A mini split can be used for both heating and cooling. It provides excellent energy efficiency, compared to central AC units and even gas-fired furnaces.
The average price to install a ductless air conditioner unit (single zone) is $2,900-4,000. A typical two zone system costs $5,500-7,500. This tool can accurately estimate mini-split systems up-to 4 zones, with different indoor unit types & efficiencies.Calculate the Cost of Mini Split Heat Pump Now!
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Because there are many different system options, sizes and brands, most homeowners are very confused about the real cost of ductless ac and heat pumps, as well as how to estimate proper system tonnage (BTU).
How to use the calculator
You can get a very precise estimate for the cost of installing ductless air conditioning.
To get the most accurate quote, carefully enter the value of each field in the calculator. If you are unsure what each field means, or how to use it, see the detailed explanation below.
Once you fill out all fields that correspond to your specifications, click “calculate”. You will get calculated load for heating & cooling, as well as 3 price estimates – low, mid range and high end.
When looking at the price quotes, keep in mind that low end doesn’t mean bad quality. You can hire the most expensive HVAC contractor, and get a poor installation, or get the cheapest guy and never have any problems.
Unlike most other trades, HVAC professionals MUST be licensed in most states, have relevant work experience in the field, as well as initial and continuing education.
Therefore, poor or great workmanship is usually the result of an installer’s personal attention to detail, or if a licensed HVAC company sends a field tech with little experience and no supervision to perform your installation.
Basically, it comes down to doing thorough contractor research, and some element of luck.
Choose your HVAC installer wisely. My preference is to hire a smaller, but well established, owner operated company, where the owner is also the installer.
Jump to desired section:
Step 1) Area Square Footage
Step 2) Number of Zones
Step 3) Heating + Cooling vs. Heating Only (Primary System Usage)
Step 4) Indoor Unit / Air Handler Type
Step 5) System Efficiency
Step 6) Choosing a Mini Split Manufacturer
Step 7) House Insulation
Step 8) Location / US Region
$2900 - $3800
$6000 - $7800
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Step 1) Square Footage of Your Home/Rooms:
You should start by measuring the square footage of your whole house, or the particular area where you plan to install the mini split. This number will be used to determine system size in BTUs/tons that is most appropriate for your needs.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While the majority of contractors, suppliers, and online sites will overestimate the tonnage (heating/cooling capacity), for many “self-benefiting” reasons, our calculator is very conservative in this regard. It is based on actual usage statistics for heating in extremely cold conditions, as well as cooling when its very hot.
Many contractors and suppliers overestimate the tonnage in order to sell you a larger, more expensive system, as well as to cover their “rear”, in very rare cases of extreme hot or cold outside temperatures.
In addition, many HVAC contractors/salesmen don’t want to spend the time to analyze and accurately calculate the system load, and chose an easier route of over-specifying tonnage. This results in a much higher cost to the customer. Both upfront, and in future energy costs, as larger systems use more energy to run at low loads.
Step 2) Number of Zones:
Select how many rooms or zones you want to have covered. You can have a ductless air system providing heating and cooling throughout your whole house, with up-to 8 zones, using conventional residential models. Each zone can be individually controlled through a central thermostat, via remote control, or wirelessly, through a mobile app.
This flexibility allows you to cover even large homes, and only run cold or hot air where you need it (compared to central AC, which typically has only one zone – the whole house). The energy savings would be tremendous, as even in a 10 room home, you cannot have a typical 4-person family occupy every room in the house all at once.
In addition, using concealed duct/slim duct air handlers, you can have “single zone” service in several small rooms, by running short ducts from a “central” point to adjacent small rooms, such as bathroom + hallway + laundry room, etc.
However, a system that has over 4 zones becomes extremely complex. It requires additional equipment, such as branch boxes, separation tubes, longer line-sets, condensate drainage, etc. Thus, it falls outside the scope of a “typical” residential mini split. These large systems are very hard to estimate, given that there are too many unknowns.
Therefore, we limited our calculator to no more than 4 zones, which is a much more likely scenario for an average size home. If you have a large house, you can estimate 3-4 zone system cost, and then just double that number for a 6-8 zone system.
Optionally, if you have a price for a 4 zone installation, and need one or two more zones, just add about $3,000-3,200 per zone (assuming a wall-mounted or floor mounted air handler).
$2900 - $3800
$6000 - $7800
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Step 3) Cooling Only vs Heating + Cooling primary usage:
Ductless systems are ALL capable of running in Air Conditioning mode. However, additionally most can also function as Heat Pumps. This means they can provide heating for your whole house, or just that one room where you don’t have ducts or radiators, etc.
A strictly AC mini-split is NOT a heat pump! It is just a ductless air conditioner, which means no heating, and much lower energy efficiency (on par with central AC systems, or even window-mounted AC)!
Heat Pump technology is what makes mini splits so energy efficient, as well as enables them to run in heating mode.
Costs of AC only vs Heat Pump / AC mini split are nearly the same – about $150-200 difference for a single zone, and up-to $750 difference for a multi-zone system.
Therefore, when you look at a $3,500-4,000 installation cost for a single zone system, $200 is minuscule, considering a significantly higher efficiency, ability to provide heating, and energy savings that will cover the difference in material costs within 1-2 years!
Thus, we highly recommend a heat-pump vs. AC only model, even if you live at the equator, where you never need heating!
NOTE: If you select “Cooling Only” option, the “Efficiency” option will disappear, since AC only models are all LOW efficiency.
* Step 4) Selecting Indoor Unit / Air Handler Type
Indoor units, also called “air handlers”, of a mini-split are the ones that actually deliver cold/hot air to your rooms. The outdoor compressor delivers the compressed refrigerant to them, which depending on the mode of operation, will produce hot or cold air.
Most indoor units are “insanely quiet”, running as low as 21-23 dB(decibels), compared to up-to 60 dB for a window AC.
Air handlers typically come in 4 styles:
- Floor-mounted “radiator”
- Ceiling Cassette
- Concealed Duct
Wall and floor mounted indoor units typically do not require any extra installation work, and do not increase material costs.
- Wall Mounted air handler is the most common indoor unit for a mini-split / ductless system.It hangs on a wall (typically exterior wall) of your room, 6-8″ below the ceiling. It comes in different widths and depths, as well as in “designer” styles to provide a more appealing look.
Most are about 30″ wide, 12″ tall and 8-10″ deep. Larger units have higher capacity and can deliver more hot/cold air. They can blow air in a multitude of vertical and horizontal directions, manually or automatically, and are ideal for cooling operation.
If you worry about the aesthetic appeal of your room, many manufacturers have “designer’ series wall mounted indoor units that are slimmer, come in premium finishes / colors (not just “ugly” white), and will complement your interior design features, colors and furniture!
- Floor mounted units are ideal for residential radiator replacement, or any room with limited upper wall space. These are much better suited for heating your space. Since heat will always rise, it’s most efficient to deliver it from the floor level.
For air-conditioning, a floor-mounted air handler can blow the cold air upwards, which will still make your room very comfortable in the summer. Typical dimensions of a floor unit are 30″ wide, 24″ tall and just 3″ deep, making them hardly noticeable and not taking much space!
A floor mounted air handler is an excellent replacement for an old cast-iron radiator, in terms of utility / comfort (continuous heating/cooling and no steam), size and room style / design!
- Ceiling Cassette is installed inside your ceilings, and all you see is a ~ 2×2′ grill with air intake and a 4-way exhaust. It has a built in condensate pump to remove moisture produced during air conditioning operations.This air handler type requires open ceiling access and is ideal for installation inside suspended ceilings. It can also be installed at the top floor in your home, or where installers can run line set, electricity, and water drainage. When installed between rafters, it will require cutting the ceilings and framing work, if your rafter span is 16″ OC or less. Ceiling cassettes cost more for both parts and installation.
- Concealed Duct can service multiple smaller rooms or one bigger area. However, unlike ceiling cassettes, this will require ducts to be installed for both intake and exhaust, making it ideal for installations in new construction homes.
Concealed duct will cost even more than a ceiling cassette, for both labor and parts (since it also has a built in condensation pump). In retrofit applications, removal of drywall will be necessary to install line-set, wiring and drain pipes, as well as duct work.The increased costs of materials & labor, make concealed duct the most expensive type of air handler, compared to other indoor units.
Step 5) Unit Efficiency
There are literally 100s if not 1000s of different MiniSplit HVAC systems from over 30 manufacturers around the globe. So to make it simple we have two options for efficiency setting: Average and High.
- Average efficiency is around 18-24 SEER for Single Zone Systems and 15-20 SEER for multi-zone systems.
- High efficiency is around 26-33 SEER for Single Zone Systems and 20-24 SEER for multi-zone systems. High efficiency mini-splits also include HYPER HEAT / HIGH HEAT models from FUJITSU, LG and MITSUBISHI.
The average cost difference (materials only) between average and high efficiency heat pumps is around $300/zone.
For COOLING-ONLY models, only low/average efficiency setting is available, as these are NOT heat pumps (they are regular air conditioners that use ductless installation method, where the compressor is separated form the air handler), and do not have more than 16-18 SEER.
** Step 6) Choosing a Manufacturer
There are over 20 different manufacturers of ductless mini-splits and a multitude of private labels. However, in the US / Canada, as well as many other countries, the clear market leaders are Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Daikin, LG and to a lesser degree GREE.
Fujitsu and Mitsubishi have the most efficient mini-splits in the world, with lower BTU models having as much as 33 SEER ratings. These two brands are also widely considered to be the most reliable. Both Fujitsu and Mitsubishi have Extreme Low Temperature “HIGH HEAT” models, that can operate in temps as low as -15F and -13F respectively (xltH and H2i product lines).
LG also has a HIGH HEAT line (LG Red), that will operate in temps up-to -13F, but for cooling is rated at “only” 27.5 SEER. However, some installers say that LG may not be as reliable as Fujitsu/Mitsubishi, and if there are problems, you may have issues obtaining parts. Keep in mind though that such issues are fairly rare, and are based on reports from a few HVAC contractors who had such problems. Most happy contractors/homeowners will typically not report that everything is GREAT.
Daikin is also considered to be very reliable (as it’s a Japanese brand, just like Fujitsu / Mitsubishi), but does not have super efficient units, making out at 26.1 SEER for just one product line. In addition, Daikin does not have HIGH HEAT units, and will only run in low temps up-to -4F. Despite having lower energy efficiency, Daikin prices their systems at or above the prices for better specs units from Mitsubishi and Fujitsu, which are considered the gold standard.
Less Known Brands: most other brands (including GREE) do not have super efficient models, topping out at around 22-24 SEER, and will have a max low operating temperatures above +5F. Very few 2nd tier mini split manufacturers will have a model that is specified to work up to -5F. I’ve not seen any 2nd tier ductless heat pumps that will provide heating at below -5F.
In addition to lower energy efficiency of 2nd/3rd tier brands, quality, reliability, service and parts may and often will be a major problem, if your unit is not working. However, 2nd tier brands typically cost 50% less than 1st tier, and most of them do work pretty well, and will often work without any repairs for at least 10 years. If you look at international Mini Split market, where cost is a much bigger concern, most units ARE 2nd tier, and many are over 10-15 years old!
There are also Panasonic & Samsung which sell some products in the US, but do not have a big presence in the local HVAC space.
Bottom line: the best (in efficiency, quality, reliability) ductless air conditioner and heat pump systems come from Japan, followed by Korean manufacturers. Others are all 2nd tier OR private labels (for example Lenox sells re-branded GREE systems under their own name).
NOTE: I would not consider GREE to be a 2nd tier brand. Probably more like “1.5 tier”, since they are one of the largest manufacturers of ductless mini-splits in the world! However they are nowhere near the quality and efficiency of Fujitsu or Mitsubishi.
NOTE 2: based on many factors, such as energy efficiency, cost (less expensive than Mitsubishi), reliability/warranty, HIGH-HEAT operation, and extremely high heating BTU rating (30% higher than a comparable Mitsubishi unit), I chose a FUJITSU 9RLS3HY (9K BTU single zone) for my own home, and have installed it (mostly myself) in Dec. 2017. So far I’m extremely happy with it:
Step 7) Home Insulation
If you have an older home with uninsulated walls / attic, single pane or double pane windows, air leaks, cold air drafts, etc, select POOR INSULATION.
If you have walls with 4″ 13-R fiberglass or blown-in cellulose/fiberglass insulation, as well as some attic/roof insulation, newer double pane windows, insulated doors, low air leaks/cold drafts, select AVERAGE INSULATION.
If you have 6″ or more of fiberglass wall insulation, or spray foam insulation in walls, and over 30-R of insulation in the attic/roof, high(er) end windows / doors, nearly no air leaks, select GOOD/EXCELLENT INSULATION
Keep in mind that this is an approximate gauge of how much more BTUs you would need per square foot of your room/house, based on heat loss to insulation ratio. To get a more accurate measurement of system’s size / BTUs needed to heat/cool your space, it’s ideal for your HVAC contractor to do a Load Calculation using Manual J method.
However, (and unfortunately) most pros either don’t want to spend 2 hours (per project) calculating system size OR do not know how to do a Manual J calculation (properly or at all). To compensate for their laziness or lack of knowledge, many will grossly oversize system load.
While this covers their “behind”, it ends up costing a homeowner $1,000-3,000 more in upfront installation expenses, as well as $200-500 extra in energy costs each year, due to lower efficiency of larger systems, as well as higher minimum BTUs, at which these systems operate.
Example: A Mitsubishi 18K BTU Hyper Heat systems (Model MZ-FH18NAH) has a 21 SEER & 12.5 HSPF ratings and a MINIMUM of 6,450 BTUs in cooling mode (~ 1/3 the capacity) which means it will typically use AT LEAST 1/3 of potential max load, ad minimum operation.
By comparison, a 12K BTU unit from the same series (Model MZ-FH12NAH), is rated at 26.5 SEER (20% higher than its 18K BTU counterpart) and will run at much lower 3,700 BTU minimum capacity, using almost 1/2 the electricity of it’s “slightly older brother”.
At the same time, the 12K (1 Ton) system is more than capable of heating a 600 sq. ft. space with rather poor to medium insulation level, in Boston, MA area (average winter temperature is 22F degrees), and costs $800-900 less in materials!
At the same time, a survey of 5 local HVAC contractors, showed that ALL will recommend at least 18K BTU system, and some even as much as 24K BTUs. Not a single contractor/estimator preformed any type of load calculation, or even measured the space and asked me about insulation! Some also suggested a 2 zone system, which would cost $3,000 more!!!
System load will also depend on your REGION, foundation type, number of windows, ceiling height, sun exposure, and many other factors that are outside the scope of this calculator.
Step 8) Select Your Region
Choose your region to get more locally-relevant prices, reflective of the cost of living, wages and material prices in your state. You can also leave it at default US-average setting. At times, your location will have a drastic effect on how much you will pay for your new ductless HVAC system.
For example, prices in New England (MA, CT, RI, NH & VT) or on the West Coast (Pacific Region – WA, OR, CA) will be about 25-29% higher than those in the South Central regions (Texas, Louisiana / Alabama / Arkansas, Mississippi, etc).
In addition, this may affect your system size/load, if you plan to use it for heating and you live in the northern states.
Benefits of using multiple Single Zone Units vs. a Multi-Zone ductless ac
While there are many multi-zone ductless systems, as you increase capacity (BTU rating/tonnage), overall system efficiency goes down significantly, for both heating and cooling! Therefore, it might make sense to have multiple single-zone units installed, instead of one large multi zone system.
Material cost difference is insignificant when comparing two 9K BTU systems vs one 2-zone 18K BTU system, while SEER ratings would be 33 vs 21.5 SEER respectively (comparing Fujitsu 9RLS3HY single zone vs 18RLXFZH two-zone HIGH HEAT systems).
This difference in seer rating can account for as much as 8% of your total annual energy costs (see Mini Split Energy Savings section below).
As for labor cost difference between single compressor 2-zone system vs. 2 compressors / 2 zones, the extra work required is:
- Mount second compressor on wall bracket or ground footing (or any other acceptable mounting method) – this takes 15 minutes to 1 hour of work!
- If there is additional electric wiring/circuit breaker available for 2nd compressor, add a 15-20A ~240V circuit breaker and run a 240V single phase (typically) 2 prong cable with ground, to the location of 2nd compressor. Extra electric work is the most expensive part of using two single zone systems vs. one multi-zone unit.
Average cost of such electric work is $300-500 with materials, or less per zone, if you will be adding new wiring / circuit breakers for each zone anyway.
Why go with a mini-split for your whole house heating & cooling
Mini-Split heat pumps / air conditioners are excellent choice for when you don’t have duct work in a certain area of your home, or it is to costly to install a dedicated HVAC system. High efficiency Mini-split AC can save you as much 25% in annual energy costs!
A typical household will save as much as $1025/year*** or more! It really makes sense to convert your HVAC system for Ductless Mini-Split, whether your main objective is Heating, Cooling or both!
Cooling: Ductless air systems are extremely efficient in the cooling mode, compared to central AC – in part because of a more advanced Heat-Pump Inverter technology, which produces more cold air using less energy.
However the true advantage is in the fact that you eliminate the need for ducts, which can cause as much as 30% of energy loss – especially in unconditioned areas, such as attics and crawl spaces.
Mini splits deliver cold (and hot) air directly to the room where it’s needed, by placing individual air handlers on the wall, floor or concealed in the ceilings.
The cold/hot “freon” or R410A refrigerant is pumped from an outdoor compressor to the ultra quiet and efficient indoor unit, eliminating a central air-handler in your basement, and having to then push that air along the ducts.
It is also much easier to create individual zones, instead of having to cool/heat your whole house, when you only need comfort in just one room.
Most modern ductless heating systems are based on a “heat-pump” technology, which extracts heat or cold from the outside air. Even at below freezing temperatures, there is still heat. Think of it this way:
The refrigerant is COLDER than outside air – therefore the temperature difference between “freon” and outside air is the energy that heat pump captures, and then transfers it into your home.
What does this mean in real world usage?
An efficient mini-split heat pump can produce a lot of heat relatively cheaply, in temps as low as -15F or lower (Fujitsu single zone 9-15K BTU models of the RLS3HY series, which is what I have in my home).
These ultra effective heat pumps use as little as 20% of electricity compared to radiant electric heat! Yes – they are 5 times more efficient, than electric heat, If you think about it – a 1500W space heater will consume 36 KWh of electricity in 24 hours.
At $0.24/KWh (prices in MA for Eversource customers, or exactly how much I’m paying in 2018) that is $8.64 per day or $259 per month. That 1500W space heater can barely handle a 200 sq. ft. small room. My 9K BTU Fujitsu heat pump heats a 600 sq. ft. two level loft with ease, using just a tad more energy!
Heat pumps are only rivaled by high efficiency Gas-fired radiant/radiator systems, when it comes to heating energy efficiency / costs. However, if you consider that by adding an adequate size Solar PV system, you can completely cover the electricity needs of several mini splits, pay off both systems within 7-10 years in energy savings alone, and have free cooling/heating thereafter. Unlike solar power, homeowners have no way to get free natural gas, and would have to pay for heating until the end of days!
*** Energy savings – Ductless AC/Heat Pump vs Conventional Central AC / Heating Systems
Savings are based on a 48K BTU flex-zone Mini-split (17 SEER/9.8 HSPF), compared to a Central AC + Gas Furnace (8.5 SEER / 0.78 efficiency), for a 1600 sq. ft. home in Boston MA, where electric costs are extremely high ($0.24/KWh actual cost of electricity). This basically describes MY HOME!
Same house in Los Angeles CA, would yield a 56% savings ($1,567.97/year) using a much cheaper 30K BTU Mini split AC (assuming a $0.21/KWh electric cost).
$2900 - $3800
$6000 - $7800
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