What is a ductless mini-split system?

Most people are familiar with air conditioners and furnaces. But, chances are that you’ve probably seen ductless heating and cooling systems before, too. These wall-mounted HVAC units are used in a wide variety of homes, businesses, schools and other places. If you need a new cooling and heating system in your home, a ductless mini-split might make a lot of sense.

In this article, we’ll outline what ductless mini-split systems are, how they work, how much they cost and—most importantly—whether or not a ductless HVAC system is right for your home.

How do ductless mini-split systems work?

When you picture an “air conditioner” or “furnace,” what you’re likely picturing is a forced air system. These systems use ducts to both draw air out of your home and move cooled and heated air into your living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. In past decades, the only way to get indoor cooling and heating was through a forced air, duct-based system.

As the name implies, ductless mini-split systems offer a useful alternative to traditional air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps. Instead of using ducts to transport cooled and heated air from one place (the air conditioner or furnace) to another (inside your home), ductless systems are wall-mounted inside each room. These wall-mounted blowers provide cooling and heating directly.

This system is called a “mini-split” because multiple indoor wall-mounted blowers can be connected by “split” refrigerant lines to a single outdoor condenser. With a mini-split configuration, each space in your home gets its own independent cooling and heating. We’ll talk more about that in the section below.

What’s the difference between a mini-split and a heat pump?

All ductless mini-split systems are heat pumps, but not all heat pumps are ductless mini-split systems.

A “heat pump” simply refers to a type of HVAC system that both uses the refrigeration process to move heat energy and provides both summer cooling and winter heating in one system. Most heat pumps are forced air systems.

Ductless mini-split systems use the same cooling and heating process as heat pumps, but do so without the need for existing ductwork.

Watch: See a ductless mini-split being installed

In this video from This Old House, the team installs a ductless mini-split system in an unlikely place: a garage.

Why get a mini-split system?

There are several reasons why homeowners opt for mini-split installation over other alternatives. Here are just a few:

Versatility: If your home doesn’t already have ductwork, the cost of installation may be prohibitively expensive—especially if you’re living in a historic property with ceilings not built with enough space for ductwork. You’re probably better off going ductless.

Energy-Efficiency: Transporting cooled and heated air through metal ducts is inefficient—no matter how well insulated your ducts are, some of that energy is going to be lost through the attic and roof of your home, contributing to high summer electric bills. By delivering cooling and heating right in the room where it’s needed, ductless systems use far less electricity than traditional air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps.

Disconnected Spaces: More and more homeowners are adding disconnected rooms—commonly referred to as “mother-in-law suites” to their property, either as guest lodging or as rentals. Your home’s existing ductwork can’t reach here, so it makes sense to set up a ductless mini-split system instead.

Comfort Control: With a mini-split configuration, you can individually control the temperature in each room of your home. This modular control means you can cool or heat rooms that you’re in, and not have to spend money changing the temperature of rooms you’re not actively using. For large, multigenerational families living under one roof, having individual room control works really well. You can adjust the temperature of each room to match that person’s preferences.

How much does mini-split installation cost?

According to data collected by HomeGuide, the average mini-split system with three zones costs between $3,200 and $10,500 to have installed. As you might expect, there are a few factors that influence just how much your mini-split system will cost you:

How many zones are needed? If your home needs more than three zones, you may need an additional outdoor unit to keep up with the cooling and heating demand. This will increase your estimate. HomeGuide estimates that a five-zone configuration will cost somewhere between $5,500 and $13,000 to have installed.

How efficient is the system? As with all HVAC systems, you’ll generally pay more upfront for a high-efficiency system. However, keep in mind that you’ll eventually get some of that money back in the form of lower cooling and heating costs throughout the lifetime of the system.

What kind of home do you have? Installing a mini-split configuration for multiple levels (two-story homes, for instance) will cost more than installing the same system for a single-story home with no basement. If your home needs to have its current HVAC system removed, that could also add to the estimate.

Read More: How much does air conditioning installation cost?

Again, one thing to keep in mind: if your home doesn’t already have ducts, a mini-split is almost certain to be less expensive than the cost of ductwork installation plus a new traditional air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump.

With all these variables in play, there’s no one way to calculate just how much a new mini-split will cost you. You’ll need to contact our team here at Wagner for a free in-home estimate.

We’ll send out one of our experienced mini-split installation experts to take measurements and recommend the right-sized system for your home. And, of course, we’ll provide you with an upfront estimate that outlines just how much your new mini-split will cost.

What is the best mini-split system?

Mini-split systems have really taken off here in the United States over the past 15 years, but Mitsubishi Electric has been manufacturing them for global customers for decades. This has given them a sizable head-start in efficient and effective mini-split design, and allowed them to perfect the mini-split configuration.

This is why we’re proud to partner with Mitsubishi Electric here at Wagner. We’re Albuquerque’s official Mitsubishi Diamond Contractor. Get to know Mitsubishi’s ductless systems, and call us for a free in-home estimate.

Have Wagner install your mini-split system in your home

Ready to upgrade to the comfort and convenience of ductless cooling and heating? We’re ready to help. At Wagner, we’re your home’s best friend. You can trust our team of HVAC experts to install your new ductless system right.

Your next step toward summer and winter comfort is contacting our team to set up a free in-home estimate. We’ll send one of our technicians out to your home to take measurements and find the right Mitsubishi Electric system for your property. Once you approve our quote, we’ll set an installation date with you and take care of everything from there. That’s the difference that working with a local, trusted company makes.