HVAC and Mini-Split Decision

What's the difference?

HVAC stands for “Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.” A large traditional unit will consist an air handler inside the house, connected to a condenser outside. The air handler will then take in the room’s air, run it through cold coils (or heated if needed), and push the air through a series of ducts that will travel to every room in the house. 

A Mini-Split ductless system is a simple air handler for one room, which connects to a small condenser outside, usually nearby. The air handler for a mini-split will suck in the air, cool it (or heat it), and then push it right back out into that same room.

Pros and Cons

  • Cost

    A Mini-Split can definitely be a cheaper option, as some systems can run for as little as $600. However, there are more expensive brands with more features and better warranties, which can run up to about $2000. Cost of labor for mini-splits would range between $400-$500 depending on your local contractors.

    Compared to a traditional large system, which would usually cost about $2500-$3000 for a new unit and installation. However, depending on cost of labor, brand, and age of system, it can run up to about $8000 for a new AC unit (not including duct work, if needed).

  • Effectiveness

    To measure how effective an HVAC system is, you need to calculate the BTU’s needed to cool down your house. It’s generally accepted that you need 30-60 BTU’s per square foot. Mini Splits are only effective in small, closed rooms, usually no more than 300-400 square feet (which would require between 12,000-24,000 BTU’s) . This is a great option if you need to control the temperature in a specific room in your home, while leaving the rest of the house to the main system. 

  • Appearance
    A Mini-Split system requires about 4 feet by 2 feet of wall space, to properly hang the indoor air handler. This is a different aesthetic result from a traditional HVAC system, which would only be seen by the ceiling or wall air registers.

What's best for you?

It’s a difficult question to answer, as there are many different factors to take into consideration (e.g., budget, size of the house, pre-existing systems, aesthetics, etc.) We recommend talking to professional HVAC contractors in your area, to see what works best in the houses they’ve worked on, and what kind of prices they can offer.  All in all, the best kind of AC system is the one that works.