Mini Split Air Conditioner Buying Guide

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Are you one of the increasing number of home owners who do not exactly like a window type of AC unit but find split central AC unit systems way above your needs and budget? If your answer is yes, then you probably are looking for something in between the said AC unit types. If there is such thing as middle when it comes to air conditioners, then it has to be mini split AC units.

These mini split AC are now gaining popularity because it has proven to be the perfect alternative for those who are torn between a window-type AC and a split central one. As expected from being in the middle, these cost higher than window types but less than the split central ACs. Same thing goes with installation and energy consumption.

Describing Mini Split Air Conditioning Units

If you have not seen a mini split AC type yet, it has a split design pretty much like that of a split central unit with a more compact size. The hot and cold producing air parts of the conditioner are located separately. However, unlike split central units that are notorious for confusing ductwork, the mini split type AC units are ductless, therefore, eliminates the cables for coolant and condensate lines.

Given the name mini split, this type has two parts. The first one is usually mounted or placed inside or outside of a wall and an outdoor unit and is commonly referred to as the evaporator. The second part is the condenser which has to be placed outside. The two parts can be separated within a distance of up to 40 feet which makes this a great option for those who have rooms that need to have an air conditioner but has no nearby windows.

Some brands of mini split AC types can have as much as four handlers. This is actually one of the main reasons why not just home owners but companies are choosing mini split ACs. It can comfortably be used to cool multiple zones without having to have an outdoor unit per zone.

For example, one can opt to cool three different zones yet only use a single outdoor unit. In addition, each indoor unit can work independently of each other making it a more practical choice over the split central air conditioners.

Another great thing about mini split air conditioners is that most of the units recently come with a heating function which lets customers actually save more. They are also extremely versatile as they can be mounted either at the wall or even at the ceiling depending on the room type and the user’s preference.

Mini split AC types are most commonly the preferred system for houses that cannot exactly accommodate complicated ductwork, garages, windowless rooms, or rooms with limited window space as is commonly seen in condominium units or small city apartments. Old houses are also a suitable candidate for such type of AC system provided that it does not have leaks where the cool air can easily go out.

To educate you more, let us dissect mini split AC units. These are commonly made up of four components:

  1. Ductless mini split air conditioner setupIndoor Unit/s

This is also known as the air handler or evaporator which is mainly responsible for releasing the cool air on the designated room. These can be mounted on the wall or ceiling or even suspended from the ceiling.

  1. Outdoor Unit

This is also known as the condenser which is responsible for pumping the cool air through the refrigerant lines into the indoor unit/s or evaporators. These are usually located outside the home or building.

  1. Refrigerant Lines

These are the lines that connect the indoor unit to the outdoor unit. They look like small tubes and are sometimes referred to as line sets. These lines usually pass through small wall holes to be connected to the outdoor unit or even through windows.

  1. Remote Control or Wall Monitor

Depending on your chosen brand, your mini split air-conditioning system may come with a remote control, wall monitor, or if you are lucky, both. With these, you have full control of the air-conditioning system and therefore can adjust temperature, choose modes, and set settings appropriately.

Things to Consider in Choosing a Mini Split Air Conditioner

From the most basic features that a mini split AC has to the convenient features such as remote control and other safety features, we are going to go through each thing that everyone who is considering purchasing a mini split air conditioner must know and understand.

In order for you to choose more appropriately, check out our list and explanations below.

  1. The Importance of Size and Power

Just like the ordinary window and split central AC unit systems that each features a BTU, mini split air conditioners also has various BTUs. This basically refers to the air conditioner’s cooling power. However, this is not the only thing one has to consider in choosing mini split AC systems.

One must first determine the size of the room or rooms that the AC has to cool up. Remember what we said above about the capacity for mini split AC units? This is where you can incorporate that. Customers basically have the choice of a single zone system and a multiple zone system.

With regards to multiple zone systems, you can find a BTU rating which is usually indicated in the outdoor and the indoor units. Keep in mind that each indoor unit runs independently, hence, giving you more options to customize the indoor units specifically to your needs as far as BTU is concerned.

Check out this chart we have put together to give you a better idea on how to determine the BTU you need with respect to the size of the room.

Room Size to be Cooled (sqr feet) Suggested BTU (BTU/hour)
100-150 5,000
150-250 6,000
250-300 7,000
300-350 8,000
350-400 9,000
400-450 10,000
450-550 12,000
550-700 14,000
700-1000 18,000
1000-1,200 21,000
1,200-1,400 23,000

Despite this table of suggested area size with the corresponding BTU, there still are a couple of factors to consider when choosing the right BTU. Check out these known factors:

  • Environmental condition – Are you living in an area with almost constant high level of humidity? Or do you live in a particularly cool place most of the year? You may have to adjust your BTU depending on where you live in and the normal temperature.
  • Ceiling Height – Experts say that if your ceiling is higher than 8 feet, then you might have to increase the suggested BTU by as much as 20%. If you do not apply this, your mini split air conditioner might have to work harder all the time to cool the place yet you still might feel that the coolness is still insufficient.
  • Climate – If you live in a place where above 90 degrees Fahrenheit is common, then you have to increase the suggested BTU rating by as much as 30% in order to properly cool the area.
  • Insulation – Old houses tend to generally have poor insulation, thus, you need a mini split air-conditioner that as 30% more BTU than the suggested for your area size category.
  1. Single Zone vs Multi-Zone Mini Split Air Conditioning Units

Multiple zones mini split ACIf you are sure you just need one room to be cooled, then you will be fine with the single zone. However, if you have more than one room in your house and you know for a fact that the other rooms might need updated AC units in the near future, then it might be more practical for you to get the multi-zone mini split air conditioning units. Let us discuss their differences further.

Single zone mini split AC units are ductless systems that are composed of one indoor unit and one outdoor unit. This is a common choice for apartment or condominium bedrooms where there is not much of a choice. Between a portable air conditioner and a mini split AC unit, this definitely comes as the more popular choice. However, one has to make sure that the chosen one has enough BTU power to cool the room efficiently.

Multi-zone mini split AC units basically works the same as the single zone units except for the fact that it can cool more than one part of your house. It consists of one outdoor unit and more than one to several indoor units. Each of the indoor units can be used as you would a single zone unit. This is generally referred to as zones. A multi-zone mini split AC can have as much as four zones or four indoor units connected to the outdoor unit by a refrigerant line.

The great thing about multi-zone split AC units is that the indoor units can be placed around the house and even on multiple floors due to the reliable long refrigerant lines. If you frequently change the room where you want to control the temperature, you might want to opt for a portable air conditioner since you can easily move the unit to every room.

  1. Voltage

multi voltageThis factor is often taken for granted with most customers thinking that all appliances bought in the United States come with a standard 110-120 volt plug. However, what everyone must know is that the voltage depends on the power requirement of each house or building.

If you have an extremely large house and you are getting a higher powered mini split AC unit, then you cannot expect it to still be suitable for a 110-120 volt electric outlet.

Generally, small-powered mini split units come with the standard 110-120 voltage while larger units, of course, need higher voltages of 220-240. It must be understood using an incorrect voltage requirement can cause significant damage to your unit such as circuit break, loss of efficiency, and can even start out a fire. If you require a 220-240 voltage socket then ask your local electrician to install it or do it yourself if you know to do that in a safe way.

  1. Installation

When shopping for a mini split AC, it would be wise to choose the brands that come with free installation or at least has the best offer for installation services. It must be understood that with this type of air-conditioning unit, professional installation is required.

You do not want to risk damaging the unit or not installing it properly most especially since the refrigerant lines would have to run a quite distance if the outdoor unit is located several feet away from the indoor unit/s.

However, there is said to be one brand that does not exactly require professional installation and that is Friedrich Breeze Mini Split AC. The reason behind this is because it comes with pre-charged refrigerant lines.

  1. Energy Efficiency

Basically, mini split air conditioning systems are energy efficient since they are the latest innovations in the cooling industry and therefore equipped with the latest technologies. However, each unit still bears an SEER rating or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Interested to know how an AC actually works, then read this article.

Technically, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the mini split AC unit is. In the United States, the minimum SEER rating is 13.0 as per federal requirements.

Another way to determine which unit is the most energy efficient is the EER rating or the Energy Efficiency Ratio which is the energy usage per square foot of cooling. Most units today also come with an estimated yearly operating cost which gives customers a better idea on how much they should allot for both operating and maintenance costs.

One thing to also look out for when shopping for a mini split air conditioning unit is the Energy Star. The only thing to keep in mind here is that if the unit comes with Energy Star, then it only means it is extremely energy efficient.

  1. Rotary versus Inverter Compressor

Remember the single outdoor unit of the mini split AC units? That is also known as the compressor. There are two basic types of compressor – the rotary and the inverter.

Rotary compressor is the one commonly used since the time when the first mini split AC unit was released. It basically works by turning on and off to achieve the desired temperature. It first turns on with full power then going on and off for the length of time that the mini split air-conditioner is turned on.

Inverter compressor is the more recent type that is known to be a great energy saver because it only uses enough power to achieve the desired setting. It also does not use full power upon turning on but determines the power needed and uses only that.

  1. The Different Modes

Mini split AC units, just like any other type of AC also have multiple modes that are specifically included to provide more options for comfort for every user since no two user has the same needs and cooling preferences.

Aside from the basic cooling option, check out for these other modes as well:

  • Heat – Getting a mini-split AC with this mode saves you lots of money as it eliminates the need for a heater. Instead of the cooling mode, turn on the heat mode during the freezing winter months and you automatically save money as there is no more need to buy a separate heater.
  • Automatic – Most air conditioners today has this automatic mode where the AC determines the ambient room temperature and automatically selects a temperature suitable for the room.
  • Fan – This is best used during high humidity days or cold nights where you simply need some air to circulate.
  • Dehumidify – This removes excess moisture from the air and is commonly used in extremely humid conditions.

Another great way to reduce the energy usage is to combine an AC with a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan uses less energy by itself and can cool down the room by a few degrees. If that’s not enough for hot summer days, then you can have the AC unit cool the room temperature a bit more. In combination this will use less energy and therefore will cost less over a period of time.

Mini split AC units are the more preferred types today because they are compact in size yet flexible enough to cater to the various needs of every customer. Bottom line is these units save energy money and makes each customer’s life more convenient and enjoyable.