How Does High Velocity Air Conditioning Work?

High velocity air conditioning works similarly to a traditional HVAC system but is more efficient.
Written by Heather Bernhard
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jun 01, 2022
High velocity air conditioning works similarly to a traditional HVAC system: a compressor on the outside of your home creates cool air and sends it into the house through ducts. 
That’s where the similarities end, though. High velocity AC changes the temperature in a room faster than traditional AC and offers better humidity control. Plus, it uses less energy to boot. 
If you’re considering installing a new central air system in your house, this guide from home and
auto insurance
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will tell you everything you need to know about high velocity air conditioning—including some important pros and cons.
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What is high-velocity air conditioning?

High-velocity air conditioning (also known as “small-duct”) works similarly to a traditional
HVAC system
. A compressor on the outside of your house creates cool air, then sends it through air handlers where it’s vented out into your home.
The difference? High-velocity AC doesn’t use those same giant metal ducts. Instead, it sends air through small diameter flexible tubing, which is helpful when you’re working in tight spaces. Likewise, the vents inside the home are less than half the size of conventional vents.
You may assume that the system is less efficient because the air handlers are smaller, but that’s not the case. 
High-velocity air conditioning cools air faster than conventional systems do, all while using less energy to do it. Plus, the flexible tubing is insulated, meaning less cold air is lost than with typical units. 

Pros and cons of high-velocity AC

Despite being generally acknowledged as a better alternative to traditional HVAC systems, high-velocity AC does have some downsides. Here are the pros and cons
  • Great for old homes that don’t have traditional ductwork
  • Brings room to temperature quickly
  • Runs less than conventional units
  • No heavy metal ductwork or grillwork
  • Typically does not require significant remodeling
  • Removes more humidity from the air than conventional AC
  • Estimating the exact cost ahead of time is difficult
  • Air comes out of the vents forcefully 
  • Many people find the systems loud and distracting
  • Because it’s one unit taking care of the entire home, you can’t create “zones”
Key Takeaway When deciding whether to get a high-velocity AC system, carefully weigh the pros and cons. If you’re worried about energy savings, a high-velocity system might be for you. If you absolutely must have zones, then you should go with conventional.

Installing a high-velocity air conditioning system

Installing a high-velocity air conditioning system is generally pretty easy—even for beginners. This is mainly due to the ease of design, which is similar across all brands: the ductwork is made up of flexible tubing that branches off the plenum (a box that connects to the HVAC system).
These ducts are typically less than 1-inch in diameter and can fit within nearly any existing framing, so you won’t have to do any demolition work. Likewise, the plenum is so tiny it can be installed nearly anywhere, from the attic to
the basement
Finally, the tubing is flexible, and bends or kinks have little effect on airflow, so you can work it around almost anything inside the walls. You may run into some issues inside the walls of older homes, such as fire blocks, but you can usually find an alternate route.
The system itself typically runs between $1,800 and $2,900, and if you pay for professional installation, you can expect to add on another $350 to $500.
Key Takeaway If you have an older home (especially with balloon construction), a high-velocity system’s small tubing is ideal for piping through the walls without damaging the existing framework. 

What are the costs?

Estimating the cost of a high-speed air conditioning system can be complicated. While contractors don’t need to knock down walls to install ductwork, they do need to run the tubing inside those walls. The problem? They don’t know what they’ll find there. 
Running tubing should be an easy job; however, workers may encounter obstacles they need to work around. This is especially true in
older homes
, where you can find just about anything in the walls, and it can add significant time. 
That being said, you should expect to pay slightly more than you would for a conventional air conditioning system—but you’ll more than make up for that with money saved on energy bills. 

Does home insurance cover air conditioning?

Home insurance may help pay for your HVAC system repairs or replacement if it’s damaged by a
covered peril
, such as fire or hail. 
Your homeowners policy will not cover your HVAC system if it’s damaged by normal wear and tear, lack of maintenance, or accidental damage. 
All policies are different, so it pays to read the fine print: yours doesn’t necessarily have the same covered perils and all the others. 
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