The cost of the ductless mini split air conditioners and heat pump equipment appear to be similar to conventional heat pump systems. Installation costs are based on the complexity of installing refrigerant tubing and whether the presented electrical service can handle the new equipment.
The best way to decide how much a ductless heat pump will cost in particular circumstances is to get several bids. Be sure to state that you want models that qualify for the Federal Energy Tax Credit. Most contractors that install ductless mini split heat pumps can provide comparison bids for traditional heat pumps or furnaces, as well. Many manufacturers’ web sites have lists of installers in various areas.
Ductless AC and heat pump models eligible for the Federal Energy Tax Credit and local utility incentives must meet the following specifications:
• Have variable speed compressor (“inverter technology”) – providing more efficient operation to match the heating/cooling needs of the house under a variety of weather conditions
• Be listed in the ARI directory and provide at least 50% of rated capacity efficient operation when outside air is 17° F. and have no built-in electric resistance heat.
• Be installed by a technician that has received factory-sponsored training within the past 5 years
Ductless, mini-split-system heat pumps (mini splits) make good retrofit and add-ons to homes with "non-ducted" heating and cooling systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). They can also be a good choice for room additions, where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not possible.
Like regular air-source heat pumps, mini splits have two main components: an outdoor compressor/condenser, and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units.
The main advantages of mini splits are their small size and flexibility for zoning or heating and cooling individual rooms. Many models can have as many as four indoor air handling units (for four zones or rooms) connected to one outdoor unit. The number depends on how much heating or cooling is required for the building or each zone (which in turn is affected by how well the building is insulated). Since each of the zones will have its own thermostat, you only need to condition that place when someone is there. This will save energy and money.
Ductless mini-split systems are also often easier to install than other types of space conditioning systems. For example, the hook-up between the outdoor and indoor units generally requires only a three-inch hole through a wall for the conduit. Also, most manufacturers of this type of system can provide a variety of lengths of connecting conduits. If necessary, you can locate the outdoor unit as far away as 100 feet from the indoor evaporator. This makes it possible to cool rooms on the front side of a building house with the compressor in a more advantageous or inconspicuous place on the outside of the building.
In comparison to other add-on systems, mini splits offer more flexibility in interior design options. The indoor air handlers can be suspended from a ceiling, mounted flush into a drop ceiling, or hung on a wall. Floor-standing models are also available. Most indoor units have profiles of about seven inches deep and usually come with sleek, high tech-looking jackets. Many also offer a remote control to make it easier to turn the system on and off when it's positioned high on a wall or suspended from a ceiling.