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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 24 Models Considered
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best mini split air conditioners

    Last Updated December 2018

    When the weather heats up, most of us can’t survive without an air conditioner to help keep our home cool and comfortable. If you don’t want the eyesore of a window AC unit or the high expense of central air conditioning, you have another option: the mini split air conditioner. This appliance serves as the perfect middle ground.

    But while a mini split air conditioner is less expensive than a central air system, it’s still an investment, and it’s important to choose the right one. That means knowing how many zones and BTUs would work best, as well as what modes and other features would help keep your home as comfortable as possible.

    At BestReviews, we handle the product research so you can focus on the key facts that will help you select the best items for your home. If you’re looking for a mini split air conditioner, consider our top picks in the product list above. If you’re interested in general advice on what features to look for in a mini split air conditioner, continue reading this shopping guide.

    A mini split air conditioner works best if there is some space around the interior component. Arrange furniture and other decor so it’s not blocking the unit from the rest of the room.

    What is a mini split air conditioner?

    The most common home heating and cooling systems are known as split systems because they feature both interior and exterior components. Like a central AC system, a mini split air conditioner has both interior and exterior components. However, a mini split air conditioner doesn’t use ducts to move cool air into your home.

    Instead, the mini split air conditioner’s exterior compression or condensing component compresses and expands refrigerant in the system to remove both heat and moisture from your home’s air. The cooled air is then sent into the house through lines that connect to the interior component(s). These components usually consist of air handling units, blowers, and evaporators. The air handling units are installed in the wall or ceiling throughout the house to cool the space effectively .

    EXPERT TIP

    The most energy-efficient temperature to keep your mini split air conditioner at is somewhere between 72°F and 75°F.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Mini split air conditioner benefits

    There are many reasons why a mini split air conditioner can be an ideal option for your home.

    Zone cooling

    Because a mini split air conditioner can feature multiple air handling units, you can set up multiple cooling zones throughout your home, thereby controlling how warm or cool specific rooms are.

    Easy installation

    Mini split air conditioners are usually easier to install than other heating and cooling systems. You’ll still need an HVAC professional to install it, but the work can be done quickly, which allows you to use your new system as soon as possible.

    Less energy loss

    The lack of ducts means that mini split air conditioners usually don’t suffer the same energy losses as central AC systems. Keep in mind that the energy loss from central AC often makes up nearly 30% of the system’s energy consumption.

    Interior design flexibility

    The air handling units for mini split air conditioners can be installed in a variety of ways, allowing you to control the way your home’s interior looks. The units can be hung from the ceiling, installed in a wall, or mounted flush in a drop ceiling. There are even some floor-standing options.

    Ease of use

    Mini split air conditioners usually have remote controls that make it easy to adjust the system, even if you’re across the room.

    Improved security

    Window AC units can provide a way for intruders to make their way into your home. With a mini split air conditioner, there are no openings to your home’s exterior, making your home more secure.

    Variety of features

    In addition to the usual heating and cooling options, mini split air conditioners offer other features and modes that make them even more useful. Some models can dehumidify a room.

    Better air quality

    Dirt, dust, and other debris can easily accumulate in HVAC ducts. Because a mini split air conditioner is ductless, you don’t have to worry about the air in your home being full of allergy-triggering dust and dander.

    Quiet operation

    Mini split air conditioners usually offer extremely quiet operation, especially compared to window units.

    EXPERT TIP

    For the most energy-efficient mini split air conditioner, choose an Energy Star-rated model.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    For the best performance, clean your mini split air conditioner filters once a month.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Features to consider

    Number of zones

    Mini split air conditioners are available in both single-zone models designed to cool a single room and multi-zone models that can cool several rooms in your home. A single-zone mini split air conditioner is usually the least-expensive option; you can expect to may pay a little more for each zone that you add.

    The reason why many homeowners enjoy multi-zone mini split air conditioners is that the temperature for each zone can be controlled individually. If you have a system with two zones, you can set a different temperature for each room based on the preferences of the person in the room. It’s an ideal option if there’s someone in the household who’s always cold and someone else who’s always warm.

    A multi-zone mini split air conditioner can also help save energy – and money – because you can turn off the air conditioning in a room that doesn’t need it or increase the temperature in a room that doesn’t need quite as much cooling. With a central AC system, you’re unable to do this, which can unnecessarily run up your energy costs.

    Most mini split air conditioners can have up to four zones, though there are some models that allow for as many as six. Each room or zone has its own indoor air handling unit that connects to the outdoor unit via refrigerant lines. Because these lines can be fairly long, you can have zones on different floors of your home to make sure the entire space is comfortable.

    Power/BTUs

    Like any air conditioner, mini split air conditioner power is measured in BTUs. The greater the number of BTUs, the more area in your home it can cool. Some manufacturers actually list the size of the area that a unit can cover. This makes it easier to choose a model, but it helps to have an idea of how many BTUs are necessary to cover a particular room size.

    • For a room that is 150 to 250 square feet in size, choose a mini split air conditioner with 5,000 to 6,000 BTUs.

    • For a room that is 250 to 350 square feet in size, choose a mini split air conditioner with 6,000 to 8,000 BTUs.

    • For a room that is 350 to 450 square feet in size, choose a mini split air conditioner with 8,000 to 10,000 BTUs.

    • For a room that is 450 to 550 square feet in size, choose a mini split air conditioner with 10,000 to 12,000 BTUs.

    • For a room that is 550 to 700 square feet in size, choose a mini split air conditioner with 12,000 to 14,000 BTUs.

    • For a room that is 700 to 1,000 square feet in size, choose a mini split air conditioner with 14,000 to 18,000 BTUs.

    Voltage

    Many mini split air conditioners come with the usual 110- to 120-volt plug. However, if you purchase a larger model, you may need a 220- to 240-volt outlet, which typically requires having an electrician upgrade an existing outlet to prevent blown fuses or fire hazards.

    Compressor

    The outdoor portion of a mini split air conditioner is called a compressor, and you can typically choose between two types: a rotary compressor and an inverter compressor.

    Rotary compressors are the most common type; they essentially turn the air conditioner on and off to regulate temperature. The air conditioner initially operates at full power to cool the room; it then cycles on and off based on the temperature.

    Inverted compressors offer a newer technology that helps save energy. These compressors don’t automatically turn on at full power; rather, they use only the amount of energy necessary to reach the desired temperature. You’ll pay more money upfront for an inverter compressor, but you may find the long-term energy savings make it a worthwhile investment.

    Modes

    All mini split air conditioners have a cooling mode, but some models offer additional functions to help make your home as comfortable as possible. You may want to look for an air conditioner that features the following modes.

    • Heat mode: You won’t need a separate heater if your mini split air conditioner allows you to heat your home during the winter.

    • Fan mode: When you want to circulate air through your home, you can switch on the fan mode without any cooling action.

    • Automatic mode: An automatic mode senses the ambient temperature of the room and automatically selects the most appropriate temperature setting to help make the space more comfortable.

    • Dehumidify mode: If you live in a particularly humid climate, a mini split air conditioner can help remove excess moisture from the air.

    Remote control and timer

    Many mini split air conditioners come with a remote control that allows you to adjust the temperature or turn the unit on and off from across the room. This is a particularly helpful feature if you plan to install the interior air handling unit in the ceiling or high up on the wall.

    You may also want to consider a model that features a programmable timer. That allows you to choose specific temperatures for your room based on the time of day to help you save money.

    Filters

    Like any air conditioner, a mini split air conditioner requires filters for proper operation. To save money, choose a model with reusable filters that you can clean and put back in the unit rather than those that must be replaced. Filters can be fairly expensive, so if you have to replace them, it can add to the operating cost of the unit.

    Mini split air conditioner prices

    Mini split air conditioner prices usually vary based on how many BTUs they offer. In general, you can expect to pay $600 to $3,500 for a single-zone unit.

    A mini split air conditioner with 5,000 to 9,000 BTUs generally costs somewhere between $600 and $750. We don’t recommend investing in a mini split air conditioner that costs less than this unless you’ve come upon a great sale. Systems that put out between 9,000 and 12,000 BTUs can cost up to $1,000.

    For a system that puts out 12,000 to 18,000 BTUs, you could spend anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. Over 18,000 BTUs, you could pay as much as $3,500.

    Keep in mind that these prices are for single-zone mini split air conditioners. With every zone that you choose to add, the price will increase.

    Using a ceiling fan in tandem with a mini split air conditioner can help distribute the cool air through your home more effectively.

    FAQ

    Q. Does a mini split air conditioner require professional installation?
    A.
    Installing a mini split air conditioner is more difficult than setting up a window or portable air conditioner. Most manufacturers recommend that you have the air conditioner installed by an HVAC professional. In fact, installing it yourself could actually void the warranty because there’s a good chance you might make a mistake.

    Q. How long doe a mini split air conditioner usually last?
    A.
    If a mini split air conditioner is installed properly, it can last between 10 and 20 years. However, that’s only if you maintain the unit properly by cleaning it regularly, replacing the filters when necessary, and having it checked out annually by an HVAC contractor.

    Q. Where can I have the indoor component of a mini split air conditioner installed?
    A.
    The indoor air handling units for a mini split air conditioner are typically installed horizontally on the wall. You can have the component installed flush with your ceiling if you prefer, though this type of installation doesn’t work with all ceilings. It’s also possible to have the unit mounted to a ceiling stud or even in a vertical upright position on a floor. Keep in mind that these customized installations typically cost more.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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