Ductless Heating And Cooling: The Mini-Split Heat And Air System

It doesn’t matter where in the world you live, there’s a good chance that you have a heating and/or cooling system. Those near the equator use cooling, those near the poles use primarily heat to stay warm. 

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Image from WORKSHOP8 architecture planning design

However, the vast majority of homes have both a heating and cooling system. There are many different ways to heat and cool your house. Perhaps ductless heating and cooling (or a mini-split) systems are perfect for you. 

What Is A Mini-Split System?

Mini-splits don’t need full-sized air ducts to function. A traditional system generates cold air at a single point and distributes it via large ducts throughout the home. But a mini-split system uses single fans and evaporators for each room. 

They are all individually connected to an outdoor system which allows them to work as HVAC units that have both heating and cooling options for each unit. Yes, this means that one room could be heated while another cooled. 

Benefits Of Ductless Heating And Cooling

Benefits Of Ductless Heating And CoolingView in gallery

When it comes to ways to heat and cool your house, ductless heat and air systems can be a wonderful choice. They offer many benefits that you just can’t find anywhere else. Large or small, your house will benefit from these advantages. 

  • Small – mini-split ACs are small and don’t take up a lot of room. Although you will notice them, they are much smaller than most other heating and cooling options. So they are relatively quite small. 
  • Heats and cools – a mini-split ductless heating and cooling system does just that. It heats and cools. So you don’t have to pay for both a heating system and a cooling system, which saves money and space. 
  • Low-Maintenance – because mini-splits often have no ducts, they take very little maintenance. Most ducts need to be checked and cleaned regularly or else mold and debris can gather inside. So this is great! 
  • Separate systems – mini-split systems are all connected to an outdoor unit. They are each controlled separately so whoever is staying in the room can choose the temperature. Close the doors and everyone will be comfortable. 
  • Easy installation – although installing a multi-split isn’t as easy as using a portable AC, it’s much easier than installing central air. Since you don’t need any ducts, all you have to install is the units and a conduit. 
  • Multiple ways to mount – mini-splits can be mounted on the wall, hung from the ceiling, or set in a window. You can put them almost anywhere, so you just place them somewhere that is out of your way. 
  • Secure – large units that go in the window or through a hole in the wall are not very secure. They leave an opportunity for intruders to break in. But mini-splits never leave holes large enough for a break-in.

Cons Of Ductless Heat And Air Systems

Every type of heating and cooling system has its own set of pros and cons. So even mini-split ductless heat and air systems have their own set of cons as well as pros. Here are some disadvantages that may deter you. 

  • Medium-priced – central air is one of the most expensive types of HVAC systems that you can buy. While ductless heat and air systems are cheaper than central air, they are more expensive than mobile units. 
  • Not invisible – although they are less noticeable than other systems, you can’t hide them. If you place them behind furniture they won’t do their job and might even freeze up. So you have to make them visible. 
  • Requires a pro – you shouldn’t attempt to install mini-splits alone. They are a newer system that requires a contractor to install safely. This costs money which is why some people prefer to get mobile systems like window units. 
  • New to the world – while mini-split systems have been used in retirement homes for quite some time, they are still new to most of us. So using them can be scary at first when you don’t know how they work. 

Reasons To Switch To A Mini-Split System

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If you already have an existing heat and air system, then you don’t need to switch. However, there are a few cases when switching to a mini-split system is beneficial even if you already have central air.

After all, there are benefits to getting a mini-slit system in the first place. Many of those benefits are there even if you are switching from central air to a ductless heating and cooling system after years with the other. 

Retiring Couples

Whether your kids just moved out or you are planning on being away from home a lot, there is a good chance a mini-split system would benefit you. You can use them in just one or two rooms which is energy-efficient. 

So if the kids move out and you want to stop heating and cooling rooms no one uses, then this is the perfect solution. The best part is that you can feel good about saving money and energy with a system like this.

Roommates

If you have roommates who each have their own room, it can be a good idea to get a mini-split system. Not everyone will agree on the temperature all of the time so letting each person control their own is ideal.

This is also a great idea because you can all split the cost for the installation and the monthly bill. Because of this, it will be easy to afford the otherwise quite pricey system that is difficult to buy upfront. 

Multi-Family Homes

Again, if you have multiple families in the same house then getting a mini-split system can be the answer to splitting the bill while still be able to control your own heat and air system. Think of a duplex or multi-family townhouse

While it is possible to get separate central air units, in this case, it is difficult to do so. So if you can afford it, a better option is to use a mini-split system so you don’t have to pay double the price for central air. 

Downsizing 

If you want to use less of your space or cut back on energy-used, then a mini-split system can do that for you. You can use it for select rooms even if you install a unit in every room in the house, you don’t have to use them all of the time. 

You don’t have to have a reason to downsize and simplify your life. You can just do it! A great way to start is to get a mini-split system that will allow you to control the heat and cooling, or lack thereof, in each room. 

How Much Does A Mini-Split Cost?

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Mini-split systems are far from cheap. You can buy a unit for a decent price but then you have to think about installation costs. Let’s break down the cost of a mini-split system to find the right price for you.

Installation Costs $700+

Most of the time, an HVAC specialist is needed to install a mini-split system correctly. The price for this varies, but generally, an HVAC technician makes anywhere from $30-$50/hour base pay. This ends up adding up quickly. 

Most technicians will charge more than an hourly rate. They will charge for the installation, the unit, and a few other things. So $30-50/hr is cheap for an HVAC technician and usually only applies to repairs. 

Unit Cost $500+

The thing about buying units is that you’ll have to buy a separate unit for each room. You need the conduit that they can all attach to but each room needs its own system in the end. So this also can add up.

Each system will cost somewhere between $500 and $2000. Most units for an average-sized room are going to set you back between $600 and $700, but for larger houses and rooms you will pay more.

Repairs $600+

Although they don’t need as many repairs as a standard air conditioning or heating unit, they may need repairs in time. The cost isn’t all that much different from repairing other types of HVAC units. 

You will need to have a professional see what is wrong with your unit. If it is only one room’s unit, then you’ll be fine and will likely only pay a couple of hundred dollars. But if the problem is deeper, you will pay more.

Are Mini-Split Systems Worth It?

It’s hard to say this as if it is black and white, but mini-splits are generally worth the investment. Most of the time you will only pay the upfront cost of the system with installation and no further repairs will be needed. 

In the long run, this means it is much cheaper than central air and even cheaper than AC units. Because window and standing units are cheap but they will both need to be replaced every few years. A mini-split may last decades.

But that’s the thing. They are relatively new so no one knows for sure how long they will last or if we will soon have another even better option. As of today, they are worth the energy-efficiently, individual control, and lack of long-term costs.