Homeowners sitting on their living room couch appreciate their ductless mini-split

You’ve reviewed your cooling and heating bills for the past year, and the prices keep going up.

You know your HVAC units are old and wonder if now might be the time to switch to something more efficient. You’ve heard good things about ductless mini-split systems.

But, are these units expensive?

In today’s exploratory guide, we’ll examine the costs of ductless mini-split systems and break down the factors contributing to the overall pricing. If you’re on the fence about getting a mini-split system installed in your home, this is one article you won’t want to miss! 

Are Ductless Mini-Splits Expensive?

The average ductless mini-split system costs between $2,000 and $14,500. The factors influencing a mini-split’s price are the size of the system, its output, its type, installation fees, and whether you add anything extra.

Ductless Mini Split System Costs (by Zone)

Number of ZonesCost of Mini Split
One zone$2,000 to $8,800
Two zones$2,700 to $11,100
Three zones$3,400 to $13,400
Four zones$4,100 to $15,700
Five zones$4,800 to $18,000

As stated, the average cost of a ductless mini-split system, according to HomeAdvisor, is between $2,000 and $14,500. 

We wanted to take the remainder of this section to calculate what you’d spend on a mini-split by zone. 

In the world of ductless mini splits, a zone is an area of a home or commercial building that receives heating or cooling. The area is usually its own room but isn’t always exclusively. 

Keeping that in mind, here are the prices of a mini-split according to your quantity of home zones.

One Zone

Single-zone heating or cooling requires one indoor air-handling unit, which is the indoor component of the mini-split system where the hot or cool air comes from. 

Since you don’t have significant heating or cooling needs, your ductless mini-split will be the least expensive. On the lower end, you’ll pay $2,000. On the higher end, it can be up to $8,800. 

Two Zones

You might need a two-zone mini-split for homes with more disparate temperatures in certain areas.

A ductless mini-split system uses air-handling units connected to the outdoor compressor via wiring.

The outdoor compressor component of a ductless mini-split

A two-zone unit would require two air-handling units (that do not have to be adjacent to one another) but would still only ever use one compressor—which is the case no matter how many air-handling units you require, by the way.

With two-zone heating and cooling, your costs go up, but not significantly. The lower end of your project costs would be $2,700 and the higher end up to $11,100. 

Three Zones

If you have several drafty areas in your home, or if it is two stories and the upstairs and downstairs have very different temperatures, you might look into a three-zone ductless mini-split system. 

For more air-handling units, your costs continue to climb. You could spend between $3,400 and $13,400. 

Four Zones

Only larger homes would need four-zone mini-split heating and cooling. Either that or your house must be very drafty. 

Since you’re adding on even more indoor air-handling units, you’ll now pay $4,100 to $15,700 for your mini-split system. 

A ductless mini-split installed below the roofline ceiling on the second story of a home

Five Zones 

The cap on ductless mini-split system indoor air-handling units is five. A five-zone heating and cooling system would cost between $4,800 and $18,000. 

Factors Influencing the Costs of Your Ductless Mini Split

Many factors contribute to what you’ll spend on a ductless mini-split system. Let’s take a closer look at each to determine what type of mini split will suit your budget. 

Manufacturer

Like any consumer good, the mini-split brand you select does influence the price, at least somewhat. The more prominent names in ductless heating and cooling, such as Frigidaire, Panasonic, and Mitsubishi, may charge more than budget brands like Daikin. 

How Many Zones Need to Be Controlled

We explained in the last section how the number of zones a ductless mini-split can cool or heat would affect the price of the entire system. The more zones you have, the higher the cost of your new system. 

The Heating/Cooling Output

Ductless mini-split systems, just like air conditioners and furnaces, produce cooling or heating in British thermal units (BTUs).

The more BTUs required, the higher the costs. The number of BTUs a ductless mini-split must produce for adequate heating and cooling depends on the size of your home.

Here’s a handy chart:

Square Footage of Room or ZoneMini Split Output in BTUs
150 to 250 square feet6,000 BTUs
250 to 300 square feet7,000 BTUs
300 to 350 square feet8,000 BTUs
350 to 400 square feet9,000 BTUs
400 to 450 square feet10,000 BTUs
450 to 550 square feet12,000 BTUs
550 to 700 square feet14,000 BTUs
700 to 1,000 square feet18,000 BTUs
1,000 to 1,200 square feet21,000 BTUs
1,200 to 1,400 square feet23,000 BTUs
1,500 square feet and up24,000 BTUs

SEER Rating

Another factor that can drive up the cost of your ductless mini-split system is its SEER rating.

SEER is short for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. The SEER tells you how efficiently your mini-split system uses energy. It’s often likened to miles per gallon.

To calculate the SEER, take your air conditioner’s cooling output during the summer and divide it by the energy it uses.

It used to be that a SEER rating of 14 was efficient, but nowadays, it doesn’t quite cut it. 

You want a mini-split with a baseline SEER rating of 16. The closer to 23 you can get, the better, with 21 considered an excellent SEER rating.

The higher the SEER rating of a ductless mini-split system, the costlier it is. 

The Type of Mini Split

Not all indoor air-handling units are the same. If you want a ceiling-mounted air-handling system, it will cost between $700 and $2,000, according to HomeAdvisor.

If you’d rather have a ceiling cassette, you’re paying at least $500 and upwards of $2,000. So you can save a bit of money. 

Of course, regardless of which type of air-handling unit you like better, you still have to pay for refrigerant lines. HomeAdvisor states that the lines are $5/ft.

Then there’s the outdoor compressor or condenser, which can cost $1,000 to $6,000. 

The external component of a ductless mini-split

Installation Costs

How much will you pay to have your ductless mini-split system installed? On the lower end, the fees might be $2,000. The average price is $4,000, notes HomeAdvisor, but it can be as expensive as $14,500.

These fees are in addition to the costs mentioned above. 

Add-ons and Accessories

Some homeowners who install a ductless mini-split will opt for add-ons or accessory kits. The kit might include drain tubes, box tubes, sleeves, wires, and lines. 

These items are helpful, but they can tack on up to $500 more to your costs. 

Is a Ductless Mini Split Worth It?

After crunching the numbers, you may still have a strong interest in upgrading to a ductless mini-split system, but it will be expensive. 

At least initially, you will spend a lot of money on a system. The mini-split pays back dividends the longer you have it, though. 

Here are some benefits you have to look forward to:

Very Energy-Efficient

If your heating or cooling system is still ducted, you’re wasting more energy than you think. 

According to Energy.gov, lost air from ducted heating and air conditioning systems can amount to over 30 percent of your home’s energy. Ouch! That’s a lot of wasted energy.

Plus, the SEER rating of a ductless mini-split system is usually higher than standard HVAC. The SEER range for an average air conditioner is only between 13-and 21.

As we discussed, some ductless mini-splits have a SEER rating of up to 23! These units are changing the game.

Controlled Heating and Cooling

When you use traditional HVAC, such as a furnace or air conditioner, the air blows out from the vents in all the rooms whether they need them or not.

If you have an especially drafty room downstairs, the last thing it needs is a cold blast from the AC, yet that’s just what it gets.

The same also applies to your upstairs rooms. Since heat rises, these rooms are naturally warmer already. Therefore, they don’t need the heater’s warmth to the same extent that your downstairs rooms do.

A ductless mini-split only heats or cools the rooms or zones that need it. So you can focus more heat on that drafty downstairs room while directing cooling to the zoned areas upstairs. 

You have optimal temperature control too. Each indoor air-handling unit includes a remote control for setting the thermostat. 

If you like your bedroom to be a cool 65 degrees but the rest of the house to be 72, you can set the air-handling unit in your bedroom to 65— and the rest of the place won’t be that chilly. 

Saves You Money on Utility Bills

By far, the biggest reason to upgrade to a ductless mini-split – and the one that convinces the most people – is how much money you can save on your monthly utility bills.

 All that wasted air from a leaky ducted HVAC system comes out of your pocket every month. 

Let’s use an example to show you how you can recoup that money and the cash you spent on your mini-split system.

For this example, let’s say you live in Region three in the United States. This mid-country region experiences moderate weather with fewer extremes than the northernmost and southernmost regions.

Continuing the example, you pay 12 cents per kilowatt-hour or kWh for your electricity. Unfortunately, your current air conditioner has a SEER rating of only 12.

You buy a ductless mini-split air conditioner with a capacity of 12,000 BTUs and a SEER rating of 21. 

You’ll save approximately $7,210 with your ductless mini-split system every year, says PowerSave AC’s energy savings calculator.

In five years, that’s $33,023 you’ve saved. After ten, it’s $61,511. Over 15 years, you’ll have saved $86,091.

Imagine what you would do if you were $86,000 richer! With a ductless mini-split system, that possibility is within reach.

Conclusion 

Ductless mini-splits are energy-efficient heating and cooling systems that allow temperature control customization by zone. 

Although the initial cost of a mini-split system isn’t super low, you can save thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars year over year!

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