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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
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DELLA 12,000 BTU 115V- 15.5 SEER Energy Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner
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Innova 12,000 BTU Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner
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MR Cool Mini Split
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PIONEER Air Conditioner WYS018GMFI22RL Mini Split Heat Pump
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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.
Best Ductless Mini-Split Brands
Although ductless mini-split air conditioners are not nearly as popular or as well-known as other, more traditional air conditioning options, such as window units or freestanding ACs, that is just because these types of units are relatively new to the market.
Once more people know about ductless mini-split ACs, we guarantee their popularity will surge, so it is worthwhile to know which brands produce reliable units and which brands are not so awesome. Here is a list of trustworthy ductless mini-split AC brands:
Pioneer may not be the best-known or most easily recognizable out of all of the air conditioning brands out there, but that does not mean it does not produce reliable, high-quality units that will always get the job done for you.
One of the ductless mini-split air conditioning units we have reviewed below as one of our top recommended units is a Pioneer and for good reason. Pioneer strikes an excellent balance between price and quality, and you will not be left regretting your decision when you go with a Pioneer.
Plus, they are one of the simplest air conditioning units to install on your own, which will also help you potentially save thousands of dollars by not needing to call in an HVAC technician (more to come on that situation later in the article). If you want the most bang for your buck, you should definitely go with a Pioneer.
Friedrich is a trusty brand that most people will associate with quality air conditioning units, thanks to their wide range of different types of units that they process and sell. And the Friedrich guarantee extends to their ductless mini-split air conditioning units as well.
Users of Friedrich mini-splits report that these are some of the best units when it comes to cooling spaces evenly, even in the case of a space that connects to another space or has a weird and unusual shape that could negatively impact cooling potential. Friedrich rises to that challenge and then some.
Plus, Friedrich is one of the best air conditioners when it comes to working effectively and reliably even in extreme heat scenarios. In today’s age of drought, global warming, and heat waves, you will never be able to predict when the next record-breaking temperature will be, and you want a unit that will be able to stand up to whatever Mother Nature throws at it. Friedrich has got you covered.
LG is well known for producing a wide variety of brands and devices on the market today, and their expertise can be trusted when it comes to all electronic systems, so you know you are investing in something reliable when you choose an LG ductless mini-split air conditioner.
LG models take the staples of the air conditioning game – lack of noise and effective cooling – and bring them to the next level. They do this by adding in a number of other awesome features designed to make your life easier. LG models often have some sort of remote control system, so you will be able to tell your air conditioner what to do without needing to physically adjust something on the interior (or worse, exterior) unit itself.
Plus, in keeping with the typical LG branding, these models are certainly much sleeker than many of their competitors. LG knows most people do not want a bulky, clunky, obvious air conditioning unit, and intentionally designs their units to be as unobtrusive as possible – or to look like something else entirely, as some models come with a photo frame that makes the whole unit just look like a cute decoration. If aesthetics is your primary concern, you have got to go with an LG.
Mitsubishi?? You may be wondering…don’t they make cars? Yes, they make cars, and yes, they make telecommunications products, and yes, they make mining gear, and yes, they even make ductless mini-split air conditioners!
If you have ever spoken to anyone who drives a Mitsubishi model car, you know this brand is to be trusted, and that reliability certainly extends to their air conditioning units as well. One of the best features that Mitsubishi’s mini-split ductless air conditioners are able to provide to their users is premium energy efficiency.
And of course, that is one of the biggest considerations most people have to make when they are choosing to invest in an air conditioning system at all, let alone a mini split unit – how much is it going to increase their electrical bill? Is the tradeoff between spending more money and getting cooler air really worth it? With Mitsubishi, the answer is a resounding YES, because their energy efficient cooling systems will barely increase your electrical bill at all. If you want cool air without the stress of more money, you have got to go with a Mitsubishi
Factors to Consider When Buying a Ductless AC
As when purchasing any product, there are a number of aspects to ductless AC units that you should take into consideration before you decide on which unit will be best for you and your needs.
Perhaps the biggest consideration is the unit’s zone design. Ductless AC units come in two different versions: single zone units and multi-zone units. Though this vernacular may sound complicated, it is really just exactly what it seems: single zone units are for cooling only one room and multi-zone units are for cooling multiple rooms, or even an entire apartment or house.
So carefully consider the size of the space you are needing to cool and decide what would be the ideal situation for you. If you are in doubt, go with a multi-zone – it can be easier to add zones than to be dissatisfied with one that is not designed to support more than one zone.
Another factor to consider (and a factor that goes hand in hand with zone considerations) is the BTUs of each unit. BTUs, or British Thermal Units, is the measurement of power to each AC unit, which will directly correlate with the amount of cool air a unit is able to produce. Think about the space you would like cooled and consider the number of BTUs necessary.
Just like with zones, erring on the side of higher is always better when considering BTUs – and, you guessed it, the more zones you have, the more BTUs your unit will require to cool your space effectively.
Of course, the tradeoff with more BTUs and multi-zone cooling options is an increase in your electrical bill, right? Not necessarily! A final aspect to consider when searching for a ductless AC is its energy efficiency. Many of today’s models are produced with the latest in cooling technology and may actually bring your energy costs down, all while keeping you nice and comfortable in a cooler home.
Heat Pump/Ductless vs. Normal AC
Most people have never heard of a ductless air conditioner, much less a ductless mini-split air conditioner. What the heck are we even talking about? Don’t most air conditioning units just sit in windows or stand on the floor? How can they even cool multiple zones, anyway? Don’t worry – we are about to lay it all out for you.
It is true that ductless, mini-split air conditioners are not as popular as traditional window or freestanding units. But they are gaining in popularity because they are extremely effective at cooling spaces, particularly multiple spaces as mentioned above.
Ductless mini-split air conditioners may sound complicated, but they are actually quite simple. They are referred to as “split” because they come with separate units: an exterior unit that contains the compressor and does all of the intense work, and one or more interior units that are much smaller than the exterior unit and actually project cool air into the space.
They are referred to as “ductless” because they do not require any ductwork, simply a connection between the evaporator and condenser, as well as a drain line. They are a more sophisticated cooling system than traditional air conditioning units. But they also require a lot more effort to initially install – so much so that in some cases, for people who do not have a lot of HVAC experience, it may be worth it to call in a professional technician. However, once they are installed, you will not have to worry about noise, vibration rattles, or a huge ugly window air unit disrupting your carefully decorated living room – just sit back, relax, and enjoy the cooler air.
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.
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.
The PIONEER Air Conditioner WYS018GMFI22RL Mini-Split Heat Pump is a fantastic product that also has heating pump capacity.
The aspect that really sets this model apart from many of its competitors is that it can be installed without professional support, which, for anyone who knows anything about mini-split air conditioners, is a pretty big deal. Installation costs can run up to around the cost of the unit itself, so having a unit that comes with quality directions and is simple enough for a layperson to set up on their own, will save you substantial money in the long run.
Additionally, this unit is incredibly energy efficient with both its cooling and its heating options. Most noticeably, with the heating option, this unit actually runs a lower bill than a central furnace would. And you will not have to worry about getting an exterior pad to absorb vibrations from the outer portion of this unit – the whole thing is completely free of vibration.
The PIONEER Air Conditioner WYS018GMFI22RL Mini-Split Heat Pump is a great product that you will be able to set up completely on your own. You may want to look into another supplier for a line set cover, though.
The Innova 12,000 BTU Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner is a great option with a number of convenient features to make your life noticeably easier. It also happens to be multi-functional – this bad boy comes with a heat pump system in addition to the cooling system, so you will be able to utilize this unit all year round.
It boasts a remote control and an LCD screen, so you will always know what is going on with the unit and can manipulate it easily to your own needs. The included remote control happens to have a “silence” function, which is incredibly impressive – users report that when the silence function is active, it is difficult to even tell whether or not the unit is running.
Plus, it comes with reusable filters, so say goodbye to having to constantly buy new filters and change them out. It is wonderfully energy efficient and will likely cut your electricity bill in half, if not by more. Overall, the Innova is an awesome choice!
The Innova 12,000 BTU Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner is a fantastic mini-split air conditioner that will take your cooling game to the next level. Its included directions are a little complicated to figure out, though.
The Klimaire KSIA 17 SEER 9,000 BTU Ductless Mini-Split Inverter Air Conditioner is a pretty impressive little unit. It comes with everything you would ever need to set it up, including both the indoor and outdoor units, an interconnecting cable, a power cable, a filtration system, a remote control, and an installation kit so that you can set it up all by yourself without needing to hire a costly HVAC technician.
It has a patented Three-Color Health Multifunction filter that performs a variety of functions. Such as, it captures dust and absorbs unpleasant odors just like a regular filter does, but it is also capable of decomposing formaldehyde that may be present in the air and releases vitamin C. The health benefits of the filtration system alone will make this little unit worth it!
Plus, if you are sick and tired of needing to constantly clean out your AC units, say goodbye to that chore forever with this system’s self-cleaning function.
The Klimaire KSIA 17 SEER 9,000 BTU Ductless Mini-Split Inverter Air Conditioner is a sleek little air conditioner that will be able to provide you greater benefits than just cooler air. Just know that if something goes wrong with your unit, Klimaire is not the most helpful.
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.
The DELLA 12,000 BTU 115V- 15.5 SEER Energy Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner is definitely one of the prettiest options you will be able to find on the market today. That may sound a bit weird, but trust us, you will appreciate how well this unit’s sleek white aesthetic will blend in with your home décor, as opposed to detracting from it the way many models do.
In fact, there are a number of features about this unit that you will be able to appreciate. It has a permanent filtration system, so you will not need to constantly be buying replacement filters. Its multi-speed fan motor is one of the best in the air conditioning game and is more than capable of cooling your entire house.
Best of all, it has a self-diagnostic system that will address any issues with the unit and tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it. Say goodbye to costly HVAC repair technicians!
The DELLA 12,000 BTU 115V- 15.5 SEER Energy Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner is a great mini-split air conditioner that will blend right in and not stand out in your house. Just know that DELLA is not the most reliable source for customer assistance.
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.
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.
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.