How Does a Ductless Mini Split Work?

Ductless Mini Split Systems.

Do you live in a home without a built-in HVAC system or climate control? Then a mini split or ductless air conditioner and heat pump system may be just what you’re looking for!

Another reason they have grown increasingly popular is their variety of size. As multi-purpose units they are ideal for living rooms, bedrooms, basements and kitchens. Even in the commercial space, many offices have adopted them as the primary heating and cooling source.

High-performance and more affordable than full HVAC installs it’s no wonder demand for them is skyrocketing.

What is a Ductless Mini Split System?

First manufactured and used in Japan for many years and it has been recently introduced in other countries also. They are mainly used in multi family houses, schools, office buildings, restaurants, cinema theaters and auditoriums.

Originally designed for older houses, or for homes w/ hot water radiant heat, these units use coils placed throughout the home to efficiently cool it. They offer placement choices for optimal comfort, delivering cooling to rooms or zone most used, while providing greater efficiency than central air conditioning systems. Refrigerant is piped to these coils using small diameter line that is much easier to run, and much less costly, than standard duct work.

Typically, 3-4 coils are sufficient to completely cool an average home.

The advantages of mini split or ductless air conditioners is that they are much more energy efficient than traditional units that have estimated distribution energy loss as high as 30%. These units boast an even distribution loss as low as 1% or 2% since no ductwork is used.

In some cases ductwork is the primary contributor to energy loss. Because they are more efficient they will also lower energy costs significantly.

As innovative climate control systems, ductless mini splits are quieter than your typical window ac unit or portable air conditioner.

Most units include a handy remote control for operating within 25-40 ft. Today’s newest units may also include mobile app control – known as “smart” ductless mini split systems, they can be controlled from anywhere you have WiFi access. Buyers love the ability to turn on/off, adjust temp, or set a schedule from home or office.

Smart Ductless Mini Split With App


Types of Ductless Mini Split Systems

There are four main categories for ductless mini split units. Below I detailed each as well price range you can expect.

1. Ductless Mini Split Units

Price: $599 – $1199

As you would guess an AC-only unit is the most affordable on my list. Most models of the models today are air conditioning and heating.

There’s also a few AC-only units with limited heating through the use of small electric heat strips, much like those you see inside a hair blow dryer. The small electric heat strips install within the air handler portion (inside the home) and are much more expensive to operate than a heat pump minisplit.

FYI: For every dollar of electricity you spend to run the electric heating element, you get a return of one dollar worth of heat! On the mini split heat pump units, you get a return of four dollars of heating and for every one dollar of electricity, making the heat pumps much more energy efficient.

2. Mini Split Heat Pump Units

Price: $699 – $1499

Unlike the Ductless AC Units, Mini Split Heat Pumps provide high efficiency cooling and heat in various capacities. The size you choose depends on the area being conditioned as well as several factors in your home. While the cooling functions are identical to that of an AC only unit, the heat from a heat pump is achieved by reversing the flow of refrigerant, and removing the cold air from the home. Heat Pumps are much more energy efficient, providing approximately 4x the amount of heating for every dollar spent on electricity!

3. Multi Zoned Mini split Systems

Price: $999 – $1799

Along with the basic heating and cooling systems, there are zoned options, meaning you can install a Single Zone Mini Split, Dual Zone, or a Multi Zone Mini Split. In most installations, a multi-zoned minisplit will make use of a larger compressor within the condensing unit outside your home, and have multiple indoor air handlers mounted on the wall or ceiling. If you have more than one room to heat and cool, purchasing a multi zone ductless mini split system is the most economical option.

4. DIY Mini Split Systems

Price: $599 – $999

For homeowners owning DIY ductless mini split system can be a nice cost-saver. Not only are they more affordable, but as DIY units you won’t need to hire a contractor (although you will need a buddy to help you install).

Multi Zone Mini Split Installation for Homes

As you can see in the image, the unit compressor will need to be mounted or attached to the exterior of the residence or building. This will require the ability to fasten the bracket to the outside wall. The type of wall will determine whether wood screws will be sufficient of if concrete or mortar screws and the appropriate drill and bits are necessary.

Next step is to run conduit which will contain the power line, refrigerant line, and condensate drain line. This can vary in terms of difficult depending on the structure.

To carry the conduit through the wall you’ll have to saw a 2.5″ to 3″ hole using a high-powered hole saw.

Individual air handlers are fairly easy to mount on a ceiling or high on a wall using the mounting hardware included. Use a stud finder to give you the ability to anchor the fasteners into studs. Once they are in place, run the conduit and hook up the connections.

One task advanced DIY enthusiasts go ahead with while others leave it to a professional is the electrical hookup into the box. This can be complicated, as well as dangerous. Read the included installation information before deciding whether or not to give any part or all of the installation a shot.

How Does a Ductless Mini Split Work?

As mentioned earlier, ductless mini split systems feature an external compressor and evaporator, with the cooling coil or coils and air handler mounted inside, on a wall or ceiling, with the two components connected with insulated refrigerant tubing. This is why they are called “split” systems. There are two basic ways that ductless mini split systems are differentiated.

The first characteristic is the number of zones the unit will cool. Single zone units feature an outdoor compressor and one cooling coil and air handler, along w/ an install kit which includes 12-20 ft. of tubing.

Dual zone kits feature two internal coils, tri-zone units have three, and quad-zones offer four cooling coil/air handlers. The more zones are served by the unit, the more tubing, since the second, third and fourth coils may be placed further from the compressor. Additional tubing may need to be purchased for installation at considerable distance from the condenser/compressor.

The second common way ductless mini split systems are categorized is room size, or heating or cooling BTU capacity. Most single zone ductless mini split air conditioners use a ¾ ton, one ton, 1.5 ton, or 2 ton compressor, which translates into 9,000, 12,000, 18,000, and 24,000 and BTU’s respectively. Dual zone models usually have at least a 1.5 ton compressor, while tri-zone and quad units use at least a 2 ton compressor.

Finally, some ductless mini split air conditioning systems double as heat pumps, offering the ability to provide zone heating in cold weather.

Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioners

The ductless split air conditioners also commonly known as “mini splits” like the central systems have two units – an air handling unit which includes a fan and an evaporator and a compressor.

For DIY installation, the compressor and condenser are placed or mounted outside, while the fan and evaporator is placed in the room that has to be cooled. Both units are combined using a conduit that has the power cable, drain and tubing.

These split air conditioner systems have several advantages and limitations. The advantages are that it can be easily installed i.e. we need not make any ducts on the walls, the operation of the air conditioner’s compressor doesn’t produce much noise and it gives a quiet environment.

As heating and cooling units, ductless mini split units provide zone cooling facility and help in energy saving using the thermostat that helps in controlling the zones independently. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency ratio of the Ductless split air conditioning systems are in the range 10.0 and 11.5.

They also provide a wide range of options for the interior designing. They also help in making the building safe and secure from the robbers and intruders.

The major disadvantage of these ductless split air conditioner systems is the cost of the system. Most will have a price range from $1,500 to $2,000 – nearly twice the price of the window systems.

How to install a ductless mini split system

These systems can’t be installed at any random place. We have to choose a proper location for placing the air handling unit. If it is not positioned at a proper place or if doesn’t have a proper size, there are possibilities of the air bouncing between the walls resulting in a short cycle of the air and we won’t have good cooling effect and lot of energy will also be wasted in this case.

These systems should also have proper facility to drain the condensate else it would lead to staining the building walls. Discover the advantages of using ductless air conditioning and where you can buy cheap ductless air conditioner.

Top Brands of Ductless Mini Split Systems

If you are in the market for a mini split air conditioner, there are several top manufacturers that produce these innovative ductless air conditioning systems. Be sure to peruse their entire selection to ensure choosing the one that best fits your needs.

For all manufactures expect pricing to be based on the number of zones it covers, meaning the number of individual coils that are placed throughout the residence, and also the number of BTU’s the unit will produce.

Single zone units feature 12,000 to 18,000 BTU, while quad zone units have capacities up to 36,000 BTU. Larger, commercial ductless systems can be as large as 60,000 BTU.

Senville has been on the leading edge of this technology from the beginning. They produce a wide variety of units including single zone models, and those with dual zone, tri-zone, or quad zone capacity.

Pioneer is another long-term player in the residential ductless air conditioning market, mostly in the USA. They offer a good variety of ductless / mini split units that cool from 1 to 4 zones with excellent efficiency.

Mitsubishi is known for good quality and value, producing a variety of mini split air conditioning systems to meet your zone cooling needs.

MR COOL is a company with a good history of producing quality appliances and electronics w/ their DIY mini split systems being the highest rated online. For a single unit the cost ranges from $699 to $1199.

Also look for high-quality mini split systems from Senville Ductless Mini Split, Daikin Heating & Cooling Units, and Pioneer Mini Splits.

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