How Much Does It Cost to Install a Ductless Air Conditioner?
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Ductless Air Conditioner Cost Guide
Updated: January 10, 2024
Most people would agree that nothing beats cool air washing over you when the outdoor temperatures approach triple digits. However, owners of older homes may find that central air conditioning is expensive to retrofit. Not all homes are built for a central AC system and its massive network of ducts. A ductless air conditioning system, also called a mini-split, is the perfect solution for those homes.
The average cost to install a ductless cooling system in your home is $6,357. On the low end, installing one in a small house with one unit would cost $1,916. But, a large home requires multiple units or zones for $21,827 or more.
In this article, we’ll learn what a ductless air conditioner is, how it works, and what the system costs to install in your home.
Costs to install mini-split air conditioner
National average cost
$4,577 to $8,328
What is a ductless mini-split air conditioner?
A ductless air conditioner has an outdoor condensing unit connected to one or more indoor air handlers by a single refrigerant line. Because it doesn’t require a complex, space-hogging duct system to channel already-cooled air, a ductless system is ideal for homes without basements, attics, or crawl spaces.
When the condensing unit of a ductless system connects to a single indoor handler, it’s called a mini-split system. But, if it serves multiple handlers, it’s called a multi-split system. Multi-split systems typically have thermostatic controls for each unit or zone.
Factors that can influence the cost of installing ductless air conditioners
Number of zones
The average cost of a single-zone mini-split system is from $958 to $1,742.
The average cost of a multi-zone ductless system with two handlers is from $2,206 to $4,014.
The average cost of a multi-zone ductless system with three handlers is from $2,598 to $4,726.
In an open floor plan, one mini-split could handle the entire area. But, if you want to regulate the temperature separately in each bedroom, each would have a separate indoor air handler. The more zones you have in your system, the higher the installation cost, as you have to purchase more units. Also, the more units you install, the higher the labor cost.
The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) expresses the efficiency of an HVAC system, including a ductless air conditioner. A unit with a higher SEER rating is a more efficient option. Look for a unit with at least a 13 SEER efficiency rating. However, highly-efficient units tend to cost more, although you’ll save money on your energy bills in the long run.
Scope of work
The average hourly rate of heating and air conditioning mechanics and installers is from $86 to $157, depending on the area of the country.
The more involved the installation, the more expensive the labor costs. More units require more tubing and wiring, and it takes more time to do the work. Also, if the installer needs to call in the expertise of an electrician to connect the system to the main electrical panel, that will also add to the cost.
Hiring an electrician can add $101 to $183 per hour to the overall cost of your mini-split installation.
As with any air conditioning or heating system, a mini-split system is measured in British thermal units (BTU) or tons of air they can cool or heat in an hour. A one-ton capacity is 12,000 BTUs, and what you need for 400-600 square feet of living area. Typically, a 1,500-square-foot home requires a 36,000 BTU unit. The higher capacity of the unit, the more expensive it is.
Cost of a mini-split air conditioner by size
$458 to $2,215
$545 to $2,595
$1,080 to $3,314
$1,890 to $8,707
$3,794 to $9,172
Other possible factors
A few other things will influence the cost of a ductless air conditioner. They include:
- Special features – Smart units, those with remote control, and programmable thermostats could increase the cost.
- Location in the home – Adding a mini-split to the second story could incur more cost due to the labor and complicated layout of the units.
- Brand – Well-known brands like Mitsubishi and Daikin tend to cost more than others.
- Type of indoor unit – The most common air handler mounts on the wall. But you can get a ceiling or floor-mounted handler. Wall-mounted units are the least expensive, with ceiling-mounted units costing the most.
The average cost to install a ductless air conditioner
Because it doesn’t rely on ducts to carry the cooled air, a ductless system typically costs less to install than a central AC. If you’re wondering if you can afford to install a mini-split system in your home, we’ve broken the project down into three pricing tiers. Find the one that fits within your budget.
Budget-friendly mini-split installation
The price range for a budget-friendly mini-split AC cost is from $958 to $1,742.
Homeowners on a budget can still benefit from a mini-split installation. In this pricing tier, you’ll find one indoor unit for the following applications.
- You DIY the work
- A room addition
- A room that’s hard to keep cool because it’s at the end of the ductwork
- Living space in the attic or basement
Mid-range mini-split installation
The price range for a mid-range mini-split system is from $2,919 to $4,856.
With more money in the coffer, you can enjoy the benefit of a multi-zone system. Here, one outdoor unit will serve two to three indoor air handlers. You’ll find this size system in the following situations.
- A small, 2-bedroom home
- A basement apartment
High-end mini-split installation
The price range for a high-end mini-split installation is from $5,838 to $21,827.
Large homes have more complex cooling needs than smaller ones. But they can still benefit from a ductless AC system. In this budget category, you’ll find multiple outdoor compressors serving separate areas of your home. The following situations would fall under this category.
- Multi-story home
- Large, sprawling single-story home
- Multiple zones with individual programmable thermostats
- Possibly ceiling cassettes for a better indoor aesthetic
Paying for your mini-split air conditioning installation
Whether you’re doing one room or a whole house, AC installation can cost a considerable amount of money. While you may be able to install a single-zone system yourself, anything more would require the services of an HVAC contractor. If you don’t want to take money from savings for your air conditioner system, here are a few options to consider to make paying for it easier.
- Borrow against your HELOC: Many homeowners set up a home equity line of credit for times like these. Borrowing against it for an HVAC installation should be easy. Talk with a lender about opening a HELOC if you don’t already have one in place.
- Use a credit card: This option makes more sense for the DIYer wanting a ductless AC unit for a single room or small home. Large home improvement retailers typically offer payment options like five percent off or two years with no interest when you use their cards. And, if you don’t already have an account, they’ll pay you to open one.
Ways to save money on a mini-split installation
For anything other than a single-zone installation, it’s best to hire a professional contractor. Either way, there are ways to save money upfront on this project.
- Shop around. Don’t go with the first HVAC installer that comes to mind. Ask for estimates from several companies to find the best price for your budget.
- Choose a lower-price brand. As mentioned earlier, not all mini-split units cost the same. Some brands are more expensive than others.
Other things to consider
- Mini-splits heat, too. Some models of ductless mini-split systems include heating options. You will no longer need a separate heat pump if you choose one of these models.
- Location. HVAC service costs vary by region of the country. For example, installation and labor costs are typically higher in urban areas than in rural locations. Securing quotes from local contractors will give you a more accurate idea of your unit price and installation costs.
- Permitting and building codes. Typically, the HVAC contractor secures any necessary permits and absorbs the cost in his charges. But if you plan to install your own mini-split AC, ask the local building official for information regarding inspections and fees.
- Warranties. When shopping for units, don’t forget to compare warranties. Also, always secure a copy of the warranty for your files. And if you’re using a professional HVAC contractor, ask if they offer any warranty on the installation.
Let’s chill out
Before the scorching heat dries you to the bone, take the time to research your cooling options. But don’t try to do it alone. Call a professional HVAC mechanic to ensure you have the coolest home in the neighborhood.