Guide to Ductless Air Conditioners

Ductless air conditioner systems provide safe and affordable climate control year-round. Read A guide to ductless air conditioners available in 2021.

As heatwaves roll across the U.S. during its warmest months many homeowners are still relying on energy-draining window air conditioner units. Some homeowners own central air conditioning systems but build additions to their homes, which are not covered by the system. Ductless air conditioners are affordable and effective options for cooling your home in a variety of scenarios. These high-tech systems are not just efficient, however. Ductless air conditioning systems also offer flexible customized installation options for multiple sizes of rooms and homes. Read ahead for an informative guide to ductless air conditioners available in 2021.


Ductless AC Systems 101

Ductless air conditioning systems are not reliant on ducts to keep your room or entire house cool. In fact, the units use no ducts at all to function efficiently and affordably all year long. A ductless AC system is also referred to as a mini-split. Each system connects an individual room unit with an outdoor compressor. Indoor units and outdoor compressors are connected by electrical wiring and refrigerant tubing. Indoor units are commonly wall-mounted and convert warm air from outside into cool air inside.

Single and multi-zone mini-split systems are available. A single-zone ductless AC system treats the air in one room. A multi-zone system connects numerous indoor units to one outdoor compressor. Typically, up to eight indoor units are capable of connecting to one outdoor compressor. System power requirements and other needs vary per model/brand and the size of the rooms involved. Still, no ductwork is needed because the converted air is delivered directly into each room through its associated unit. Multiple styles of indoor units are available on the market today. Most installation requirements pursuant to ductless air conditioning systems are limited to a hole in a wall through which the refrigerant line and wiring are run. For these reasons and more, ductless AC systems are some of the most convenient, customizable, user-friendly AC units to install today. 

Types of Ductless AC Systems Available

Numerous types of ductless AC systems are available today. The single and multi-zone units are two primary unit types and allow extra flexibility when choosing the rooms to cool or not in your home. While most indoor units in both of these types of systems are wall-mounted, some are conversely mounted on the floor or ceiling. Floor-mounted mini-splits function the same as do wall-mounted units but are installed at (or near) the bottom of a wall. Why choose one or the other between these two mounting options? Wall-mounted units are the most affordable options and are therefore the most popular among consumers overall. Wall-mounted units require ceilings of suitable height shape and size, however. A floor-mounted mini-split is used when ceilings are either too high or low or have precarious angles.

Two other types of ductless AC systems include ceiling cassette and concealed duct mini-splits. A ceiling cassette system is installed on the actual ceiling instead of a wall and provides a larger section of airflow than other ductless AC systems. Ceiling cassette systems also help conceal he units from plain sight, which is a feature preferred by some homeowners. Concealed duct mini-split systems are also mounted on ceilings instead of walls. Different from all other ductless AC systems, concealed duct mini-splits are actually connected to one or more ducts for the purpose of forcing air into multiple rooms from one single ductless AC unit. If a single area or room in your home is larger than other spaces or you need your single-zone ductless AC system to work for multiple rooms, concealed duct mini-splits are perfect options for you.

Average Installation and Unit Costs

The average costs to purchase and install a ductless AC system in 2021 is approximately $5,000. Prices range as low as $1,500 or as high as $8,500+, however, depending on the model, brand and type purchased. A single-zone unit costs approximately $1,800. Multi-zone units cost between $2,500 and $4,000+ on average. Installation requires a certified professional HVAC service provider to be completed safely and effectively. Installation charges vary per service and are billed in hourly or flat-rate prices. 

Installation prices are also affected by the number of units installed and their locations (wall, floor or celling, etc.). Individual unit prices are affected by the power (BTUs) of each unit and various other factors. Outdoor compressors also require a contractor to lay concrete and remove all applicable elements of your former AC unit(s) and system.

Types of Buildings Using Ductless AC Systems Today

Residential buildings use mini-split systems to heat/cool singles rooms, room additions and entire houses. Multi-family housing buildings also use ductless AC systems because of their overall cost-effectiveness in heating/cooling multiple units in one apartment building/complex. Older homes and business structures with no ducts also use mini-split systems in 2021.

Ductless AC systems are also common to find in commercial and corporate buildings. For example, Emerson Climate Technologies states approximately eighty-five percent of mini-split systems are located in commercial buildings. Hospitals, nursing homes, warehouse and more all take advantage of the benefits of ductless AC systems today.

Benefits of Having a Ductless Air Conditioner

Mini-splits allow individual control over each unit without affecting another unit’s performance or temperature. Installation is less intrusive and systems are generally much less expensive than the installation of central HVAC systems. Ductless AC systems save valuable space. Certain styles are even concealable to preserve the natural aesthetics of your home. Finally, mini-splits are energy-efficient and are quieter than normal window units.

Disadvantages of Ductless AC Systems Compared to Central HVAC Systems

Central HVAC systems are designed to keep your entire house warm/cool without you having to think much about it. A ductless AC system saves money in the end, but up-front installation prices are higher than many homeowners expect. Wall-mounted units have less visual appeal than vents as well.

Best-Selling Ductless AC Brands/Models

The Mitsubishi MUZ-FH is widely regarded as one of the best ductless AC brands on the market today. Performance, durability, efficiency and efficacy in extremely cold temperatures are all top-quality features with this model and brand. Additional top-selling ductless AC brands/models for 2021 include: