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What is a Mini Split Air Conditioner: A Comprehensive Buyer's Guide

Learn about the benefits of a mini split air conditioner system and find answers to common questions about these versatile and energy-efficient HVAC solutions.

Purchasing a ductless mini-split air conditioner is a decision you will not soon regret. Not only are they one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool a home or commercial space, but they're also quiet, discreet, quite affordable, and often easier to install than other systems. They are most commonly used in multifamily housing, but can also be a great fit for apartments or older/historic buildings where it can be difficult to add ducting for a central system.

Ductless Mini Split Great in a Residential Living Room Setting

What is a ductless mini-split air conditioner and how does it work?

Named for its split design, a ductless mini-split air conditioner is a popular HVAC solution that does not require a ducted system to operate. A reliable and efficient alternative to portable or window air conditioners, they provide whisper-quiet comfort while cooling and/or heating, as well as dehumidifying year-round.

No ductwork? No problem. An outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air handler are connected through refrigerant tubing, condensate drain, and power cables that run between the units, usually through an exterior wall. The final components are the unit's piping connections and drainage connections.

What is the difference between a mini split and an air conditioner?

Traditional air conditioners rely on a network of ducts to distribute cooled air throughout your home or building, while mini split systems don't use ducts at all. Instead, they consist of an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handlers that can be mounted on the wall or ceiling. This design allows for greater flexibility in installation and more efficient cooling and heating of individual rooms.

Types of Ductless Mini-Split Systems

Single Zone Ductless Mini-Split System

There are a variety of different ductless mini-split systems you can choose from to fit your needs and requirements for your environment:

  • Ductless mini-split system air conditioner: Focuses on cooling only.
  • Ductless mini-split system heat pump: Offers both heating and cooling functionality.
  • Ductless hyper heat unit: Specifically designed for heating a space.

Most of these units require an HVAC technician for installation, but there is one Do-It-Yourself mini-split series that we carry, manufactured by MRCOOL. This DIY ductless split system can be installed on your own because it comes with a pre-charged line set(s). However, we do recommend and encourage you to have an electrician take a look at the installation to ensure everything is set up correctly from an energy perspective.

Ductless Mini Split Multi Zone System Arrangement

Single Zone and Multi-Zone Options

One of the advantages of a mini-split is that you can choose between a single-zone system that conditions a single room/area, or a multi-zone unit, that conditions multiple rooms in a home or building. MRCOOL and Pioneer make models that can connect as many as five indoor air handlers to the condenser outside. The number depends on how much cooling is required for the building or each zone. Learn more about sizing by using our Sizing Guide.

Are mini splits worth it? Consider the Benefits of Ductless Systems

Woman enjoying the climate control and benefits of a ductless mini-split heat pump system

Inverter and Dehumidification Technology

Ductless mini-splits use an inverter that essentially provides consistent comfort around the clock. No shutting on and off, it consistently regulates the temperature in the room and runs the unit accordingly. Most units even have a dehumidifier built within the system to help keep a space dry.

Energy and Money Savings: Does a mini split use a lot of electricity?

Each zone is controlled by its own thermostat, providing zoned climate 

control, allowing you to heat or cool individual rooms or spaces. The multi-zone models also allow you to achieve even temperature control throughout your environment. In addition, the energy-efficient inverter compressor technology provides supplemental heating and cooling at a fraction of the cost of traditional HVAC units. They only heat (or cool) an area when you need it, saving you money and energy. Ducted systems can lose up to 30% of energy consumption in an unconditioned space like an attic or crawl space, whereas you don’t have that type of energy loss with a ductless mini-split.

Whisper Mode

  • These units are designed to interfere as little as possible with your space.
  • They operate on average at 19db, which is quieter than a normal conversation.
  • They are built to blend into the ambient noise in your space. You'll set it and forget it.

Health and Environmental Impacts

  • Ductless mini splits also act as a solution for those with allergies and asthma since they do not push around dust, germs, or pollen.
  • Additionally, ductless systems are more environmentally friendly than window units because they run on electricity and not on ozone-depleting refrigerant.

Energy Rebates

  • Due to their efficiency, plus many have Energy Star ratings and performance, mini splits can qualify you for equipment-related tax benefits and credits under many circumstances.
  • These rebates will vary by state and Zip Code.


  • In general, a good ductless mini-split will have a warranty covering the components of the system anywhere between 5 and 10 years.
  • Keep in mind that in some cases you must register the warranty to receive proper coverage. But you will have many years of support if you purchase a system with us.

Do mini splits cost more than central air?

Initial installation costs of mini split systems may be higher than traditional central air conditioning systems. However, the long-term energy savings, flexibility, and ease of installation can offset the initial expense. Additionally, mini splits can be more cost-effective in certain situations, such as when retrofitting older buildings without existing ductwork or when cooling only specific rooms in a home.

How many years do mini splits last? What is the average lifespan of a ductless mini split?

The average lifespan of a ductless mini split system is approximately 12 to 15 years, although some systems can last even longer with proper maintenance. Regular cleaning, annual servicing, and promptly addressing any issues can help extend the life of your mini split system.

Should you leave a mini split on all the time?

Leaving your mini split system on all the time is not necessary, and doing so may consume more energy than needed. However, it is a good idea to run the system in "auto" mode or use programmable settings, which can maintain a comfortable temperature in your space without constantly turning the system on and off.


Identifying the right ductless mini-split air conditioning unit for your needs does take a bit of research, and we highly recommend consulting a professional for their educated opinion. However, the tips and ideas we provide above can help a lot. You can use them as a guide as you browse through multiple models. Contact us for any assistance or questions, and find out if a mini split air conditioner is the perfect solution for your cooling and heating needs.

Purchasing a ductless mini-split will be a decision that you will not soon regret. In fact, it may be one of the smartest decisions that you make. Not only are they one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool a home or commercial space, but they are also quiet, discrete, quite affordable, and often easier to install than other systems. They are most commonly used in multifamily housing, but can also be a great fit for apartments or older/historic buildings where it can be difficult to add ducting for a central system.

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