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For decades, forced-air HVAC systems have been the go-to heating and cooling technology in Boston and across the United States. Although centralized air is still the status quo, there’s a growing push for mini-split alternatives.

These ductless HVAC systems might seem like relatively new technology, but they’ve actually been around for a long time. There’s an interesting history behind these systems that provides some insight into their recent rise in popularity stateside.

Taking it way back

Although modern mini-split technology wasn’t developed until the mid-20th century, ductless HVAC strategies have technically been in use for millennia. Many ancient civilizations figured out ingenious ways to keep living spaces warmer or cooler depending on their needs.

For example, the ancient Egyptians used to hang wet reeds over their windows to cool air as it blew through their homes, effectively inventing the first window units. Pretty cool, huh? Well, the fascinating history of HVAC systems doesn’t stop there. Several ancient civilizations also had central fire pits to act as space heaters with a ventilation system to remove smoke.

The invention of the earliest AC unit

Before ductless technology could take over, the first AC unit needed to come into existence. In this department, the world owes a big ‘thank you’ to Willis Haviland Carrier who invented the modern AC unit in 1902. Interestingly, Carrier didn’t set out to design the AC.

Instead, he was hired by a New York publishing company to reduce humidity in their warehouse to prevent the paper from warping. The resulting invention provided the foundation for the HVAC units popular today.

AC technology reaches Japan

Following the end of WWII, the United States and Japan developed close ties. Eventually, air conditioning technology made it across the Pacific which was a welcomed reprieve from the sweltering Japanese summers. But, there was a big problem…literally.

Japanese homes and apartments were simply too compact to accommodate the large AC systems which were designed for the comparatively larger homes in the US. As a result, air conditioners as they were designed at the time really didn’t gain any traction in Japan, but the capabilities of these advanced systems did.

Japanese ingenuity takes over

The science behind the AC might have originated in the US, but it was the Japanese that would implement that technology into a ductless design. In 1959, Mitsubishi successfully created the world’s first mini-split heating and cooling system. Instead of heating air before circulating it through ductwork, this system relied on heat transfer with the use of refrigerant to achieve temperature control.

There were some major design differences, but the practical implications were even more significant. Homeowners could keep up with their heating and cooling needs without having to mess with the expensive, bulky, and inefficient ductwork required by more traditional HVAC models.

The new Mitsubishi mini-split made strides in energy efficiency and noise levels too. It used less energy when compared to centralized units and ran much quieter than even the most advanced US models at the time. Despite these obvious advantages, the ductless HVAC systems didn’t generate much interest in the US as central systems were firmly cemented as the go-to heating and cooling option.

The rest of Asia and Europe join the ductless club

European and other Asian countries faced similar space limitations as Japan, making the compact Mitsubishi ductless mini-split a perfect fit for their heating and cooling needs. Although many Boston homeowners are just now hearing about this technology, it’s been the standard across Europe and Asia for decades.

Ductless HVAC systems start gaining popularity at home

As more and more Americans look for an energy-efficient alternative to centralized systems, ductless mini-splits are becoming increasingly common. Homeowners love their flexible temperature control, whisper-quiet operation, compact design, and reduced energy consumption.

Governments throughout the country are even jumping on the ductless bandwagon by encouraging residents to invest in these HVAC systems through rebates and discounts. Boston homeowners can take advantage of government-sponsored deals through the Mass Save® program.

Interested in making the switch to ductless mini-split technology? You’re in the right place! For over a decade, the HVAC experts at New England Ductless have helped Boston homeowners achieve greater energy efficiency and improved comfort through the installation of ductless mini-splits. Book now to get started.