How Much Does Mini-Split Installation Cost?

When central air isn’t an option, or you just need more individualized temperature control, consider installing a mini-split. On average, a mini-split installation cost runs between $2,000 and $14,500.

By Brie Greenhalgh | Updated Jul 6, 2022 5:57 PM

Mini-Split Installation Cost

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  • Typical Range: $2,000 to $14,500
  • National Average: $3,000

The struggle to keep everyone happy with the current temperature can be challenging, but there are ways around the problem. The best solution is a mini-split system installation, which provides individualized control over the temperature in each room where the unit is installed. This solution is also more efficient and cost-effective than installing an entire HVAC system with ductwork.

A mini-split installation cost ranges between $2,000 and $14,500, with an average of $3,000. The size of the house and the number of rooms primarily drive the cost. Get to know everything about mini-split installation costs below.

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What Is a Ductless Mini-Split?

Mini-Split Installation Cost Factors

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Mini-split systems heat and cool a house without the ductwork needed for a traditional HVAC system. They still use an outdoor compressor and condenser, but they feed each indoor air-handling unit with a simple conduit that operates like a heat pump.

The indoor evaporating unit is installed in each room where homeowners want individualized temperature control. It’s typically mounted to a wall or ceiling and doesn’t take up a lot of space. Any room with this air-handling unit will have its own thermostat to control heating and cooling.

These units can be installed in homes with existing ductwork when only one or two rooms need additional heating or cooling. They also work well in homes where it’s challenging to install ductwork in the attic.

Factors in Calculating Mini-Split Installation Cost

A mini-split AC installation cost runs about 50 percent less than a central AC unit, partly due to the lack of ductwork and extra labor needed. Still, there are several components required to install a ductless system properly. Mini-split air conditioner installation costs are also driven by the unit size, labor, location in the house, number of zones, brand, and SEER rating. Here is the breakdown for each of these mini-split AC cost factors.

Unit Size

The size of the unit is a significant part of the total mini-split air conditioner cost. The most common size is a 12,000 BTU–capacity unit, and those usually cost an average of $3,000. Mini-split systems usually have at least one room connected, but they could power up to five indoor units.

If more rooms each need their own air-handling unit, then additional condensers can be purchased (typically $400 to $1,800 each), or a larger condenser can be installed. You’ll want to speak to an HVAC company to compare the installation costs and the operating costs for your area if you need more than five units in different rooms, as this is the maximum most brands can accommodate.

Components

Mini-split systems have a fairly limited number of components compared to some mechanical systems. Homeowners will need to choose whether they want the in-room units mounted on the ceiling, wall, or floor or have them recessed. Here are the average costs of the most common components before installation:

  • Outdoor condenser: $1,000 to $6,000
  • Indoor wall-mounted unit: $400 to $1,000
  • Indoor ceiling-mounted unit: $700 to $2,000
  • Recessed indoor ceiling cassette: $500 to $2,000
  • Floor-mounted: $1,300 to $4,000

Other components include the accessory kit needed to install the system, including the wires, lines, boxes, and other necessary pieces. This kit usually costs $300 to $500. Finally, the cost of the refrigerant line is included at $5 per foot.

Labor and Permits

Labor makes up only part of mini-split system installation costs, unlike other projects where labor makes up the majority of the cost. For most mini-split AC installations, it will cost $300 to $1,500 to hire an HVAC technician. Technicians will have most mini-splits installed within 5 to 10 hours.

You’ll likely need to obtain a permit to install a mini-split system, particularly if it’s a multi-zone system. It’s recommended to check with your municipality before starting this project. On average, permits can cost between $250 and $400.

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Location in House

Mini-splits can be installed as zones to cover one or more areas within a home. A quad-zone can usually cover four rooms, depending on their sizes. If an installer needs to add additional zones or units on upper floors, it will cost more for the extra components and labor. You’ll probably pay about $10 to $20 per foot for materials, and the work will take a couple of hours.

Sometimes homeowners use this system to heat or cool just their outside patio. If the condenser can be installed nearby, the total cost could end up being cheaper since the air-handling unit won’t be positioned several rooms away.

Number of Zones Required

Homeowners can purchase mini-splits with a single zone or multi-zones to handle up to five different rooms. (Some brands can handle more.) An HVAC pro will need to assess the square footage of each room to ensure that the right unit and number of zones is purchased to do the job adequately. Larger rooms like a family room could require two units, which means a quad-zone would be installed in only three rooms.

The number of zones you need will influence the total price since more zones mean a larger unit with more components. A single zone averages $2,000 to $8,800; a three-zone unit averages $3,400 to $13,400; and a five-zone unit averages $4,800 to $18,000.

Brand

As with most mechanical units, there are a variety of brands to choose from. Many are well-known brands and typically have a higher price point, and others are lesser-known brands with lower price points.

  • Mitsubishi: These units average $1,200 to $8,650 and are available for up to eight zones. They operate well even in extreme temperatures.
  • Panasonic: Single-zone mini-splits cost an average of $1,700 to $2,800.
  • Daikin: This brand offers budget models for single zones at $1,000 to $1,700.
  • Fujitsu and Rheem: Both offer single or multi-zones for an average of $1,100 to $8,300.
  • Frigidaire: This brand has smaller units available for around $1,000 to $1,400.

You can also ask about numerous other brands, including Samsung, Cooper & Hunter, LG, and more. Some homeowners may notice that a Home Depot mini-split installation cost is lower than other brands, but these DIY kits may not necessarily have the same effectiveness and efficiency as other brands installed by a professional.

SEER Rating

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. When an HVAC unit has a higher SEER rating, it will cost less to run since it operates more efficiently. It’s one factor to consider as you select the mini-split unit that’s best for your home and region. Areas with more extreme temperatures might benefit from a higher SEER-rated system since it will probably run more often.

Energy-efficient units often come with rebates from utility companies and tax credits from local and state governments. However, mini-split AC units with a higher SEER rating can often cost more up front even if you save more in the long run, so consider what’s best for your budget and overall needs.

Mini-Split Installation Cost Factors

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Additional Costs and Considerations

While most homeowners can calculate the total mini-split cost with the previous factors, there are extenuating circumstances where additional costs could be necessary. Some projects will require assistance from other contractors beyond the HVAC technicians. Other projects might need to have an old HVAC unit removed entirely.

Additional Contractors

An installation may also require the help of an electrician or carpenter. If so, an electrician usually charges between $200 and $500 to make sure the correct circuits are installed to meet local codes. If a carpenter is required to cut holes through a home’s exterior, expect to pay between $200 to $300 for their expertise.

Removing HVAC Components

Some homeowners could install a ductless AC unit and replace their old central air unit. In this case, it’s best to simply remove the old equipment to prevent any issues with old equipment degrading from disuse. Old condensers, ductwork, and even thermostats could be removed in this process. It’s much cheaper to remove old equipment rather than install it, so expect a price of $80 to $150 for removal.

Mini-Split Installation Cost Types

Homeowners will need to determine how many rooms need to have in-room units installed to manage the temperature better. Since the size of the unit is the primary cost factor, the number of zones the unit will connect with is important to know ahead of time. Some homes have just one room that can’t seem to maintain a comfortable temperature, while others have an entire basement or different rooms throughout the house that need extra help. Choosing whether you need a unit for a single zone or multiple zones is important.

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Single-Zone

A single-zone mini-split system works well for homes with an open floor plan and little need for controlling individual room temperatures. The condenser will connect to a single indoor air-handling unit that’s placed in an open common area or in the one room that needs heating or cooling. Only one thermostat is installed to control the unit. This mini-split type works well for small homes with average weather, attics, south-facing rooms, or even patios. It’s also possible to install this in addition to an existing central HVAC system. That makes it a convenient and affordable option for homeowners who need a solution for just one room without upgrading an entire HVAC system.

Multi-Zone

Multi-zone mini-split systems are gaining popularity since they usually cost less than traditional HVAC systems. This system includes a more powerful condenser unit based on the number of rooms that need their own air-handling unit. Multi-zone systems usually work for two to five rooms. A limited number of brands can even accommodate up to eight rooms. The alternative is to purchase two units, and sometimes that might be the cheaper option than whole-home central air. Homeowners who need multi-zone mini-splits find they’re a cost-effective solution for handling multiple rooms that need their own thermostats.

Pros of Installing a Mini-Split

Mini-split or ductless air systems have been gaining in popularity in recent years for several reasons. They’re often more efficient than a central air unit, cost less, run more quietly, and offer much more individualized control. All of those are great benefits that are explained in more detail below.

Efficiency and Sustainability

Mini-split systems use conduits and wiring to run between the two units that power and produce temperature-controlled air. This means two things: less space is required to install the units and fewer materials are needed. Without those bulky ducts, homeowners don’t have to worry about air leaking along the joints or corners, which is often the cause of some inefficient central systems. Overall, ductless systems can run between 20 and 60 percent more efficiently than traditional HVAC units.

With fewer components required to install a mini-split AC unit, there’s less impact on the environment overall from creation to replacement. These units also don’t require any other major construction projects for installation, unlike some homes that need modification to make room for ducts. That means there’s no construction waste either.

Lower Cost

Mini-splits have fewer components, so the cost of materials is lower than a central air system. And without all those extra materials, you might not even have as much labor to pay for. Granted, it still takes time to get the units up and running, but it’s usually faster than a full HVAC system. Overall, mini-split systems cost up to 50 percent less than central air.

Low Noise

Many central air systems are fairly loud when they run, often between 50 and 80 decibels. Some of this is due to the large volume of air being sucked into the unit for cooling, and some of it is just the nature of mechanical units. Newer systems tend to run more quietly, but ductless systems run the quietest of all systems (32 decibels is common). Even window air conditioning units cause a louder racket than that.

Room-Specific Temperature Adjustment

It’s not uncommon for families to have one or two family members who prefer a different temperature. Or sometimes, some rooms get blasted by the afternoon sun or chilled in the dark basement. No matter the cause, a solution to maintaining acceptable temperatures for everyone is installing a multi-zone mini-split. This system puts a thermostat in each room so they can be controlled individually as needed. If the mini-split is the only heating and cooling system in the house, controlling rooms independently can also reduce energy costs since the system only works hard in select areas.

Increased Home Value

Any mechanical system that improves the quality of life increases home value. In this modern era, it’s almost a necessity to have some sort of temperature control in the house that works for your region. Another benefit of mini-split systems is that they can be installed in older homes that simply can’t accommodate the infrastructure needed for central air. And if a single zone is added to an existing system to help cool off that one room that always sizzles in the summer, prospective home buyers will be all the more appreciative.

Mini-Split Installation Cost Factors

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Mini-Split Installation: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

Now that you’re wondering how to install a mini-split, let’s break down a little of what that really implies. Mini-split systems are available for purchase from online retailers, but not all of them are efficient or strong enough to get the job done for larger homes. Most homeowners do not calculate their home’s size properly to choose the right unit for their needs. This can lead to higher energy costs and eventual replacement costs for more powerful units down the road. In addition, installing the condenser unit needs to be done carefully. These units have to sit on a level surface to operate properly—plus many states require certified HVAC technicians to handle the refrigerant coolant.

In the long run, your best bet is to have a pro come over and do an estimate on how many units you need and how many BTUs those units should produce to cool your house properly. These pros also know exactly which components are necessary and how to install mini-splits with any special tools that might be necessary. Additionally, if the correct electrical outlets aren’t available, you’ll need to hire an electrician to install them anyway.

Since labor isn’t a major part of the overall mini-split installation cost, it’s almost not worth it to try to save a little by doing it on your own. The last thing you want is to improperly install the conduits and end up with a leaky unit. HVAC technicians are well trained to avoid such a problem, and they’ll be able to quickly solve any issues that might arise during installation.

They’ll also have a good pulse on the best brands that would most closely match your needs. Sometimes it can be hard to choose the right brand or unit based on reviews alone, but technicians are familiar with the units that wear out fastest or operate the most quietly. Their expertise can save you money and ensure a boosted home value in the long run.

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How to Save Money on Mini-Split Installation Cost

Even though a mini-split is often cheaper than a central air system, it’s still a chunk of change to hand over all at once. There’s no reason you can’t find ways to save a little money on mini-split installation costs. Here are a few ideas to do just that.

  • Consider how many rooms actually need temperature control and install units only in those rooms.
  • Have a pro assess whether a cheaper single-zone mini-split can provide the air control you’re looking for in your home.
  • Decide whether you need just heating or just cooling or both to make sure you only pay for the kind of unit you need.
  • Ask about units with built-in sensors that will automatically shut off at the desired temperature to avoid excessive energy costs.
  • Decide whether you want to save on long-term energy costs or up-front installation costs. The higher the SEER rating, the higher the up-front cost, but the system runs more efficiently.
  • Obtain quotes from more than one company.
  • Consider getting a mini-split installed off-season when demand and prices might be lower.
  • Ask about any discounts for seniors, military, and first responders.
  • Check for online coupons or mailer advertisements.
Mini-Split Installation Cost

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Questions to Ask About Mini-Split Installation

Thinking about adding a new mechanical system to your house can feel confusing at times. If you’re prepared with the right questions to ask the HVAC company, you can avoid confusion, minimize miscommunication, and feel confident about your decision. As always, first make sure the company is licensed and insured with an established business reputation. Beyond that, consider the following questions.

  • How long have you worked on mini-split installations?
  • How common are mini-splits in my region?
  • Do you offer a free consultation to assess the size and type of unit I need?
  • Will my home need more than five units? If so, is it better to install a larger unit or two smaller units?
  • Can I review a line-item invoice?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • What if we end up needing an electrician? Do you have someone on staff?
  • Will we need a permit?
  • What brand of mini-split should I purchase if I’m concerned about my budget? What about if I’m concerned about efficiency?
  • Are there any rebates or tax credits I can take advantage of?
  • What are the pros and cons of wall, ceiling, and recessed mountings?
  • How long will it take to install?
  • What kind of problems or concerns should I call you about after installation?
  • Do you offer any guarantees, warranties, or maintenance programs?

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FAQs

Mini-split installation costs are not as high as those of some projects, but there are still some variables to consider.

Q. Do mini-splits add value to home?

Yes. Since they are improving the overall comfort level in the home, mini-splits do improve the home’s value. Even if there’s only one key room with a unit, there’s an added benefit that future homeowners will appreciate.

Q. Do you need an electrician to install a mini-split?

Possibly. The condenser unit that sits outside the house will need an adequate power source. If one doesn’t exist or is not up to code, you’ll need to have an electrician come in and prepare the circuit and wiring. It will need to be a dedicated 110-, 220-, or 240-volt circuit with a box in order to provide adequate power in any weather. Otherwise, the HVAC technician is qualified to handle hooking up the in-room units.

Q. What size breaker do I need for a mini-split?

It depends on the size and even the number of units. Most mini-splits operate at 12,000 BTUs, but others could run up to 60,000 BTUs. A 15-amp breaker can handle the power load for up to 24,000 BTUs, and a 30-amp breaker is sufficient for up to 60,000 BTUs.

Q. Can a mini-split cool a whole house?

The short answer is yes, but it does also depend on the size of the house. Cooling a 1,200-square-foot house is much different than heating a 3,000-square-foot house. That being said, it’s all a matter of choosing the right size unit or units. Most multi-zone mini-split systems max out at five indoor units, but some can go up to eight for a higher cost. The alternative is to install more than one multi-zone system and compare costs.

Q. How long do mini-split air conditioners last?

Another benefit of mini-split air conditioners is that they often last longer than a traditional central air unit. Mini-splits typically work for 15 to 20 years if they’re well maintained.

Q. Can you run a mini-split all day?

In terms of whether it’s safe to run a mini-split system all day, the answer is yes. These units are every bit as safe as any other household mechanical system that operates as needed throughout the day.

In terms of efficiency, the answer is still yes, you can run it all day. Leaving the system off on a warm day can mean a buildup of excess heat that’s much harder for the unit to overcome efficiently. It’s better to set the unit at an appropriate setting and allow it to run during the day. Many systems also come with sensor technology to automatically turn off when it reaches a certain temperature, which aids in efficiency.

Q. How much electricity does a mini-split use?

It depends on the size of the unit and how many zones there are. On average, these units use between 700 and 2,000 watts per hour. With a multi-zone system running all the units simultaneously, it will operate at the higher end compared to if only one unit is running.

Q. Do mini-splits remove humidity?

They can if they are switched to dry mode. This causes the fans to operate more slowly, which reduces the speed of the air traveling across the coils. Those coils are what can create condensation when there’s already some moisture in the air. Operating in dry mode can reduce the overall humidity, but it can also dry out the air too much, so it’s best to keep an eye on this setting.

Sources: HomeAdvisor, Angi, Fixr, HomeGuide, PickHvac, Real Time Bros HVAC

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