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Mini-split AC Installation Tips

Ductless mini-split systems provide air conditioning to rooms that are inaccessible by conventional ducts. They are most suitable for home additions or for retrofitting an old house that can’t accommodate conventional ductwork. Are they the right air conditioning replacement type for your home?

Why a mini-split?

Ductless air conditioners are one of the most versatile and efficient ways to condition your indoor living space. Instead of cooling (or heating) an entire house like a central unit, or one room with a window AC, they enable homeowners to condition up to four rooms or zones. This makes them more energy-efficient. Mini-split systems are also quieter than a window AC when properly installed.

How does it work?

This type of system has two main parts: a condenser placed outside, which pumps cool air to the indoor parts, and an indoor unit, mounted on the wall or ceiling, which distributes refrigerant to air handlers. They are connected by a copper tube.

Mini-split system cost

Although it is a miniaturized version of a conventional split AC unit, the price tag is anything but “mini.” The average cost is about $4,000 for a single-zone unit, installed, and about $12,000 for a four-zone unit. It takes about six hours to install a one-handler unit, depending on the number of technicians and how your home is configured. The unit will need an outside concrete pad, mounting, ventilation and a drip pan to catch condensation.

Can you DIY a mini-split AC installation?

Because the system involves drilling a three-inch hole from outside to inside, and no ductwork, handy people may be able to do a DIY mini-split installation -- that is, everything but adding refrigerant, which requires a special license. Most people will opt for a professional AC installation because it comes with experience and a warranty. Calculating the load of a mini-split is also a job for a pro. Buy one yourself over the internet or at a home improvement store and it’s unlikely the unit maker will warranty a DIY installation.

Finding a mini-split AC installer

The main reason installation is expensive is because of the specialized labor involved. While popular in other parts of the world, ductless mini-split systems are relatively new to the United States. Finding an experienced installer is not easy so you may pay a premium price. Look for local dealers of particular manufacturers or AC specialists who have proven experience installing this type of HVAC.

Sources: Compactappliance.com | Totalhomesupply.com | U.S. Department of Energy 

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