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Thinking about adding a room to your house, or wondering why the bonus room that used to be a garage is always freezing in the winter and hot in the summer? In either scenario, a mini-split air conditioner may be the answer to your heating and cooling needs.
Your existing air conditioning unit was selected for the square footage of your home and adding another duct to that system makes it less effective and efficient. This translates to a less-comfortable home and a bigger energy bill. A mini-split system is designed for scenarios where a specific space needs to be heated or cooled.
It’s actually one of the most efficient systems that can be installed in the home. We will take a look at the specifics of mini-split systems, whether one is right for you, and the pros and cons of some popular mini-splits on the market.
Quick Comparison Chart of the Best Mini-Split Air Conditioners
What Is a Mini-Split Air Conditioner System?
The main difference between a traditional air conditioning system and a mini-split is that traditional systems have ductwork and a mini-split does not.
A traditional system uses a blower to suck air from the house through the ductwork and into the main unit’s blower, and then pushes it through an evaporator, which removes the heat from the air. The system continues to push the cooled air out of the system, into more ductwork, and back through the vents in your home. So air from throughout your home is funneled into the main unit, cooled, and returned to the various rooms in your home via ductwork.
A mini-split still operates in the same way, except that it only has to push the air from one room through its evaporator. Instead of having to pump air through ducts that are in the basement, crawl space or attic, it is simply pulling air into the unit from the room it is physically located in, cooling the air, and blowing it right back into the same room. The air never leaves the room it is in.
You might be wondering how a mini-split differs from a window or through-the-wall unit often found in hotels. The obvious answer is that a mini-split unit can be mounted anywhere in a room while a window unit has to be in the window. This makes mini-splits the more secure and aesthetic option.
The most important difference in a mini-split compared to window or through-the-wall units is the location of the noisy compressor. Window units and through-the-wall units are completely self-contained. This means the noisiest part of any air conditioner, the compressor, is in your home when using a window or through-the-wall unit.
A mini-split is like a traditional split-system air conditioning unit because the compressor is in a separate unit outside. The only things connecting the two are the copper lines used to pump the heat transferring refrigerant between the two systems and wiring. A mini-split is much quieter than any of its competition because its fan is much smaller than a traditional units fan because there is no need to move air through ductwork.
In short, mini-splits are more efficient than traditional units because of the absence of ductwork. But they are designed for cooling and heating individual spaces, rather than entire homes. mini-splits are more efficient, versatile, and much quieter than window units and other self-contained options.
Quick Take: Best Mini-Split Air Conditioners
These are our recommendations for the best mini-split air conditioners:
Keep reading below for more info about each model and other important things you should know before making a purchase.
Reviews of the Best mini-split Air Conditioners
Now that we have reviewed what a mini-split is and covered its pros and cons, let’s take a closer look at the specifics and what some popular models have to offer!
Considerable knowledge and skill will be required to install most of these units, and they will likely be much harder to install than many DIY homeowners will realize.
This 12,000 BTU, 17.2 SEER rated, ductless mini-split system from Pioneer is meant for a normal size room. It has the lowest BTU rating of the units we are reviewing but is cheaper than the other units on this list. The positive reviews of this product rave about how quiet it is, and the overall consensus is that the product is a great value. The high-voltage side of this system is rated at 115 VAC and uses R410A refrigerant.
Senville offers this 24,000 BTU, 15 SEER rated, ductless mini-split system that has the capacity to cool or heat a very large room or a room with higher-than-normal ceilings. The Senville SENL-24CD mini-split has a respectable BTU rating. It is one of two units that fall in the midrange of the units we are reviewing. This unit has double the BTU’s of our cheapest unit but is only slightly more expensive. It operates on 220 VAC and uses R410A refrigerant.
This is a 24,000 BTU, 20.5 SEER rated, ductless mini-split system from DuctlessAire. That makes it perfect to cool or heat a very large room or room with high ceilings. The DuctlessAire mini-split has a respectable BTU rating and the highest SEER rating of the units we review in this article. This unit operates on 220 VAC and uses R410A refrigerant.
MrCool makes this 36,000 BTU, 16 SEER-rated, ductless mini-split system that is great for huge rooms and large rooms with exceptionally high ceilings. The MrCool mini-split has the best BTU rating of the units we review in this article. This unit operates on 220 VAC and uses R410A refrigerant.
How to Choose and Install a Mini-split System
Configuring how many BTU’s you need per square foot is not very difficult with the resources of the internet and some basic math. But installation of a mini-split is more similar to a traditional central heating and air unit than a window unit you can purchase at the local box store. They require high voltage wiring, the ability to braze copper lines, a multitude of other specialized skills, proper licensing, and extensive knowledge of building codes.
It is a good idea to do as much research as possible about different models of mini-splits before making a decision. However, you will need a certified technician to install your mini-split unit and it is best to consult with the contractor you will be using for installation before purchasing a unit you are interested in.
Pros and Cons of mini-split Systems
As with nearly anything in life, mini-split systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at some of them.
Mini-splits are very efficient because no air is lost to small leaks in the ductwork, and the air does gain or lose heat traveling through ductwork. Whether you are looking to lower your energy bill or your carbon footprint – mini-splits do both.
This is an easy solution to additions to your home. Your home’s system was chosen based on the square footage and other specific dimensions. adding an additional room to your current system will make that system less effective and efficient.
We spend a lot of time worrying about the quality of the food we eat and the water we drink, but we often overlook the importance of the air quality inside our homes. Ductwork is one of the key contributors to poor indoor air quality. Mini-splits do not use ductwork and do not expose you to the air in your basement, crawl space, or attic.
Mini-splits are quicker to install, have small - easily hidden - outside units, and have minimum impact on the structure as less space is required for installation.
They are a safe and secure alternative to inefficient and outdated window units, space heaters, and electric baseboard heaters for heating individual rooms.
The initial cost of mini-splits is much higher than other heating and cooling solutions, per room. Each room has to have a separate indoor unit installed, while traditional units only have one indoor unit per floor. The initial cost of a mini-split is much higher than a window unit or self-contained unit designed for one-room use.
A mini-split’s heating mode utilizes heat pump technology. As with any heat pump, they may not be able to sufficiently heat homes in sub-zero conditions. A fuel-based furnace will likely be needed as a backup in these types of climates.
Mini-splits require frequent maintenance. Each unit’s filter has to be washed at least monthly because they are very sensitive to debris accumulation.
We have discussed the differences of mini-splits from other types of HVAC units and taken a look at the various specifications, pros and cons, and models of mini-splits that are available.
We hope you can use these comparisons to come to an informed decision about the mini-split you wish to purchase. Remember, it is always wise to consult with HVAC professionals before purchasing or attempting to install any air conditioning unit.