Ductwork is what originally allowed air conditioning and heating systems to spread conditioned air throughout a house, rather than concentrating it in one place. The earliest ducted systems were nothing more than metal pipes extending from basement furnaces (or even just fireplaces) that allowed heat to rise to different rooms in a building. Today, forced-air central AC and heating systems use powerful air handlers and efficient ducts to see that comfort is sent throughout a house.
But technology has also developed ductless HVAC systems. Also called ductless mini split heat pumps, these HVAC systems operate like standard heat pumps (cooling and heating air through circulation of refrigerant), but the single outdoor unit connects through walls to separate air handlers placed around the house. Each air handler has its own fan and refrigerant coil so it can blow the cooled or heated air directly into the living space—no ductwork required.