Contents (Click To Jump)
What Is A Ductless Air Conditioner?
A ductless air conditioner is a type of split air conditioning system with an indoor and outdoor unit. The condenser (outdoor unit) sits outside and connects to the indoor unit, which sits directly in the room it is cooling.
The indoor and outdoor units connect together with a refrigerant line set and condensate line through the wall. The outdoor unit (containing the condenser and compressor) pumps heat away from your home, while the indoor unit blows cool air into your room.
As its name implies, ductless AC units do not use ductwork to transfer air. Instead, the air handler mounts directly on the wall, ceiling, or floor of the room you are cooling. It contains the evaporator coils, blower, and other components.
Since they do not experience any efficiency loss through ductwork, they are one of the most energy-efficient HVAC systems around.
Ductless air conditioners go by many names, including ductless mini-split air conditioners, mini-split systems, and ductless mini-split heat pumps.
Most ductless “air conditioners” are actually heat pumps, which means they can operate in reverse in the winter and move heat into your home instead of removing it.
Note: while window units are technically “ductless,” this term refers exclusively to split systems that do not mount in a window.
How Much Does A Ductless Mini-Split System Cost?
The average cost for a ductless mini-split air conditioner is between $1,400 to $8,500 for materials and installation. The overall cost you pay varies depending on the following factors, the SEER rating, size (BTUs), brand, number of indoor units (zones), and more.
Here is how the significant factors can impact your ductless air conditioner cost.
The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is a measure of the efficiency of the ductless AC unit over the entire cooling season. Higher SEER ratings are better, and there are models available with SEER ratings ranging from 14 to 24+.
Obviously, ductless AC units with higher efficiency ratings will be more expensive. However, they will save you money each month by using less energy.
For example, here is how two 12,000 BTU mini-split units with different SEER ratings compare:
- 15 SEER – $700 to $900 (on average)
- 20 SEER – $900 to $1,200 (on average)
The size, or cooling capacity, of the ductless air conditioning systems is another significant cost factor. The AC size is a measure of BTUs (British Thermal Units) and tons – one ton is equal to 12,000 BTUs.
The size of the ductless AC is crucial as you want to ensure it can adequately cool the zone you need to condition. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for about 25 to 30 BTUs per square of the zone your unit will be cooling.
For example, if you have a 500 square foot room, get a mini-split AC with a size between 12,500 and 15,000 BTUs.
Here is how the pricing of two 20 SEER ductless air conditioners compare with different BTU ratings (size):
- 12,000 BTU – $900 to $1,200 (on average)
- 30,000 BTU – $1,800 to $2,250 (on average)
Amount of Zones
The number of cooling “zones” in your home refers to the number of rooms you wish to cool with a ductless mini-split AC system. If you want to cool more than a single room (a single zone), you will need multiple indoor units and set up a multi-zone system.
For example, if you want to cool your garage, basement, and guest room in the attic, you will need three indoor air handlers. However, you can tie multiple indoor units to a single zone.
Since the additional zones need an additional indoor unit each, this obviously increases your cost. On average, an extra indoor unit costs between $400 to $600 extra for each additional zone, including installation and materials.
The local labor rate is another factor in the cost of a new or replacement ductless mini-split AC unit. A significant portion of the price is the labor cost for the installer. For example, a person living in Montana will pay a lower installation cost than someone living in Manhattan.
Across the U.S., installation prices can increase or decrease your total by up to 12%.
Type of Indoor Head
The type of indoor unit affects the cost of the ductless AC unit. There are three main types of heads:
- Wall units – mount on the wall
- Ceiling units (ceiling cassette) – mount flush into the ceiling of your room
- Floor units – mount flush into the floor of your room
Generally, the wall-mount units are the least expensive and easiest to install. They hang on the wall much like a picture and require minimal carpentry work to complete. Some homeowners consider them intrusive as they take up wall space and mess with the room’s feng shui.
Homeowners who want less intrusive ductless systems can opt for ones that are installed flush into the floor or ceiling. However, they will pay a substantial extra cost for installation – about 20% to 50% higher than a wall mount unit.
What Are The Different Types of Ductless Split AC Systems?
Not every ductless split AC system is the same. There are dozens of different brands, thousands of models, and various head types.
Here are the main types of ductless AC systems.
Cooling or Cooling & Heating
Ductless air conditioners cool your home, and that is all they do. On the other hand, ductless mini-split heat pumps both cool and heat your home. Isn’t that awesome?
If you’re looking for a ductless mini-split air conditioner, you should certainly consider a ductless heat pump too. It will give the cooling you need in the hot summer, plus it will also warm your home during the winter. Why not get ductless heating too?
Wall Mount Units
Wall-mount split ductless AC units hang on the wall of your room. An HVAC contractor will usually mount it about 5-½ to 6 feet or higher during the installation. They protrude about 12 to 18-inches from the wall.
Wall-mount ductless AC units are by far the easiest type of ductless system to install. The main steps include
- Drilling a hole through the wall
- Running the refrigerant lines and electrical cabling through the wall (and sealing it)
- Securing the outdoor unit to its pad
- Mounting the indoor unit to the wall
- Connecting power
Yes, it is as simple as that.
Unfortunately, ceiling cassette ductless AC units don’t play any of the classic tunes on tape that your parents enjoyed. However, they do provide a discrete cooling solution for your home. Cassette units install flush in your ceiling, which means they don’t protrude at all. Unlike wall-mount units, they don’t take up any usable space in your home.
However, they have a complex installation process, which requires the skills of an HVAC professional. As such, the installation costs are usually 10% to 20% more than wall-mount units.
Floor units are essentially the opposite of ceiling cassette units– they mount flush into your floor. The downside with floor mount units is that they take up valuable floor space. They’re also almost as expensive as ceiling-mount ductless AC units.
How Is A Ductless AC Different From Central ACs?
Central air conditioning systems are, by and large, the most popular way to cool homes. It’s easy to run ductwork in a home while it’s under construction. Central AC units can quickly respond to your cooling needs and efficiently cool your whole house. Plus, from a maintenance standpoint, it’s only one system you have to service.
The main difference between ductless AC units from central air conditioners is that they do not cool your entire home. So you’ll need multiple indoor units to cool multiple zones.
Here are their main differences and advantages.
You’re probably thinking, “of course, a ductless AC doesn’t use ductwork!” However, you might not be considering why that is important. If your home does not already have ductwork installed, getting a central cooling system would be very expensive-Not to mention a massive home improvement project that could take weeks to months.
Ductwork installation for an average-size home can be over $10,000 alone (not including the AC costs). As such, a ductless AC system with multiple zones would be far more cost-effective.
Even if you have a central AC unit and want to cool your garage, installing a ductless AC unit is usually easier than running new ductwork. Plus, the central AC unit probably isn’t large enough to cool the extra space anyways.
Money is one of the most important factors when purchasing a new AC system. If you want the most cost-effective cooling solution for your home, a ductless split air conditioning unit is usually the way to go.
Even if you set up multiple zones, it is still often the lower-cost option.
If you have multiple zones with your ductless mini-split AC system, you can have independent temperatures.
For example, if you want a temperature of 67ºF in the bedroom, 74ºF in the basement, and 70ºF in the family room, you can do that. With a multi-zone ductless AC system, you have separate thermostats – with a remote control – for each zone.
Of course, individual zone control has its setbacks too. If the temperature difference between two adjacent zones is too large, that could lead to inefficiencies as they could combat each other for temperature dominance.
Ductless air conditioning units are physically smaller than central air conditioning systems. However, you may need more than one ductless system in your home. However, ductless AC units still occupy less floor space, assuming you purchase the wall mount or ceiling cassette varieties.
How Can You Save Money When Installing A Ductless AC?
There are many ways homeowners can save money when they are installing a ductless mini-split AC unit.
Some of the best ways to save money include rebates, comparing brands, getting a good warranty, and working with a reputable HVAC dealer and installation service like Blue National HVAC. We keep our prices fair and have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Give a call today for help with ductless AC installation!