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Ductless Mini-Split Systems: Why They Mean Greater Efficiency for Your Home

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Lots of people come to us with room temperature issues. They’d like to find a solution that can appropriately fix the problem, but they want it to be a low-cost one.

Central air, or other ducted systems, work to cool (or heat) the air in your home, but they also do so in a way where you don’t have much control over where that air goes. Vacant rooms in the house are getting cooled (or heated) in just the same way as the other rooms.

For example, if you have a large section of the basement used for storage—your ducted system is working just as hard to cool that room as it is to cool your master bedroom! In today’s world, that means you are paying a lot more than you need to. Here’s where there may be other inefficiencies in your current system:

Your thermostat.

Thermostats attached to a ducted system are not always built for large homes or homes with rooms that naturally have competing air-flow or temperatures. For example, if you have a thermostat in your master study, if you were to change that temperature, it still affects people in the basement. The point is that the rooms are not treated as individually as they could be.

Wasted energy.

By nature of its very setup, ductwork tends to run through un-insulated spaces of the home or apartment. This of course means there is heat loss. If there is any leak or non-optimal installation of the ductwork, then you can have even greater wasted energy, passed along to you as greater expenses each month.

Fluctuations that translate to reduced efficiency.

In many cases, such a catch-all kind of cooling system is in fact idea. But for certain homes today, having one single speed compressor that can only run at full speed means that your system is only working at full capacity, or it’s not. In other words, your system is either working hard, or it acts “off.” This cycle may cause a bit of inefficiency in the home.

Compare this on-off cycle to how a ductless systems would work. A ductless system would be able to provide control at all times, rather than working in cycles. Even the slightest temperature change would be detected. That means no huge drafts of air or any fluctuations in how your system operates.

Think of a ductless system as a temperature-controlled system that allows you to still stay cool, but to do so in a way that can save you on your energy bill.

Ductless systems are quiet, easy to maintain, and quick for us to install. The technology is more efficient than conventional HVAC systems.

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3 Home Energy Myths That Are Costing You Money

AC repair and AC units myths and the truthMyth #1: When coming home to a hot house, turning the AC down to a temperature lower than the desired house temperature, will help cool the house faster.

Truth: The reality is that this won’t help your house cool (or heat up) any faster. Because your air handler is only going to move warm air out at a set speed, you can’t deliver cool air faster, no matter how low you put the thermostat setting.

Also remember that a risk you run—if you do set the thermostat extremely low—is that you can forget about the setting, and over-cool your house, or you might even freeze your thermostat if it gets too cold.

Myth #2: Leaving a ceiling fan on will cool a room, even if you are not in the room. 

Truth: It might seem obvious but ceiling fans work to circulate the air in the room to create a draft, and they do this through a motor that is powered by electricity.

Ceiling fans are just cooling people, and they are not cooling rooms. In fact, they are not doing anything to lower the temperature of any room. Since they take electricity to run, if anything, they are adding a slight bit of heat to the room.

Second, while the breeze may feel nice, assuming your AC is still running and you haven’t set the thermostat higher, it isn’t saving you any energy. With that said, ceiling fans add a nice breeze, but it’s important to know they aren’t doing any cooling to the room.

Myth #3: Buying or upgrading to a energy efficient AC system will automatically reduce your energy bill.

Truth: This is why you rely on the experts at Greater Comfort to walk through all the choices you have, including the cost savings associated with any kind of change, replacement/repair, or upgrade. Keep in mind that the size of the unit and the location of the installation all are going to impact the efficiency you end up seeing. That means that if a unit is improperly sized or installed, you can end up paying more than you should be paying.

The Department of Energy says that poor installation and improper sized equipment can waste as much as one-third of your energy consumption. That’s where we come in to make sure you receive the quality installation and service to see maximum savings.

Have another idea, myth or urban legend you’d like us to explore? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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Air Conditioning 101: Ductless/Split System

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We’ve talked about it before: a ductless or mini split air conditioner is one that has a split design, and it does not have any system of ducts. In other words, you get cool air—no ductwork required!

The Basics: Ductless Split Air Conditioners

You might also hear these setups being called mini-split, ductless split, or duct-free systems. They are ideal systems for many home because they allow you flexibility as to which zones you want to cool, and how much you want to cool those specific zones (or rooms) in your home

These split system have at least one unit inside the home—your evaporator—and one outdoor unit—the condenser. Small tubes of refrigerant run from the outdoor unit to the indoor units. Indoor units are wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted. All of the indoor units can be used independently of one another.

Pros & Cons


As with any system you choose, be sure to ask your HVAC about all your options—make and model and even the zoning implications for your home and your energy bill (see more on that below).

Generally speaking, people choose ductless split air conditioners because they are cost effective and they work to keep all rooms of your home comfortable. The compactness of a ductless system is also a benefit, especially for people looking to be able to better control temperatures in zones like attics or basements.

Keep in mind your compressor sits outside the home, so the system also has the benefit of being quiet. In many cases, they are also considered easier to maintain than window air conditioners.

Installing Your Ductless Split Air Conditioner

A single zone ductless split system has one evaporator, or air handler, and one condenser. Here’s where we discuss with you the make and model that is best for your needs, and how we can best set up your home in zones. In many cases, you will see one unit per room. Popular choices for installation include within the ceiling (recessed), suspended from the ceiling, concealed in the ceiling or wall mounted.

We’ve been asked which is more “complicated”: installing central air or a ductless split air conditioner system. The answer is that while we wouldn’t call either complicated, but they do of course require a certified HVAC to install. If we had to say, installing a ductless/split system is less complicated than installing central air.

If you’re ready to increase or lower the temperature simply via remote, then maybe a ductless system is right for you! If you are ready for precision and control, ask us to help you look at the possibility of ductless air conditioning for your family.

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Why Every Homeowner Who Wants a Cool, Airtight Home Needs an Energy Audit

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Wanting to find areas that can quickly save you money? Or, perhaps you are looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Either way, it’s time for an energy audit.

How an Energy Audit Works

Energy audits are designed to provide an overview of how your home uses energy and in what ways you can reduce that consumption. Air leakage can increase heating and cooling costs over 30 percent. Air leakage can also contribute to comfort, health and safety-related problems. We work with you to make sure you aren’t wasting money with any hidden air leakage sites or inefficiencies in the home.

Diagnostic Tool: Blower Door Testing 

We use a blower door to measure air leaks in your home or building. You want to reduce leakage in order to:

  • Reduce energy consumption that is due to any air leakage
  • Avoid moisture condensation problems
  • Avoid unwanted drafts caused by air leakage
  • Determine airflow factors that are impacting your air quality

We seal up the building envelope, pressurize it with a blower fan, and measure the air loss to determine where the home is leaking.

One measure of a home’s leakage rate is called ACH, or air changes per hour. This measurement estimates how many times in one hour the entire volume of air inside the building/home leaks to the outside.

Leakier houses have higher ACH’s. For you, that means you have higher cooling and heating costs. Other “costs” include excess moisture, comfort-related issues, and health problems.

We use infrared cameras to pinpoint the exact location of each air leak and any spots where insulation is missing. By developing a clear map of your home’s insulation and potential leaks, we can recommend with precise accuracy where you need to have upgrades made. This is much faster and more cost efficient than having your entire home re-insulated.

What to Expect 

When we visit your home or building, we will want to do walk-through of your space together. This way, we can talk about any areas or zones you feel you have trouble cooling/heating, or any areas you notice more drafts than you’d like.

To prepare, know that we may need access to areas of the home that includes closets attics, your unused rooms, or even crawl spaces. Recall that we will be shutting exterior and interior doors and windows. Anything we would change, such as the controls on atmospheric fossil fuel appliances, we will set back upon completion of the audit. On average, this process may take about an hour. Ask us any questions you have about the process, or about how long it might take for your specific home or building.

The Benefits of an Energy Audit: An Energy Efficient Home With Controlled Ventilation

During our energy audit, we determine exactly where your home/building needs upgrades, and we will recommend changes that will increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

The best part of a home energy audit is that you can then look at a list of specific actions that will save you money, as well as result in less noise pollution and less indoor air pollution. You then get to decide which, if any, changes you want to pursue.

References

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The Top Benefits of a Ductless Cooling & Heating System

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What are the advantages of a ductless system over a forced air system?

Recall that just as it sounds, rather than having ducts that run throughout your entire home, ductless systems give you zoned cooling and heating. We setup units that are strategically installed to optimize cooling and heating efforts with efficiency and control.

Ductless mini-split systems can also be used in single zone or multi-zone applications. Besides being attractive and quiet, systems can be built based on your needs and your home’s layout.

A ductless cooling and heating system helps you save money, stay comfortable, and even be healthier as a family. Read on to see the other benefits of being able to customize your home temperature to your exact needs.

Cost savings.

We might call it efficiency, but as a home owner, that equates to saving money! You already know how your cooling & heating is responsible for more than half of your energy bill each year. Because a ductless system can help you save up to 30 percent of your energy costs, you have huge potential for savings.

Eco-friendly.

While it might no be the major reason you decide to go ductless, it’s still good to know: ask us about our systems that are as much as 40 percent more efficient than window units. Ductless means you can target the areas you want hotter or cooler, meaning you really do have more control over all aspects of your system. Largely considered one of the most eco-friendly systems you can adopt today, this means you can stay comfortable, cool, and still do your part for the environment.

Easier to maintain.

Not only are ductless systems easy to install, but they are easy to maintain. Filters can also last up to 10 years so that means you won’t have to replace them very often. Filters for a ductless system are easy to remove and you can typically even rinse them in the sink to clean.

Cleaner air.

Say goodbye to indoor air-caused allergies! We’ve talked before about the dust, pollen, bacteria and stale air within the home that can do harm to your family’s health. A ductless system is able to purify the air and remove these pollutants.

Ultimate comfort.

Consider how a split-ductless provides you with temperature control in the rooms your family uses most. Or, look at it the opposite way: you no longer have to waste energy cooling or heating the rooms that you don’t spend a lot of time in.

Combine efficiency, targeting capabilities, and flexibility and you get a comfortable family!

A ductless system clearly has many benefits over a conventional system. Ask us for more information if you’d like to compare costs and see what your optimal options are.

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Myth Busters: Your Energy Bill in the Summer

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Many of us want to know whether it’s true: if you set your thermostat to a higher temperature in the summer months when you leave your home, does it save you money?

People on one end of the argument have said that if you turn the temperature up a few degrees when you don’t need the house as cool (or down when in the winter months), then you’ll negate any savings when you turn the temperature back down (or up in the winter).

Although that logic might sound possible, it’s not true.

The Truth About Using a Programmable Thermostat

Instead, setting your thermostat to a warmer temperature while you are away in the summer, then decreasing the setting again when you need cooling, does save you money.

Just how much money could be saved using this strategy? According to the Department of Energy, if you set your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees when you leave or go to sleep, it can save you 5 to 15 percent on your energy bill over a year. (See the article here.)

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by taking just a few minutes out of your day to set the thermostat.

Here’s another way of looking at it: if you set your thermostat to 76-78 degrees when you’re home, and off when you are not home, you will likely use 1-3 percent less energy per degree that the thermostat is set above 72. (Source: My Energy.)

While that estimated savings from setting your temperature back is greater for buildings or homes in milder climates, than for those in more severe climates, you can save money by taking advantage of your thermostats settings. For many of us, this is especially easy when you have a programmable thermostat (unless you have heat pumps—in certain cases) you can set and not worry about.

If you have heat pumps, electric resistance heating or steam heat, talk to us and we can help you implement a strategy that is the most cost-effective. If your digital thermostat is overly complicated, ask us for help to set up your system, which you can typically do on a daily and/or weekly programming schedule.

Here’s another scenario to consider: think about a normal temperature of a building or home to be around 68 degrees. When your house temperature drops below normal, it loses heat to the environment much more slowly than it does when the heat is at its normal temperature of 68. If you’re home is using less energy to heat, and then there is less heat lost to the environment, that means there is more savings for the homeowner!

Those savings are not negated when you turn the thermostat back up. With that said, avoid changing the thermostat to a colder setting than normal when you do return home and change the settings. You will not cool your home any faster, and this kind of action could result in greater energy expenses because you might excessively cool your home.

Set It & Save

If you are going on vacation, spend a lot of time away from the home, or you want to save a lot of money while you sleep, be sure to adjust your thermostat to take advantage of these cost savings.

Need help operating your thermostat for maximum energy savings? Let us know.

Sources

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Whole-Home Air Cleaners vs. Single-Room: Which is Right for Your Home?

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You want a home that’s sealed so that you see the benefit of maximum energy efficiency, but at the same time, you want ventilation and the ability to properly filter out bacteria and air particles that can be damaging the health of your family.

You want a home that’s sealed so that you see the benefit of maximum energy efficiency, but at the same time, you want ventilation and the ability to properly filter out bacteria and air particles that can be damaging the health of your family.

Can you have both? The answer is yes, which is part of why home owners often ask us about two kinds of air cleaners: whole-home and single-room cleaners.

Single-Room vs. Whole-Home

Single-room air cleaners are what they sound like: cleaners that cover small areas within the home. In many cases single-room cleaners have a fan of some kind and an electronic component to charge the air to increase your filtration. Their benefits include the fact they are small and can be moved easily. Although they only cover a small range, they are effective in what they do for individual rooms.

One drawback to a single-room cleaner is that just because one room has air that is made more clean, doesn’t mean you are able to filter the air that exists in the rest of the house. While one or two rooms might have air that is healthier for your family in the short-term, the rest of the house can still have pollutants, dust mites, pet dander or other particles that can simply work back into the room you are working to clean.

The Benefits of Whole-Home Air Cleaners

Whole-home air cleaners, on the other hand, are integrated into your heating & air conditioning system. They utilize your furnace or your air handler to clean the air throughout the home. This means that not just one room is fully cleaned: you can know that the entire home air that has been filtered through the system.

Disposable filters, washable filters, electrostatic filters, and even UV lights are a few of the variety of options you have to remove impurities in the air utilizing your heating & cooling system.

The other benefits include:

  • The ability to remove or deactivate up to 99 percent of capture particles including most dust, allergens and particles in the air throughout the entire home
  • Protection for your entire HVAC thanks to reduced airborne particles
  • Higher efficiency: maximum airflow without sacrificing overall efficiency for your system
  • Help eliminate or relieve allergy symptoms or asthma due to pollutant’s within the home
  • Minimal maintenance or upkeep, especially compared to filters that are not modern

Did we also mention they operate quietly? Most whole-home air cleaning systems can be incorporated into any existing heating and cooling system (new build or retrofit) and you have lots of options to get started.

Ask us today so we can find a solution that best fits your needs, now and in the future!

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Want Allergy Relief? Your Quick Guide to Air Purification

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When it comes to air purification and filtration, modern filtration systems work to purify your air. That’s both maintenance, and preventative in nature.

Air filtration also works to “undo” the fact that the average house has a build-up of contaminants.

That’s because we can have excess moisture in our homes, or we can have heating and cooling systems that end up circulating dust and bacteria in the home. Many of us have pets that contribute to poorer air quality, and smoking also adds toxins into the air we are breathing. When we open doors or even windows, pollen and other allergens are then introduced and “trapped” inside the home.

Ask any homeowner if they want clean and healthy air, and not surprisingly, you will hear, “Yes!” Here are 4 types of air purification to know about for your home.

1. Ionizing Purifiers

Ionizing purifiers use corona discharge to create molecules that are called ions. Molecules that pass through this electric field are ionized. When a particle in the air is charged, it will then attract to something of the opposite charge. The purifier then works to attract the particles, causing them to cluster together and settle out of the air.

2. Adsorbents

Adsorbent material can be found in many air purifiers; the process is what it sounds like, helping to get rid of fumes, chemicals or odors we have in the air. Adsorption, not to be confused with absorption, is where one substance is trapped on the surface of another. In this way, substances can be separated.

3. UV Light

UV light is a part of some air purifiers. The UV light makes certain microorganism sterile, eliminating certain airborne virus and bacteria in the process.

4. Filters

Air cleaners are filters that simply work by passing air through a filter to remove particles. This works to remove particles from the air and it also prevents damage or lack of efficiency in the furnace.

Just like there are many air purifiers, there are many subcategories of air filters. A catechin filter is a filter that many people are interested in, and it works to ensure the air in your home (or building) is just that: clean, fresh, and as healthy for you as possible. The upside to it all is that the catechin filter doesn’t require the maintenance that filters did in years past.

Catechin pre-filtration starts as a large pre-filter collects odors that exist in your home. What also comes during so-called pre-filtration is the inactivation of viruses and bacteria in your home. That’s where the word “catechin” comes from. The pre-filter contains catechin, which is an element found in green tea that acts as an antibacterial and also a deodorizer.

People like to call this filtering method natural air filtration. Not only is it natural, the filters are easy to remove and they are long-lasting.

Filters can actually be quite complex, and this is just one sub-category. Keep in mind there are also filters designed for odor removal, such as Platinum Deodorizing filters. Remember that maintenance of any filter is required, and an integral part in the process of working to get the cleanest and purest possible indoor air. 

Did you know that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks we have in the US? (Source: EPA.) Since most of us spend 90 percent of our time indoors, the good news is that we can do something about it thanks to air cleaners/purifiers and advanced filters we have available.

Ask us about air filtration or purification that can help you fight to minimize your allergies, no matter the season.

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What To Know About Your HVAC When Preparing to Sell Your Home

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Did you know nearly 7 in 10 home buyers are willing to pay much for a home with central air conditioning than a home without? For many, a heating & cooling system is an extremely influential factor when deciding to buy a home.

If you’re thinking about selling your home at any time in the future, here are some tips to keep top of mind as you continue to take care of your home.

Recognize how you are using your programmer

When ensuring your home is in its optimal condition for selling, you want to be sure you have a programmable thermostat that lets you keep the house at a higher temperature when you are not home–and then cooler again during the hours you are consistently home. For central units, this is something new home owners will want to see today.

Ask us about your insulation

One of the “easiest” ways you can make sure you are maintaining an efficient home is to examine the way air is being sealed and your current home insulation. Also keep in mind that sometimes old insulation can be a problem, and may need to be replaced (moisture over time, etc.).

Having signs of outdated or under-insulated areas of your home could be a negative signal to people looking at your home, even if it is easy to replace and/or remove. Time and time again we see improvements that can greatly improve your insulation in your home! Additionally, many times adding the right kind of insulation before replacing an AC unit means you can help that unit perform more efficiently, which means more cost savings passed along to you in the meantime.

Replace your filters consistently

Of course you want to find the optimal mix between filtration and energy costs associated with pull the air through your filters, and you also want to make sure you are replacing your air filters as consistently as possible before putting your house on the market.

Typically you want to install a new filter every month during the cooling season (but ask us if you have any questions on that general guideline.) Remember that your AC’s efficiency is highly dependent on your filters. You can see the MERV of your filter to see how well your air is being filtered at any given time.

Properly fix any leaks

It seems like an obvious one, but be sure not to neglect any airflow leaks in the home. Remember that AC units can be tricky to seal properly, but the difference it makes can be substantial. Ask us if you need help to examining the airflow in your home.

Consider making an upgrade or going ductless—if the ROI is there

A general rule of thumb is that homes that have more modern, efficient cooling and heating systems are going to be easier to sell, and people will pay more for a more modern system. As ductless systems continue to become more and more popular, people are becoming more aware of the health and comfort benefit of an efficient system.

We are here to help if you have any questions or you think that your home could benefit from an upgrade. We can help you weigh the benefits and the estimated costs you will be able to add-in when selling your home.

Sign up for a seasonal maintenance/tune-up program

Regular maintenance of your home heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is critical for its long life, and it will pay off when you sell your home. Yes, it can prevent breakdowns, but it can also save you money in the meantime.

Greater Comfort’s preventative maintenance program includes two inspections per year. Beyond changing your filters to ensure optimal efficiency, we take a look and record the following on our cooling inspections:

  • Refrigerant charge
  • Refrigerant temperatures
  • Compressor amp draws
  • Condenser fan amp draws
  • Evaporator temperature drop
  • Evaporator fan moto amp draws
  • Mega OHM compressor windings
  • Verify proper thermostat operation & programming
  • Inspect contractors
  • Disconnects & wiring
  • Tightening of all electrical connections
  • Blowing out all condensate drains for debris and verifying proper operation

Not only will you make sure you are complying with your warranty, when applicable, but you won’t regret the effort you put into your home now as you prepare it for a future sale.

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Why Ductless Heating & Cooling Systems are Rising In Popularity

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Do you have a room in your home that seems to always be much hotter (or much cooler) than the rest of the rooms? Is it a room that isn’t often occupied, whether intentionally or unintentionally that way?

Maybe it’s a room that you also suspect is increasing your energy bill, even if it seems like a lost cause to try to evenly cool or heat the room to match the temperature of the rest of the house!

If you have one of these rooms in your house—whether it be a guest room or one you don’t even feel like you can fully utilize—it might be time to consider a ductless system.

What’s a ductless heating and cooling system?

Ductless systems are a great way to control the temperature of a single room, and they also allow you to reduce energy costs at the same time. A ductless cooling and heating system has an indoor unit that is mounted either on a wall or ceiling. It also has an outdoor unit that houses your condenser. Combined, the system is connected by a conduit—instead of any ductwork, and hence the name.

This means you are getting heating and cooling from one system, which is why you will hear that the systems are easier to install. That also plays a part into why they are more efficient than window ACs or space heaters, which people often turn to for those pesky single rooms that always are too hot or too cool. Another benefit is that they take up very little space being that they have no ductwork.

Besides better dealing with single-room solutions, what are the other conditions in which a ductless heating and cooling system might be a fit for your home?

1. You are looking for monthly savings.

Because ductless systems are very efficient, one of the major motivations for people is the monthly savings. Ask us more about your specific home and expected cost savings each month.

2. You are looking for cleaner and all around healthier air.

Not only do you get ideal comfort in all months of the year, but a ductless system means air purifying filters and works consistently to get rid of stale air, circulating fresh air in the process. Who wouldn’t want a multi-stage filtration that reduces dust, bacteria, pollen, allergens and more in the air?

3. You have electric heat currently.

Ready to replace your inefficient electric baseboard, wall and ceiling heat, electric furnace, or other space heaters? We thought so. We can also work with you to figure out what is best for you, which may mean supplementing your current setup.

4. You have had, or plan to have, a remodel or new addition to your home.

When you add to a building or your home, in many cases, adding to the existing ductwork or pipes in a home can be costly—or worse yet—it can be inefficient in the long-run. Ask us if a ductless system would be a more effective and less costly option for your add-on. If you are building a new home, there are even more possibilities.

It’s clear that ductless means even, year-round comfort in your home. Remember that one of the biggest reasons ductless cooling and heating systems have gotten so popular is due to how ductless systems take less power, meaning the efficiency is passed on to the homeowners as cost-savings.

If you are ready for quiet and even air in your home and want to talk more about ductless heating and cooling systems, as well as opportunities for tax credits and rebates if you install a ductless system, let us know today.

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