Ductless mini split systems are the compact version of HVAC. They consist of two small units that work together to control the temperature inside your home. They don’t require extensive ductwork or expensive equipment. Each room in your home is controlled based on a small remote control, allowing for one room to stay cooler than the others, or vice versa. Ductless mini split systems are easy to use, affordable, and energy efficient. If you live in a home without ductwork, or are looking for an alternative to traditional HVAC, ductless mini split systems might be right for you.

What Is a Mini Split?

A ductless mini split air conditioning unit works like a regular central air conditioner, but without the ducts. Also called a ductless system, these units can be used in a variety of ways including basements, attics, home additions, or in homes that were built without ductwork. Ductless mini split systems can both heat and cool a home efficiently all year long.

How Does a Mini Split Work?

The basic function of a ductless mini split is like a traditional air conditioner. It has two main components: an indoor unit, and an outdoor unit.

  • Indoor Unit –  The indoor unit is placed in different zones, or rooms, you’d like to heat and/or cool. These may be mounted in the wall, floor, or ceiling. Their main job is to take warm air from your home, blow it over cold evaporator coils and blow cool air out of the unit and into the room.
  • Outdoor Unit – The outdoor unit contains a compressor and condenser. It carries refrigerant to the indoor unit and carries hot air back outside. One outdoor unit can typically service 4-5 indoor units.

How indoor and outdoor parts of ductless mini split systems work.

Types of Mini Splits

Like most HVAC systems, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to mini splits. You can work with an HVAC technician to decide what type of system will work best for your home. There are two main categories and seven different types of ductless mini split systems.

  • Single Zone – Single zone mini split systems will heat or cool a single room or “zone.” They consist of one outdoor compressor and one indoor unit.
  • Multi Zone – Multi zone mini splits are designed to heat or cool multiple rooms or zones in a home. These systems consist of one outdoor compressor and up to 8 indoor units that can be placed around the home.

The specific types of ductless mini split systems include:

  • Ceiling Cassette – A ceiling cassette consists of an outdoor unit and an indoor unit that mounts on the ceiling. This design is great for those who want to keep an indoor unit out of sight and the ceiling mount delivers a wider air flow than other units.

Ceiling cassette used for ductless mini split systems.

  • Wall Mount – This is the most common type of ductless mini split systems. They are installed high up on a wall, near the ceiling and are ideal for any size of room. They are the least expensive type of unit and sleek design allows them to seamlessly incorporate to your existing home style.

Wall mounted ductless mini split.

  • DIY – DIY mini splits are a smaller version of a ductless mini split system designed for homeowners to install themselves. They include a pre-charged line that can be installed without special tools.

DIY ductless mini split.

  • Concealed Duct – A concealed duct can be installed inside the ceiling and connected to other units. If you’re looking to heat or cool multiple rooms or one larger area, this is the best option.

A concealed duct can be installed inside the ceiling or wall.

  • Floor Standing – Floor standing mini splits are used when you cannot mount a unit on the wall or ceiling. They simply rest on the floor against a wall. They are also a more portable option that can be moved from room to room.

A portable option for an AC unit.

Benefits of a Mini Split System

There are several benefits when choosing a ductless mini split system. The major benefits include:

  • Increased Energy Efficiency – Ducted systems can lose up to 30% of energy simply pushing the air through the ductwork. Because the air is pumped directly into the room, mini split systems waste zero energy, and are more efficient in cooling the space.
  • Improved Air Quality – Ductless mini split systems don’t collect dust, particles, and debris like a duct system will.
  • Cost Less – The biggest cost to homeowners is heating and cooling. Because a ductless mini split system uses significantly less energy than traditional HVAC, it costs homeowners much less to operate.

Those who would benefit the most from a ductless system are:

  • Those with no pre-existing ductwork. Because the mini split system is designed to work without ductwork, this is a much easier option than trying to install ductwork in an existing home.
  • Those with a room that has heating and cooling problems. If you have one room or area of your home that has a hard time staying warm/cool, a ductless mini split system can be the perfect solution because it’s designed to work in small spaces.
  • Those in a multi-family home. When you have multiple family members living in one space, each one has their own level of comfort. A ductless mini split system allows each room to maintain its temperature independent of the rest of the home.

Where are the Best Places to Put a Mini Split?

A ductless mini split system can be installed almost anywhere. However, bedrooms, basements, and room additions are the most common places to put a mini split.

  • Bedrooms – Ductless mini split systems allow for everyone to choose their own comfort level when it comes to sleep and personal space. You can even add ductless mini splits to homes that already have a main HVAC system so everyone can have their own ideal temperature settings.
  • Basements or Attics – Basements and attics tend to be either really cold or really hot. A ductless mini split system is a great way to extend comfort control to basement areas.
  • Room Additions – If you add space to your home, your HVAC system may not be able to handle the extra work. Because running ductwork is expensive, you may be better off using a ductless mini split system in home additions.

What are the best places to install ductless mini split systems.

What Size Mini Split Do I Need?

Having the right size ductless mini split system is crucial. A correctly sized system means it can efficiently and effectively cool or heat your home without overpaying for a system that’s too big for your needs.  Ductless mini split systems are rated based on a BTU system. The larger the space, the higher the BTU rating you will need. To measure for a ductless mini split system, you must follow two basic steps:

Step 1: Determine the square footage of the room(s)

Step 2: Multiply the square footage by 25.

Although it seems simple, there are multiple variables that can affect your needs. The best way to size your system is to have a professional HVAC technician evaluate your space and give you an estimate.

What size system you need.

How Much Does a Mini Split Cost?

Many homeowners will choose a ductless mini split system because of the significant cost savings over ducted HVAC systems. There are several factors that play into the final cost of a ductless mini split system.

  • Type of unit – Wall units are the least expensive type, but ceiling units tend to look more natural in the home and may be worth the additional cost to have better airflow.
  • Brand – As with most products, there are budget brands, mid-range brands, and luxury brands. The same is true with ductless mini split systems. The brand you choose can make a difference in the price, longevity, warranty, and features of your system.
  • Size – The higher the BTU rating, the more expensive the unit will be. Therefore, it’s important to select the right size. Too small and your home won’t maintain a comfortable temperature. Too large and you’ll overpay for your unit.
  • Location – If the distance from outdoor unit to indoor unit is more than 15 feet, you will incur an additional cost. In addition, if an indoor unit can utilize gravity to drain, no additional equipment is needed. However, if the condensate needs to be forced out, a pump is required which adds to the cost.

Typically, a ductless mini split system, including labor, will cost you $3700 – $6000 for a single zone/one room system and up to $9000 for a multiple zone system.

Don’t skimp for a cheap installation. The difference between a great installation and a mediocre one can add (or subtract) years from your system and increase (or decrease) your efficiency and comfort.

FAQs About Mini Splits

Choosing which system is “better” depends a lot on what you’re looking for. Mini split systems are slightly higher upfront, but they are more efficient, so you’ll spend less over time. Even a mid-range mini split system will carry a higher efficiency rating than a high-efficiency air conditioning system.

Cleaning a mini split system is relatively simple. The indoor unit is cleaned by wiping down the exterior and the coils with a damp cloth, cleaning the filter and the condensate pan, and letting it air dry. To clean the outdoor unit, remove any debris and simply spray down the exterior of the unit. If necessary, you can use a cloth or cleaning brush to scrub the grill, cage, and blades.

Yes, but a licensed electrician should be hired to install wiring at the new AC location outside the home.

A ductless mini split system has a similar lifespan to a traditional HVAC at 10-30 years. Higher quality units that are well-maintained will last longer than inexpensive or neglected units.

Easy Efficiency with a Mini Split System

Ductless mini splits can be an ideal solution for certain heating and cooling problems. They can be a great addition to your existing HVAC system to reduce costs or may serve as a replacement option. This innovative system provides you ultimate control over your home temperature room-by-room while reducing costs. Some ductless mini split systems today can even be controlled via Wi-Fi using an app on your smartphone. This type of home heating and cooling may be the best option to suit your budget and your comfort needs.