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All About Mini-Split Systems

A mini-split system can be mounted anywhere and is an economical alternative for ductless homes.

A mini-split air conditioner is a mix between a built-in unit and a wall unit, providing whisper quiet operation, and a small footprint so it won't detract from your decor.

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mini-split living room wall unitPhoto: Courtesy of Fujitsu General America

What is a Mini-Split?

Mini-split systems are A/C and heating units that are increasingly popular, mainly because most installations don’t require ductwork. Similar to conventional HVAC systems, mini-splits have an outdoor condenser and one or more air handlers inside. Mini-splits somewhat like a window A/C unit split in half—hence the name.

All systems shown in this story are manufactured by Fujitsu. Visit Fujitsu General America to see more options. 

mini-split system fujitsu wall mounted or ducted unit diagramPhoto: Courtesy of Fujitsu General America

How Does a Mini-Split Work?

Like a conventional A/C unit, a mini-split uses copper tubing to carry the refrigerant from the outdoor unit, which contains the compressor and condenser, to the indoor air handler. But with a mini-split, the conditioned air blows directly out of the indoor air handler into the room, rather than being routed through  ductwork. A typical compressor can run four or five air handlers, which are mounted in different zones (or rooms) throughout the house. The indoor units can be mounted on the wall, floor or ceiling.

In the winter, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the outside (because the refrigerant is far colder than the air) and carries it to the air handlers. In the summer, the refrigerant absorbs heat from inside the house, carrying it out to cool the house. Don’t have A/C or your A/C isn’t working? Here’s how to cool down a room without A/C.

mini-split ac pool tablePhoto: Courtesy of Fujitsu General America

Will a Mini-Split Work for You?

A mini-split is a viable option for a house with no existing ductwork, such as one with a boiler and radiators. You won’t have to install ductwork, which can be both expensive and difficult to accommodate. A mini-split can also be a good choice for a large house with rooms that don’t get used often. Rooms that aren’t served well by existing forced-air systems also make good candidates.

Manufacturers claim that a mini-split system can cut your heating and cooling costs by up to 50 percent. However, the savings vary according to the square footage of the conditioned space and the efficiency of the equipment you’re replacing. Here are our best energy saving tips.

ceiling mini-split unit kitchenPhoto: Courtesy of Fujitsu General America

Are Mini-Splits DIY Friendly?

Most mini-splits are installed by professional HVAC companies, but you can buy do-it-yourself kits with prices starting at about $1,500. (Pros will charge at least double that.) If you go online and search for “DIY mini-splits,” you’ll find many companies that can provide you with products and advice.

Installing a mini-split yourself, however, is advanced DIY. You’ll have to run electrical service to the unit and route refrigerant lines through the walls from outside. These units come with pre-charged refrigerant lines, a big benefit because charging the lines requires special know-how and tools.

Keeping your home cool in the summer can be a challenge at best.  So, check out these tips for how to keep your home cool during the summer (a mini-split is among the list!).