In a well-appointed living room, a mini-split HVAC unit is installed under a row of windows.
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The ductless HVAC market is heating up

With the ductless HVAC market growing at twice the rate of unitary, make sure you’re not missing out on this growth opportunity. Hear how three contractors are driving sales by embracing the technology.

Ductless HVAC is money on the table

Mike Young said his North Carolina company has installed hundreds of mini-split systems in the past several years.

“Ductless HVAC makes up about 30-35% of our business, and we anticipate that number climbing to somewhere in the 40-50% range over the next several years,” he said. “As a contractor, if you’re not at least considering offering mini-splits, I firmly believe you’ve got your head in the sand.”

If you’re an HVAC contractor and you’re not selling ductless mini-split solutions, you’re leaving money on the table.

The future of HVAC is ductless

Since they were introduced to the U.S. market 30+ years ago, ductless solutions have evolved from niche products used specifically for spot comfort to one of the most sought-after and fastest-growing comfort technologies available.

Markets and Markets reports that the global ductless HVAC market is projected to be worth $145 billion by 2026, growing at a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 8%.

Floyd Nealey, a North Carolina HVAC contractor, credits brand awareness and the government’s endorsement as the greatest driver of his ductless sales. He said he started selling ductless equipment 15 years ago.

“I’ve gotten rid of every fossil fuel you can possibly heat with, including natural gas, propane, steam, oil, etc., and replaced them with Mitsubishi mini-split units,” he said.

While cost was an initial consideration for Nealey’s business, it’s not a primary concern anymore. Nealey said about 40% of his calls come from customers who are interested in replacing their traditional HVAC systems with mini-split systems.

He added that if comfort isn’t the main appeal, customers are drawn to the equipment’s exceptional warranties and efficiency levels.

“We offer 12-year parts and 5-year labor warranties,” Nealey said.

“Over the last 15 years, I’ve had three major issues with our ductless systems, and each one was the fault of our installation team. I’ve even had two units submerge completely under water, and once they dried up, they fired right up. These things can reach SEER levels of 30-plus and are built rock solid. If BMW is the ultimate driving machine, ductless HVAC is the ultimate comfort machine.”

Different types of ductless HVAC systems for every application

Ductless sales at HVAC contractor Dave Molina’s business in Newbury Park, California, have increased 30% over the past three years.

“Just a year ago, we were installing one or two ductless systems a week, and today we’re installing one to two systems a day,” Molina said. “We’re now selling nearly $4 million annually in ductless HVAC solutions.”

Molina said mini-split equipment is a perfect solution for California’s antiquated building stock and rising temperatures.

“Temperatures here used to hover around 75°F, and now they hit 95°-100° regularly. A lot of the homes in California were never designed to have air conditioning. There are lots of residences built in the 1910s or 1920s that were fitted with gravity furnaces, which lack ductwork, and many of the beach houses were built as rectangular brick blocks without attics or crawl spaces,” he said.

“How do you retrofit a traditional three-piece HVAC system into a home that was built 100 years ago that lacks an attic, crawlspace or ductwork? You can’t. Ductless HVAC is the best solution.”

Molina said ductless units are now available in numerous configurations, shapes and colors, which helps alleviate customers’ aesthetic challenges.

“A few years ago, there were very limited options as far as what you could do indoors, and the most common objection has always been, ‘I don’t want to see that on my wall,’” Molina continued.

“Today, we essentially have solutions for every application. We can offer wall mounts, floor mounts, hidden cassettes that can sit inside a ceiling and more. If homeowners have an attic, we have an ultra-quiet unit that is designed to retrofit nicely above a ceiling. We also have a split-duct unit, which is a mini-unit designed for one bedroom and one bath that uses traditional vents.”

A ductless HVAC system allows individual comfort

At the end of the day, comfort is the most important factor when it comes to implementing ductless HVAC solutions, Young said.

“Customers simply want to be able to enjoy different temperatures in different rooms,” he said. “A mother may want it a little warmer in her room, while her son and daughter both want different temperatures in their rooms. With ductless HVAC, everyone gets to control their own environment.”

Nealey has experienced the same demand in his business to replace central AC with ductless.

“Just yesterday I quoted a $16,000 job for an older couple who simply wanted the nicest comfort equipment money could buy,” he said. “They were tired of hot and cold spots, and we identified a mini-split system as the solution to their problems.”

Molina said his phones are ringing off the hook.

“People are recognizing the opportunities ductless offers and they’re willing to pay the price for individualized comfort,” he said.

“Homeowners no longer have to heat their entire 3,000-square-foot homes to warm up one room. They can simply flip a switch and condition the room they’re occupying. That right there is the future of HVAC.”

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