During the hot summer months, air conditioning is a necessity for indoor comfort and air cleaning. However, even if you don’t own a home or have space or even ductwork for a traditional HVAC unit, you have another option besides fans and window units.
Mini-split, also known as ductless heating and cooling systems, are available for those who want to cool off a smaller space (apartments, attics, RVs) or control temperature in a home with zones instead of central air conditioning.
Before you go shopping, let’s take a look at what a mini-split system costs to purchase, install, and operate.
There are many different ductless systems available by a variety of brands known for HVAC products. An excellent place to start is the EnergyStar.gov product guide. This government program breaks down the most energy-efficient and EnergyStar-certified mini-splits. The higher EER and SEER, the more energy-efficient the system leads to better comfort and savings on your energy bills in the long run.
Mini-split units can cost from $650 to over $3,000, depending on how many zones and square footage you want to cool and heat.
Mini-splits can be a do-it-yourself project, but there are a few things you might want to call a professional to do. First, you need to make sure your electrical system has a dedicated 110-220 volt box for the mini-split system. If you don’t, you’ll need an electrician to install one that can cost between $50-$100. A mini-split indoor unit also needs a 3-inch hole drilled through the outside wall for the refrigerant line, requiring a carpenter or contractor, running you about $25-$50 per hour. If you live in a rental, you’ll have to ask your landlord about this. If you choose to have an HVAC technician install your mini-split, labor costs can start at $150 per hour, depending on your location and company. The installation labor costs can start at $1000 and increase with the number of indoor units installed. A professional HVAC technician can also size the zone accurately, so you’re not over or under climate controlling the area.
When looking to purchase and install a mini-split unit, the total price can start at $2,500 by a professional HVAC technician. Although this seems pricey compared to just buying a window unit and putting it in yourself for $300, a mini-split offers more consistent comfort and energy savings in the long run. Because of the ductlessness of a mini-split system, conditioned air isn’t lost through the duct system or insulation surrounding them. Mini-split systems are also more environmentally friendly than traditional HVAC. The coolant used is 100% eco-friendly and non-ozone-depleting. Not to mention using less energy to cool and heat rooms, mainly when the rooms are not in use. All you have to do is turn the unit to a median temperature or completely off when you leave.
According to the Department of Energy, a mini-split system can save up to 30% off your energy bill.
Some say bigger is better, but in the ductless mini-split, its small size is more an asset for its functionality. A mini-split can cool a room or multiple rooms in a zoned home more effectively than a traditional HVAC system, thanks to the smaller scale of the unit and no ducts required. Although traditional HVAC can be less expensive to purchase, mini-splits are much more cost-effective and energy-efficient over the system’s life.