Ductless Mini Split Installation Cost
The name of a mini-split heat pump derives from its physical layout.
Instead of having the complete system housed in an individual piece of equipment mounted to a frame or wall, the heat pump consists of an interior and outdoor unit.
Insulated refrigerant lines link the two units, facilitating heat transmission between indoor and outdoor environments.
The indoor unit is referred to as the evaporator, while the outside unit is known as the condenser.
- Heat pumps are available as cooling-only models and reversible models that operate as air conditioners during summer and as a heating source in winter.
- When purchasing a heating and cooling heat pump, you save on installation costs by combining two pieces of equipment into one.
Compared with traditional air conditioners and packaged terminal units, the main advantage of mini-splits in cooling mode is their superior energy efficiency. Even when using the least efficient mini-splits in the market, you can expect savings of over 25% compared with a window-type AC.
Even greater savings are possible when using a top efficiency mini-split system, and you can expect electricity consumption to drop by over 70%.
In heating mode, a heat pump is much more efficient than an electric resistance heater, capable of reducing electricity consumption by 50% or more.
When comparing heat pumps and gas furnaces, operating costs tend to be similar. However, a heat pump produces no greenhouse gas emissions while a furnace is constantly burning gas or other fuels.
Typical Cost of a Mini-Split Heat Pump
Like in any home upgrade project, the cost of a new mini-split heat pump will depend on factors like the equipment brand and its rated heating and cooling capacity.
You can also expect to pay more for higher-efficiency units, and local labor costs must also be considered. The installed price of a single-zone heat pump typically ranges from $3,600 to $8,000.
Average Cost To Install a Ductless AC (Mini-Split) Typical Range: $3,270 – $4,780
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- The price of mini-split heat pumps can be much higher depending on the features you want to include.
- For example, there are high efficiency units that come with a built-in solar panel to reduce their net electricity consumption, but this also means you must pay a premium.
As you might expect, multi-zone heat pumps are more expensive than single-zone systems, but there are economies of scale involved. The total cost of a central system is higher, but the cost per zone tends to decrease.
For example, an HVAC installation that uses a 4-zone heat pump will generally have a much lower average cost per zone than another installation using four single-zone units.
The following table summarizes the typical price range of heat pumps as the number of zones increases:
|Number of Heat Pump Zones
|Typical Cost Range
|Cost per Zone
|$3,600 – $8,000
|$3,600 – $8,000
|Multi-zone: 2-4 zones
|$6,800 – $13,500
|Less than $3,500
|Multi-zone: 4 or more zones
|$10,500 – $18,500
|Less than $3,000
Here are some installed price ranges you can expect when installing specific heat pump brands and models. As you can see, total project costs increase along with the number of zones, while the average cost per zone actually decreases:
|Heat Pump Model
|Typical Cost Range
|9,000 – 24,000
|$3,600 – $9,200
|18,000 – 45,000
|$4,100 – $13,400
|Mitsubishi Hyper Heat
|12,000 – 48,000
|$3,800 – $16,750
|18,000 – 48,000
|$4,350 – $13,200
|18,000 – 48,000
|$5,450 – $16,550
|Gree Multi+ Ultra
|18,000 – 48,000
|$5,700 – $16,850
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Pro Tip: Even the most efficient heat pump will waste electricity in a room with poor insulation and leaky doors and windows. Your new air mini-split system will save more electricity (and dollars) if you check your insulation level and airtightness first!
Energy Savings When Upgrading to a Mini-Split Heat Pump
The exact savings achieved by a heat pump system depend on multiple factors, such as local climate and energy prices. However, when using ENERGY STAR mini-split systems, you can expect savings of around 25-50% compared with the minimum federal efficiency requirements.
According to data gathered by Mitsubishi, you can expect to save between $1,000 and $2,000 per year after upgrading to a heat pump.
Even if you consider a single-zone heat pump at the upper end of the price scale ($8,000), you can expect a payback period of 4-8 years. Also consider that heat pumps often qualify for financial incentives that reduce their upfront cost, shortening their payback period.
Did you know? The energy efficiency metric for mini-split air conditioners and heat pumps in cooling mode is called the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), while the metric for heating mode is the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF).
The SEER and HSPF can be compared with the fuel economy of cars, measured in miles per gallon (MPG). Just like a higher MPG indicates lower fuel consumption in cars, a higher SEER or HSPF value indicates lower electricity consumption in mini-splits.
Advantages of Mini-Splits
As described in the example above, the #1 advantage of mini-split heat pumps is their superior energy efficiency. A mini-split can save you thousands of dollars in power bills over time, especially if you live in a place with high energy costs or extreme temperatures.
The savings achieved by a high-efficiency heat pump are also higher in places with expensive electricity. Saving 1,000 kWh subtracts $150 from your power bills at 15 cents/kWh, but the same kWh savings subtract $250 from your bills at 25 cents/kWh. To make sure you get top efficiency, the simplest solution is purchasing a mini-split air that is ENERGY STAR certified.
Mini-split heat pumps can also be used for localized heating and cooling, which is especially useful in large homes. Instead of potentially wasting electricity with a central unit that cools and warms empty spaces, you can use individual mini-splits to control the temperature of specific rooms.
Note that this is not an issue when using modern central units with zoning capacity, since they can operate at partial heating or cooling output.
Mini-split heat pumps can also contribute to indoor air quality. Since ductless units don’t use air ducts, you also avoid the maintenance associated with ductwork. Having a central ducted system is convenient when you need to heat or cool an entire home, but air pollutants such as mold spores can also spread more easily through air ducts.
Finally, mini-splits are also a comfortable option thanks to their silent operation. Older window ACs and packaged systems can be very noisy, and there is no way to separate the compressor from the rest of the unit.
When using a mini-split, the indoor unit blowing cool or warm air can be separated from the outdoor condenser.
Disadvantages of Mini-Splits
Like any HVAC engineer can confirm, design decisions often come with pros and cons, and this is the case for mini-split heat pumps.
One of the main disadvantages of mini-split units is their lack of ventilation. Their ductless design contributes to energy efficiency, while giving you the flexibility to separate the evaporator and condenser.
However, a mini-split has no way to provide fresh outdoor air, since it simply circulates the air already inside your home. This means you need to install a separate ventilation system to meet building code requirements.
Mini-split units can also be expensive to install in homes with many rooms. Although a central unit is more expensive than a single mini-split, your installation cost per room can be much lower when there are multiple zones involved.
There are now central heat pumps with a smart design, capable of only cooling or heating individual areas, and shutting off airflow in empty areas.
The electrical wiring requirements of a central unit are also much simpler than those of multiple mini-splits since there is no need to power multiple condensers.
Modern mini-splits have advanced electronic components, but this also means they are vulnerable to power grid fluctuations. Before upgrading from older HVAC equipment to a high efficiency mini-split, make sure you get a professional inspection of your wiring and electrical protections.
If you plan to use mini splits, your electrical installation must be properly grounded and protected by a reliable voltage surge suppressor.
Comparing Single-Zone Mini Splits with other HVAC Configurations
There are two main alternatives to single-zone mini split heat pumps:
- Central heat pumps with heating and cooling capacity
- Traditional air conditioner + gas furnace combo
As mentioned before, the main advantage of single-zone heat pumps is their superior energy efficiency. When comparing the technical specifications of single-zone and central multi-zone heat pumps, you will notice that smaller units tend to have higher efficiency ratings. They also offer the advantage of localized heating and cooling.
The downside of single zone mini-splits is that project costs become much higher when multiple zones are involved.
The most efficient heat pumps and the most efficient air conditioners are evenly matched in terms of SEER ratings, which means you can expect similar cooling costs. Comparing heat pumps in heating mode with traditional gas furnaces is a bit more complex since the energy input is different in each case.
- A heat pump will have lower operating costs in places with below-average electricity tariffs and above-average gas prices.
- The opposite happens when gas is affordable and electricity is expensive, and gas furnaces have lower operating costs in this case.
Heat pumps are strongly recommended if you have solar panels, since they can use electricity all year long. An air conditioner and furnace combo can only take advantage of solar energy during summer, since a furnace only uses a small amount of electricity for its blower fan.
The Inflation Reduction Act introduced many incentives for energy efficiency measures, and heat pumps get a higher tax credit than other HVAC units.
Even if you purchase the most efficient air conditioner and gas furnace available, the maximum tax credit for the combined upgrade is $1,200. On the other hand, a heat pump benefits from a federal tax credit of up to $2,000.
How Efficient Mini-Splits and Solar Panels Can Work Together to Achieve Superior Energy Savings
The new tax credits introduced by the Inflation Reduction Act benefit both energy efficiency equipment and renewable generation systems. This means you can invest in efficient HVAC units and solar panels and claim a tax deduction for both projects.
Solar panels reach their peak productivity during sunny summer days, which is precisely when homes and businesses have their highest air conditioning costs.
An efficient mini-split heat pump can easily cut your cooling costs by over 50% if you purchase an ENERGY STAR unit, and solar panels can offset the remaining consumption.
A 6-kW home solar system costs slightly over $18,000 based on the latest data gathered by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Thanks to the federal tax credit extension, you can deduct $5,400 (30%) and reduce the net cost to $12,600. Considering that heat pumps qualify for $2,000, you would be claiming a total tax credit of up to $7,400 in this case.