Are you considering a mini-split air conditioning system? If this is your first experience with this type of air conditioner, you probably have questions. From the basic structure of a mini-split system to installation and use, take a look at the top questions homeowners have about these air conditioners.
Is a Mini-Split System a Room Unit, Central Air Conditioner, or Neither?
The answer to this question is neither. A mini-split system can cool more than just one space. But this feature doesn’t make it a room unit or central air system.
Unlike individual window air conditioners that require one unit per room, a mini-split system has one main outdoor condenser and multiple indoor air handlers. This allows you to cool your home in zones — minus the need to buy several different indoor window units.
The primary similarities and differences between a mini-split and central AC system include:
- The outdoor condenser. The condenser (or compressor) is an outdoor component of the system that converts gaseous refrigerant into a liquid. Both central and mini-split air conditioners use condensers or compressors.
- The use of refrigerant. Both central air conditioners and mini-split systems use liquid refrigerants to cool the indoor environment.
- Ducts and vents. A central air conditioner relies on a series of ducts to carry cool air throughout the interior space. The system then pushes or forces the air through ducts into individual rooms. A mini-split system uses individual indoor air handlers installed in each room instead of ducts and vents.
- The spaces the system cools. A central air conditioner can cool your entire home at the same time (provided you have vents in each room or space). But a mini-split AC system will only cool the rooms that house air handlers.
Even though a mini-split air conditioner is a zoned system, it could cool the same amount of space that a traditional central AC unit would. If you want the option of cooling your entire home, talk to an HVAC professional about the number of air handlers and outdoor units you will need to create an effect that mimics a central AC system.
Is a Mini-Split System Expensive or Inexpensive?
There are two ways to look at this question. The first is the initial purchase and installation price. You can find mini-split air conditioners at different price points, and every HVAC contractor will charge different amounts for installation.
However, you will likely pay more to buy this type of system (compared to central air or window units). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the initial investment in a mini-split system is typically close to 30 percent more than a central forced-air unit.
If you pay more to invest in a mini-split system, can you offset the costs over time? This is the second way to look at whether these systems are expensive or inexpensive. In general or over the course of its use, a mini-split system:
- Won’t require the addition or maintenance of ductwork. If your home doesn’t have air ducts, you will need to pay extra for the installation and renovation costs to install a central system. You will also need to pay for routine maintenance of your ducts, such as cleaning or repairs, over time.
- Can reduce cooling loss. Air duct-related heating losses may make up 30 percent or more of a central system’s energy usage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. With a ductless mini-split air conditioner, you won’t need to worry about this issue or the resulting energy bills.
- Can save energy. Not only will the elimination of duct-related cooling losses save your system energy (and save you money), the zoned approach can also impact your utility bill. Instead of cooling your whole home, you’ll only pay to cool the parts you use often.
Talk to your HVAC contractor about the expected energy savings you may have with each mini-split ductless model. Compare these to the average cooling costs for a central system and the initial purchase price/installation costs. These calculations will help you to decide which AC investment makes the most financial sense for your home.
How Do You Install and Use a Mini-Split Air Conditioner?
The better question is — who should install a mini-split system? This is not a do-it-yourself job that a homeowner should tackle. Mini-split systems may not have ductwork or seem as complex as central air conditioners. But this cooling option is a sophisticated HVAC appliance that requires expert installation and maintenance.
A qualified contractor can help you to choose the right system for your home, suggest placement options for the indoor air handlers (on the walls or ceilings), and complete the entire installation process. After the HVAC contractor installs the new system, they can provide detailed instructions on how to use it. These may include tips for zoned cooling and ideal temperature settings.
Do you want to learn more about your AC options? Contact Steele Brothers Heating, Inc. for more information.