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How Much Does it Cost to Install Ductless Air Conditioning?

A well-conditioned home can add instant comfort on hot days. Ductless air conditioning systems are an improvement over window air conditioners and portable units. A ductless air conditioner is also known as a mini-split system due to the zoned level of heating and cooling. Ductless air conditioners are common in homes that require individually zoned cooling and heating or small spaces where it would be difficult to install ductwork. It functions like a central air unit in terms of BTU rating and peak capacity. Continue reading to see the costs that come with a ductless ar conditioner.

The Costs 

  • Minimum Cost: $1,800

  • Maximum Cost: $3,200

A standard 240-volt dedicated circuit will be required for the compressor unit and handler. An electrician charges between $50 and $75 per hour. If the home is under 200 amps, it may require moving circuits or upgraded electric service. A separate dedicated outlet will also need to be located near the unit for safety. The outlet should be grounded and have an arc fault interrupter circuit, a circuit breaker designed to prevent fires, installed due to the unit's proximity to the outside environment and constant cycling procedure.

A compressor unit will require a stable base much like a standard central air unit. A concrete pad is standard, but a paving-stone base can also be used to blend in with a paving-stone patio. However, the unit has a much smaller footprint so the cost should not be above $60. A homeowner can usually install this small base themselves and reduce the cost of installation by a margin.

The installation of refrigerant and electric lines to the unit is an integral part of the process. A compressor is rated to handle a specific length of line to the unit for refrigerant. A contractor may be required to install the channels and copper line to the house, generally costing between $30 and $50 per hour for the work. The homeowner has a choice in where they want the handler located, but should keep in mind that there is a limit on line length.

A carpenter may be required to install an opening for the air handler unit. This will vary from $18 to $30 per hour depending on the carpentry service. Interior porches may require installation from the garage or in the attic for a cassette adapter style opening. Many homeowners install built-in bookshelves or other decorations around air handlers to enhance the room's look.


Compressor Unit

The compressor unit has both a SEER rating and BTU rating to determine airflow and amount of coolant required. A single unit can be rated at 24,000 BTU with a SEER of at least 17. The compressor draws the air from the room and recycles it into the refrigerant line and coils to cool the room like a standard air conditioner. It is located far away from the room in an obscure location for aesthetics.

Compressor units are combined to allow for individual zones of heating. A small enclosed porch can have a separate climate from the living room without sacrificing energy efficiency. Separate units are determined based on square footage and the insulation of the home. Older homes may need a lower SEER rating to accommodate for the less tight envelope of the home's insulation.

Inverter Unit

The inverter unit is the equivalent of the room's duct vent. It manages the flow of air and filters air into the room. It also tells the compressor when to cycle to achieve the desired temperatures.

Refrigerant Line

Refrigerant line comes in specified lengths depending on the unit. Ideally, the line should have as limited a run as possible for maximum efficiency. If the line is too long, the compressor will cycle too often and lose energy efficiency. The line is one-quarter of an inch thick and will either come as a line set or separate copper line. The line set will include extra electrical wiring and components to go into the air handler.

Mini-Split Line Covers & Channels

Line covers and channels hide the copper refrigerant line to blend in with the exterior of the home. Special effort is made to ensure that the lines are not an obvious distraction from the exterior. Siding color can be copied to blend in with soffits and vents. A line set cover will have several end caps to attach underneath a gutter or alongside the corner of a home. The electrical conduit and line is fed through the channel into the opening where the handler will be located.

Combination Heat Pumps

A combination unit converts outside air into heat. Most mini-split or ductless systems have a heat option available for winter.

Cassette Style Handler

A cassette handler can be installed in the ceiling or wall for a more streamlined look. The unit frees up space on the wall and is embedded directly into the framing. Installation is typically in the ceiling to maximize wall and storage space.

Advantages & Disadvantages

A mini-split or ductless air conditioning unit has several major advantages. In older homes, it is often difficult to install central air conditioning in the wall cavities. A mini-split solves this by using exterior duct channels to the room. A ductless air conditioning system is also considered single zoned, meaning that each room or space can be controlled individually. This can result in considerable savings on energy costs. Ductless air conditioner units can also be easily moved. Most furnace and central air systems require a fairly expensive HVAC visit just to move the unit from one location of the house to another.

However, a ductless system is not without its faults. Large open spaces, such as those with high ceilings, will be difficult to control without a larger compressor. The initial cost is usually higher than installing a standard heat pump or air conditioning unit linked to a furnace. Air exchange can also be an issue in tight homes. A ductless system does not exchange air and should be considered before installation.

Last updated on May 17, 2016

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