Ductless mini split systems have increasingly gained popularity as an alternative to traditional HVAC systems in recent years. These systems provide both heating and cooling without the need for ductwork, making them the flexible and efficient solution for a wide range of applications.
However, like any other type of HVAC system, ductless mini splits have both advantages and disadvantages.
What are the Advantages of Mini Split Systems?
- Ductless mini split systems are relatively easy to install compared to traditional HVAC systems. This is because they don’t require ductwork to be installed.
- Each indoor unit can be controlled independently. This allows for greater flexibility in terms of zoning and temperature control.
- Even if you end up spending more to install multiple mini split systems throughout a home, they are energy efficient. Energy savings can save you money in the long term.
- Mini splits are available in a variety of sizes and styles — not just wall units, but also ceiling and floor units. This gives you a lot of flexibility in choosing units to fit a particular space.
- They’re a more environmentally friendly option. Ductless mini split systems use less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional HVAC systems.
- Many mini split systems have built-in humidity controls, which can help maintain comfortable levels of humidity.
- These systems can often be controlled via a remote control.
- Mini split systems are relatively easy to maintain. There aren’t as many moving parts, and you won’t need to worry about maintaining ductwork.
- Mini splits are built to last, with an average lifespan of 20 years or more. This makes them a good long-term investment.
What are the Disadvantages of Mini Split Systems?
Cost can be one of those disadvantages in certain cases. We’ll explore this subject more below, but in general, it’s cheaper to install a single mini split system than a central air conditioner. In most homes however, a single mini split will only cool one room. You’ll need to install mini splits in each room or zone to cool them all effectively, particularly when the home does not have a particularly open concept. That could potentially drive the initial cost much higher than that of a central air system. Since you don’t have to install ductwork, the savings may not be as great. Carefully consider the complete cost of both options to know which is really going to save money on the installation aspect.
Here are some other disadvantages:
- Available indoor space can be problematic. Mini split systems feature wall units that are much larger than central air vents. You’ll need enough space in order to place them so they can circulate air effectively.
- Aesthetics can be a problem for some. Vents are smaller — and thus, less conspicuous. Some homeowners would rather not worry about decorating around mini split units.
- Most mini split systems can heat and cool interior spaces. However, in cold climates, you may need a backup heat source. Some heat pumps in mini split systems can struggle to provide enough heat when outdoor temperatures dip below 25-30 degrees Fahrenheit so it is vital to know the specifications and capabilities of individual makes and models.
- It can be more difficult to choose the correct unit size. Oversized mini splits can short cycle, which means they turn off and on more rapidly than they should. That can lead to ineffective temperature and humidity control as well as wasted energy. This can be avoided if you get the properly sized unit.
- Short cycling can also happen if the interior unit is placed incorrectly. You’ll need to make sure that the interior unit is in an area where it can circulate air effectively. It shouldn’t be placed in tight corners or too close to furniture that can obstruct airflow.
- Wall mounted mini splits are not usually a good option in awkwardly shaped rooms, rooms with angled walls, or rooms with low ceilings.
Is it Cheaper to Install a Mini Split or Central Air?
It’s cheaper to install a mini split air conditioner as opposed to a full central air system. Prices can vary based on the unit selected, local labor rates, and any complications during installation. However, the average cost to install a mini split system is $3,000.
For central air, the average installation cost is $9,000. As with the cost to install a mini split, this price will vary based on a variety of factors. That includes the size of the home, the size of the unit, labor costs, and more.
Those are the prices for a single unit, but there is one important consideration that can drive the cost of mini splits higher. When you pay for central air unit installation, that unit will cool the entire home.
Conversely, most mini split systems are designed for zoned heating and cooling. This means that they’ll heat or cool a single space within a home. Because they are ductless, they struggle to heat rooms beyond those in which they are located.
Costs will depend on how many mini split systems you need to install.
Do Mini Splits Work Better than Central Air?
In general, mini splits can cool a room faster than central air conditioning. A central air conditioning system can take some time to fully cool a home. Mini split systems typically cool smaller spaces, so they don’t have to work as hard to bring the temperature down.
In terms of air quality, central air systems tend to work better. This is because they circulate air throughout the entire home. All of that air goes through the AC’s filter, and that improves air quality throughout. Mini split systems only filter the air in the room in which they are located. With correct zoning, mini split and central air conditioning systems have comparable ventilation.
Do Mini Splits Use More or Less Electricity than Central Air?
A single ductless mini split system will use a lot less electricity than central air, and it will usually be more efficient too.
In terms of wattage, central air units use between 3,000 and 3,500 watts per hour on average during peak usage. A mini split AC will use about 2,000 watts per hour on average during peak usage.
Mini splits are also more efficient because they lack ductwork. With a central air system, cooled air warms somewhat as it runs the length of the ductwork. The farther the vent is from the cooling unit, the warmer the air will be.
It is important to remember mini splits give you the ability to zone heating and cooling. With a central air system, you need to run that system round the clock to keep the whole home comfortable, no matter which room you happen to be using. With mini split systems, when you’re done using a room, you can turn off the system to save energy.
This makes mini splits a great choice for bedrooms, which may only need cooling at night, or home offices, which may only need cooling during work hours.
Are Ductless Air Conditioners Worth It?
Ductless mini split systems can be a very worthwhile investment. That’s especially true compared to a central heating and cooling system, which can cost twice to three times the price of a mini split.
However, there are always factors that will need to be weighed before you choose the best option for your home.
- Consider whether you need to cool one room or the whole home. A single mini split will cost less than central air, but if you need to install several, central air may be the cheaper option in terms of installation cost.
- Mini splits can help you save energy if zoned heating and cooling fits your lifestyle.
- If you need to cool large spaces or multiple rooms, central air may be the better choice.
- Don’t forget about aesthetics. Mini splits will mean placing larger wall units in interior spaces as opposed to smaller ductwork vents.
- Mini split systems allow you to set temperatures on a room-by-room basis. This can be handy if temperature disagreements are common in your household.
Should Mini Splits Replace Central Air?
The answer to if ductless vs central air depends on three factors: the size of the home, the number of rooms, and personal preferences.
Mini splits can be a great replacement for central air in smaller homes and homes with fewer rooms. They’ll keep living spaces cool and comfortable while reducing installation and energy costs.
In homes with lots of rooms, consider the average cost to install a mini split versus the average cost of a central air unit. The central air unit will cool the entire home for that investment. With mini splits, you’ll need to pay the installation price for each room that needs to be cooled.
Last comes personal preference. Some people prefer zoned heating and cooling systems. This is especially true for areas like bedrooms and home offices, where you may only need air conditioning for a portion of the day. Mini splits let you have precise control over which spaces are being heated or cooled at any given time.
If one person prefers 65 degrees, but another is more comfortable at 72 degrees, mini split systems will let you achieve this in different rooms. Central air means compromising on a consistent temperature for the entire home.
Choosing the Best Option
Ductless mini split systems are a great option for those looking for an efficient and flexible heating and cooling solution. There are numerous benefits compared to traditional HVAC systems. That includes energy efficiency, zoning flexibility, easy upkeep, and more. Over time, they can save energy costs and even improve the value of your home.