ductless AC starts at around $3,500. And, the price increases with each zone. But, you make up for it with much lower cooling costs.
Mitsubishi mini splits use inverter technology, which is like cruise control on your car.
Unlike central air, it doesn’t cycle on and off a few times every hour. Instead, most of the time, your system runs in a low-power mode.
This process maintains the temperature you want all the time. That’s in contrast to a traditional system waiting for the house to get a little too hot and then switching on to cool it back down.
The old way is like continually braking and accelerating in your car: A whole lot of wasted gas and wear and tear.
Instead, inverter technology keeps things humming along smoothly at a constant rate. It uses less energy and allows the parts to last longer.
Compare that also to a window air conditioner or portable AC. Those are much cheaper, but they wreak havoc on your electric bill in the summer.
“Whisper-Quiet” is not an exaggeration when it comes to these systems. At most, they produce around 24 decibels of sound. That’s as “loud” as leaves rustling outside.
This is a major benefit for dormers and attics without a lot of space. You get rid of the roaring window unit that you can’t get too far away from in a smaller room.
Even at full blast, you’d need to be right near the handler in complete silence before you heard anything from it.
Supplement Your Heating
Here’s one more advantage to a mini split system, and one that lasts well past the summer: Supplemental heat.
We talked about the heat transfer process. Well, it works in reverse, too.
When it gets chilly out, the heat pump can draw in what little warmth, or thermal energy, there is outside.
Then, it amplifies it and sends it up to the handler.
This way, you can add a little extra heat to your third floor — which, in the winter, is probably the coldest place in your house.
Mitsubishi also makes Hyper Heat models that can provide heating even when it’s as cold as negative 13 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
But, if you need a little extra warmth all the way upstairs, you don’t need to lay out the extra money for Hyper Heat.
Instead, you can consider the heat as a bonus feature on your new, quiet, energy-efficient, super comfortable air conditioner.