The limits are off for ductless heating and cooling systems, as double-digit growth in installations for six years running demonstrates.
Mini split HVAC systems are no longer just for additions, rooms far from central heating that are too hot or too cold, or locations where installing or extending ductwork is impossible.
New technology and competitive costs are behind the growing number of applications including new construction.
This comprehensive ductless heating and cooling guide covers costs, system types, options, features, efficiency, pros and cons, and more.
Did you know?
Ductless mini split outdoor units are now being produced for cold climates. For example, the Fujitsu Halcyon XLTH Extra Low Temp system is an impressive 33 SEER ductless system that provides heating in temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Trane’s low-temperature 4MXW38 system offers 38 SEER/15 HSPF efficiency and 100% heating performance to -20F.
Haier America, Samsung, Friedrich, and several other brands have introduced cold climate ductless heat pumps. A base pan heater in these outdoor units allows condensate to drain without freezing.
How Much Does It Cost?
Mini split heat pumps cost higher than standard split systems, but significantly less than geothermal system costs.
Small, single-zone systems with complete installation start as low as $3,500. Large, complex systems can cost as much as $17,500 installed. Here are the average installed costs for three common system sizes. There’s more detail in various sections below.
- Single zone systems: 1 indoor unit (6,000-36,000 BTU): $3,500 to $7,500
- Average multi-zone systems: 2-4 indoor units (18,000-36,000 BTU total): $6,600-$12,500
- Large multi-zone systems: 4+ indoor units (up to 60,000 BTU total): $9,250-$17,500
Here’s a quick breakdown of mini split HVAC costs for equipment and installation:
- Outdoor unit cost: $950 to $5,900 (9K to 60K BTU)
- Indoor unit cost: $200 to $2,000 (6K to 36K BTU)
- Accessory package: $250-$1,950
- Ductless HVAC system installation (warrantied labor) cost: $1,000 to $5,000
The accessory package may include a line set, drain tubing, wiring, thermostat, remote control, additional refrigerant when indoor units are distant from the outdoor unit, condensate pan heater for cold climates and other equipment required for installation.
Did you know?
Knowing the technical terms will assist you when researching your options, shopping and discussing the project with an installer. In technical terms, outdoor units are also called condensers.
A condenser contains the compressor that circulates refrigerant and the condensing coil that disperses heat during an AC mode and collects heat in heating mode.
Indoor units are also called air handlers and evaporators, and there are several types (explained in the section of Indoor Unit Types below).
Pro Tip: You’ll spend less on equipment and installation when you choose one large outdoor unit that supports multiple indoor zones rather than several separate single-zone ductless systems. In a multi-zone system, the climate of each room or zone can be independently controlled for customized comfort.
Mini Split System Cost Factors
Ductless mini split system costs vary widely based on:
- Whether it is AC-only ($-$$$) or a heat pump ($$-$$$)
- Cost rises as energy efficiency goes up.
- Cost rises with the size of the outdoor unit, though again, one outdoor unit costs less than two outdoor units with the same cumulative capacity (one 48,000 BTU unit vs. two 24,000 BTU units, for example).
- The number, capacity and type of indoor units (single zone vs. multi-zone)
- Indoor units with variable-speed fans for better climate control cost 15% to 25% more.
- The complexity of the installation