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Everything You Need to Know About Ductless AC Systems &#; Mini-Split Systems

Ductless AC systems provide either an alternative or a supplement to standard central air conditioners. Before purchasing Mitsubishi ductless systems, there are several things you need to learn about ductless units. Ductless systems provide a wide range of benefits, but multi-unit ductless systems can also have some drawbacks depending on if ductless heating and cooling systems meet your needs. Mitsubishi ductless air conditioners now offer several features in many of their ductless mini-split systems. However, you need to consider the ductless mini-split cost that you may incur by installing Mitsubishi ductless systems in your home or office. You also need to consider choosing the right company to install your ductless units since ductless systems require a certified contractor for installation. Multi-unit ductless systems can provide adequate cooling and heating during the summer and winter months in zoned areas where a standard air conditioner may not be able to provide comfort. So, you need to decide where you want your ductless heating and cooling system to go in your building. Below, we explore Mitsubishi ductless air conditioners and cover everything you need to know about ductless mini-split systems. If you have any further questions, please contact Air Temp today at () Ductless AC Systems

What is a Ductless Air Conditioner System?

Ductless AC Systems

Unlike ductless units, A standard air conditioner (HVAC) uses ductwork to distribute cool or warm air throughout your home. The HVAC fan pushes the air into the ducts where it exits through the vents in your ceiling, wall, or floor. The air circulates back through the AC filter and into the system where it cycles back through the ducts. By utilizing ductwork, contractors can install a single central air system that distributes air throughout the entire house. By contrast, ductless units do not require ductwork to perform the same operation. Ductless systems distribute air from an outside ductless to an inside unit and then directly into the room from the multi-unit ductless system. The outdoor ductless unit and the indoor ductless unit are connected by tubes that contain some type of refrigerant and electrical wiring that goes with ductless systems. A ductless heating and cooling system indoor unit is mounted to the ceiling or the wall (or placed on the floor). When you turn the Mitsubishi Ductless air conditioner on, it will deliver the heated or cooled air into the immediate area.

What Are Ductless Mini-Split Systems?

The Mitsubishi ductless systems we mentioned above are traditionally single-zone ductless systems. What does that mean? You connect a single inside ductless unit to a single outdoor ductless unit to heat or cool a single area or zone. If you want to install more ductless units, then you can add more ductless systems to each room. These are known as multi-unit ductless systems or multi-zone ductless heating and cooling systems. In most cases, you can install multiple Mitsubishi ductless air conditioners to a single outside ductless unit source. For instance, some ductless mini-split systems can accommodate up to eight indoor ductless units that all draw from a single outdoor ductless unit. These Mitsubishi ductless systems can provide the same amount of comfort for your entire home or office as a standard central heating and cooling system. You can scatter the ductless units anywhere inside a building to meet your specific needs.

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Ductless Systems?

Pros of Multi-Unit Ductless Systems

  • Reduced leakage. Ductless heating and cooling systems use hard tubing to connect the indoor ductless unit and the outdoor ductless system. Therefore, there is less of a chance that there will be any leakage or damage to the Mitsubishi ductless air conditioner tubing.
  • High efficiency. Depending on how many multi-unit ductless systems you set up and what your air conditioning needs are, ductless mini-split systems typically consume 50% less energy than standard central air conditioners.
  • Flexibility. You can decide where you want to concentrate your heating and cooling by placing the Mitsubishi ductless systems where you want.
  • Affordable. A single-zone ductless mini-split cost is less than the cost of a central air conditioning system.
  • Long-lasting. Ductless units can last twice as long as standard HVAC systems. In many cases, ductless systems can last over 20 years.
  • Quiet. Multi-unit ductless systems make far less noise than regular air conditioners.

Cons of Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems

  • Installation costs. Mitsubishi ductless air conditioners cost hundreds of dollars more than a window unit. If you purchase multiple indoor ductless units, then you may end up paying more than you would for a central AC.
  • Ongoing maintenance. Although ductless systems are easy to maintain, you have to keep up the maintenance and cleaning regularly with ductless mini-split systems. The best way to clean the multi-unit ductless systems is to pull out the filter in the ductless unit and clean it at least once a month. You may also want to change the ductless heating and cooling filters once a year. Mitsubishi ductless air conditioners cannot handle debris or dust buildup. The buildup can be hard on the ductless system motor. Therefore, you need to clean the ductless mini-split systems frequently.
  • Aesthetics. Since ductless mini-split systems have to be mounted on the wall or ceiling, they can be an eyesore. However, since ductless systems come in white or tan, multi-unit ductless systems can match nearly any color scheme. So, you will want to be a bit strategic in where you place the ductless heating and cooling units.
  • Fuel-based backup. If you live in New Jersey, then you will want to install Mitsubishi ductless air conditioners that have a fuel-based backup for the cold winters. Some newer ductless heating systems can handle the load if the temperature falls below zero, but the ductless mini-split cost is more.


Ductless AC Systems

Mitsubishi Ductless Air Conditioner Installation in New Jersey

If you are looking for an alternative to traditional heating systems in New Jersey, then contact Air Temp. We offer Mitsubishi ductless systems. We can install your ductless units to your exact specifications and position your ductless systems however you want them. We install multi-unit ductless systems in both residential and commercial properties. We can visit you onsite, inspect your current system, and then provide with an up-front estimate on installing a ductless heating and cooling system. We recommend Mitsubishi ductless air conditioners because they outperform and outlast other types of ductless mini-split systems. We can go over ductless mini-split cost and determine which model fits into your budget. Mitsubishi ductless systems come in a wide range of sizes, outputs, and features. You can benefit from ductless units that have remote controls and apps that allow you to program the ductless systems in almost any room. To find out more about the benefits and features of multi-unit ductless systems, contact Air Temp today at () We are here to help you with your next installation.



Note: If you want to install a single zone system by youself, you can read our new post for more info: Best Single Zone Mini Split System for DIY

The mini split AC and heat pump market continues double-digit growth every year because the equipment is efficient, cost-effective and offers versatile installation options. But what are the best mini split system brands? This guide covers the top ductless HVAC brands for single zone, multiple zone and a newer category of heat pump, the cold-climate mini split system.

If you’d like to research mini split HVAC basics, brands, prices, options and sizing a system for your home, our comprehensive Mini Split Buying Guide is packed with information.

The units on this top ductless HVAC list aren’t necessarily the most efficient. They are the mini split heat pumps that will give you durable performance you can count on for years or more.

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Best Single Zone Ductless Mini Split Units

A single-zone system is an outdoor unit (condensing unit) with one indoor unit (evaporator/air handler). The zone can be a single small bedroom or office or something as large as a spacious living room or garage or shared workspace. Units from 9, to 24, BTU are common.

In short, single zone units are used for spaces from less than to more than 1, square feet.

This table gives the top single zone mini split units with basic features. There are additional details below.

ModelBTU Output12K Unit's
System CostWarranty
Mitsubishi MUZ-FH6K, 9K, 12K, 15K, 18K/12$3,$5,7/5
Fujitsu General Halcyon RLF/RLX9K, 12K,18K, 24K23/$2,$5,7/5
Gree Crown+9K, 12K, 18K23/$2,$4,5/5
LG Art Cool Premier9K, 15K/12$2,$4,10/10
Daikin Aurora / 20 Series9K, 12K, 15K20/12$3,$4,12/12
BTU Output: We use "K" for 1, BTUs. Some brand literature uses MBH for 1, BTUs.
SEER/HSPF: For direct comparison, the ratings are for each model's 12K unit. Units smaller than 12K are more efficient; models larger than 12K are less efficient.
System Cost: This is the installed cost range for complete 12K systems.
Warranty: The first number is the compressor warranty. The second is the general parts warranty.

#1 &#; Mitsubishi MUZ-FH:

There’s a reason every mini split retailer sells Mitsubishi. The brand has an excellent reputation for performance and durability. The MUZ-FH is a super-efficient series available in multiple sizes, each with a compatible indoor wall-mount unit.

  • 48db operation
  • Hot-start technology waits until the indoor coil is hot before the blower starts
  • 3D i-see sensor scans the room and directs air to hot/cold spots where AC or heating are needed
  • Works with a range of indoor units
  • Effective in extreme cold
  • Compare Mitsubishi models using our Mitsubishi Mini Split buying guide

#2 &#; Fujitsu General Halcyon Wall Mounted RLF/RLX Series:

Fujitsu is perhaps the most trusted name in mini split technology. The 12, BTU system offers 23 SEER/ HSPF efficiency and loads of features:

  • Heats and cools with variable-capacity inverter technology
  • decibel outdoor unit
  • Advanced humidity control in AC mode
  • Wireless remote
  • hour timer with sleep function
  • Safe restart after power outage
  • There’s more information on this brand and models in our Fujitsu General buying guide

#3 &#; Gree Crown+:

Gree is serious about efficiency, as this SEER, HSPF model shows – and it’s not even Gree’s most efficient heat pump! This is a cold climate air source heat pump that effectively heats in temperatures to F, an impressive feat. It’s apparent, by the way, that Gree has licensed its technology to Trane, and that says something about Gree quality and dependability. It’s the whole package for any climate.  The Gree Crown+ is full-featured:

  • Variable-speed, two-stage inverter technology
  • Heats and cools
  • Defrosts as needed, rather than continuously, to reduce energy use
  • RF remote
  • WiFi-enabled for remote monitoring and control
  • 7-speed fan with 4-way airflow
  • Learn more in our Gree Mini Split buying guide

#4 &#; LG Art Cool Premier:

This complete system with indoor wall mount units is not LG’s most efficient, but certainly its most reliable.

  • 9K (HYV1) and 15K (HYV2) outdoor units with compatible indoor evaporators
  • Hot start
  • hour timer and sleep mode
  • Auto restart after power outages
  • Heats in outdoor temps as low as 14F
  • Advanced dehumidification of pints per hour in AC mode
  • Get prices and additional information in our LG Mini Split buying guide

#5 &#; Daikin Aurora / 20 Series Wall Mount:

Daikin sells its heat pumps in complete systems. This unit is also sold as a floor-mount combination. It combines good efficiency with excellent performance.

  • Economy mode turns on automatically when the sensor determines the room/zone is empty
  • Hot start, so no blasts of cold air at the beginning of a cycle
  • Inverter swing compressor
  • 49db outdoor, 19db indoor noise
  • WiFi-control
  • Wireless remote
  • Browse more Daikin mini split information in our Daikin Guide

Note: If you want to install a single zone system by youself, you can read our new post for more info: Best Single Zone Mini Split System for DIY

Best Multiple Zone Ductless Mini Split Units

These systems include a single outdoor unit and 2 or more indoor units with 8 maximum for the largest systems. For example, a 36K outdoor unit might support four 9K indoor units three 12K indoor units, two 18K indoor units or some other configuration that adds up to 32K to 38K. The total can be close if not exact.

ModelBTU OutputSEER/HSPFIndoor unitsSystem CostWarranty
LG Multi VS24K, 38K, 48K, 60K/All types$5,$7,10/10
Friedrich J Series9K to 33K28/All types$3,$6,7/5
Fujitsu General Halcyon48K17/10All types$4,$7,7/5
Daikin MXS Series18K, 24k, 36K, 48K/All types$5,$7,12/12
Mitsubishi MXZ Series13 units 20K to 60K20/All types$5,$7,7/5
See the Single Zone table above for explanatory notes on each column.
SEER/HSPF ratings vary widely with multi-zone systems based on number of zones and type of indoor units.

#1 &#; LG Multi VS:

The efficiency of these models is good; their reliability is excellent. These are hardworking heat pumps with few bells and whistles, and that makes them an excellent value. Four units are available from 24, to 60, BTU, aka 2 to 5 tons. Features include:

  • VRF variable-refrigerant flow optimizes efficiency and indoor comfort
  • Each indoor unit can be controlled separately with different temperature set points
  • Can heat one zone (living space) and cool another (a computer room, for example), transferring heat between them as needed
  • Excellent low-temperature heating to F

#2 &#; Friedrich J Series:

This is a fully variable system that modulates compressor capacity and fan speed to optimize climate control. Both cooling-only and heat pump models support multizone operation.

  • Twin rotary compressors for precise heating and air conditioning
  • Variable-capacity compressors adjust from lowest to highest capacity in 56 increments to reduce energy waste
  • Soft start technology – the fan ramps up slowly to meet AC/heating capacity
  • Electronically adjusted louvers work with sensors to direct air to where it is needed
  • Residential and commercial applications
  • Auto restart after power outage
  • hour time with remote

#3 &#; Fujitsu General Halcyon HFI AOU48RLXFZ1:

This advanced-tech system offers flexibility to heat and cool from zones in a single system. You decide which zones receive heating or air conditioning, and climate control is programmed separately for each one. While the outdoor unit’s capacity is 48, BTU, you can install a collection of indoor units totaling 62, BTU, though all can be running at full capacity all the time.

  • Up to 8 individually controlled zones
  • Ideal for large homes and office settings
  • Central remote-control option
  • Economy and away modes reduce energy use
  • Multiple indoor unit options
  • WiFi monitoring and control

#4 &#; Daikin MXS Series:

This is an efficient and versatile multi-zone split system from a global leader. The Daikin MXS Series top features are:

  • Multiple capacity outdoor units and indoor units
  • Suitable for light commercial application too
  • Long-lasting, washable filters
  • Wireless remote with LCD screen
  • Advanced dehumidification in AC mode

#5 &#; Mitsubishi MXZ Series:

Here’s another outstanding series from Mitsubishi Electric. The MXZ Series includes more than 10 outdoor units, and each one can be matched with a complete range of floor, wall and ceiling indoor units, six styles total. This allows you to customize your HVAC system to your exact needs.

  • Half the models in the series have Hyper Heat technology for heating effectiveness to F/C
  • 50db is the quietest model – that’s db higher than the quietest on the market
  • All models in the series cool and heat

Best Cold Climate Ductless Mini Split Heat Pumps

Heat pumps have been ruled out for use in very cold climates until recently. The cold-climate technology has improved significantly, and now many brands make units capable of heating effectively in temperatures well below freezing. They do it with traditional heat pump technology.

Among the models listed above are several capable of heating in freezing weather: Gree Crown+ (F), LG Multi V S (F).

Here are 3 more that stand out for heating effectively in the very coldest weather.

BTU OutputTop
System CostWarranty
Gree SapphireTo F9KK38/15$3,$4,5/5
Fujitsu Halcyon XLTHTo F18KK22/10$4,$5,7/5
Mitsubishi Electric MXZ H2iTo F12KK/$5,$7,7/5

#1 &#; Gree Sapphire:

The ratings on this single-zone heat pump are the best available. It delivers 15 HSPF heating and is 90% effective in temperatures to F. It’s SEER AC rating is a sky-high 38 SEER. It shares features and technology with the Gree Crown+ in the Best Single Zone models list above.

#2 &#; Fujitsu General Halcyon XLTH:

This is the top multi-zone mini split heat pump in this category. It is effective to F and includes a base pan heater to prevent freeze-ups in extreme cold. The features of the Halcyon Series are included in the above list of Best Single Zone models, though this unit is capable of heating and air conditioning in zones.

#3 – Mitsubishi Electric MXZ H2I:

This advanced mini split heat pump maintains % heating effectiveness to 23F, a point where most conventional heat pumps deliver about 60% of heating capacity. The effectiveness of the MXZ H21 is 76% at F (C). This system offers efficiency as high as SEER and HSPF. It’s designed for zones with capacity from 12, to 48, BTU ( tons). Factory-installed base heater prevents freeze up.

The Importance of Installation Expertise

The efficiency and performance of a quality mini split heat pump can be diminished by improper installation. While these systems are growing rapidly in popularity, the number of qualified installers isn’t keeping pace with demand. We can help you find an HVAC company in your area with good experience installing mini-split systems. Use our Free Local Quotes and you’ll receive written estimates from several of the top-rated installers in your area. They are prescreened to make sure they are licensed, insured and experienced. It’s a quick and convenient way to ensure you find an installer that knows what they’re doing. There is no cost or obligation for using the service.


LG Ductless vs Fujitsu? Which is better?

Both are high-quality brands with advantages.

LG makes more systems, so you have better options to fit your needs. The brand also makes bigger condensing units (heat pumps) – up to 60, BTU/h capacity ideal for large multi-zone installations.

Fujitsu units range from 9, to 24, BTUs, so aren’t ideal for large homes. However, for space up to about 1, square feet depending on climate, Fujitsu is just right. Most Fujitsu ductless systems are more efficient than LG’s.

Compare LG vs Fujitsu ductless air conditioners and heat pumps head to head with our:

How good are Daikin ductless systems?

And can you recommend a Daikin mini split system model?

Much of today’s top ductless technology was invented at Daikin. The brand remains among the very best.

One thing to notice from the model reviews above is that Daikin offers the longest warranties in the industry – 12 years on both the compressor and parts.

We recommend the Daikin Aurora 20 Series for single zones and the Daikin MXS Series for multiple zones.

There are a few details above, but see our Daikin Mini Split Review and Guide for full details.

Gree ductless vs Mitsubishi. Which is better?

Mitsubishi is considered the best overall brand of mini split heat pump. Sales are phenomenal.

Gree has strong points though. Consumer reviews are excellent. And the Gree Sapphire has two benefits – the highest SEER rating (38) and that it functions to the lowest temperature (F).

You might enjoy our Review Guides to both brands:

Which is better, a single zone or two zone system?

Both have their benefits.

The single-zone system will cost less, of course, because it has one inside unit. If the space you want to heat and air condition is open, then a single-zone system will work.

The two-zone system, while costing more, gives you the advantage of two places for indoor units. This often leads to better airflow and temperature balance. If you have two+ rooms, like a one-bedroom apartment with an open living/dining area, the two-zone system is preferred.

How much does a ductless system cost?

Most homeowners pay $5, &#; $7, for their system. But it depends on home layout, how many indoor units you need and total heating and air conditioning capacity required.

Small single-zone systems cost less than $3, Large systems with many zones exceed $10,

Our Mini Split System Buying Guide has complete ductless system pricing plus information on choosing the right system for your needs.

This page mentions how important installation experience is. What can go wrong?

The most common mistakes are:

  • Not sizing the system properly, so you don’t get enough heat and air conditioning or too much, causing short-cycling which will damage the compressor
  • Not properly matching the outdoor condensing units to the indoor units in a multi-zone system
  • Putting in too little refrigerant.
  • Installing the indoor units in non-optimal locations.
  • Miswiring the system or thermostat.

You can be sure to hire an experienced, licensed and insured installer by calling our number or suing the Free Local Quote form.

There is no cost for using the service – and you have no obligation to accept any estimates provided.

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  • We’ve added more information on DIY mini-splits, like Mr. Cool.

May 10,

A mini-split is an efficient, scalable way to add cooling or heating to specific rooms of a home. Also known as ductless mini-split air conditioners and heaters, they consist of one or more wall, floor, or ceiling-mounted indoor units connected to an outdoor compressor. They’re easier to install than a full ducted system, more efficient than window units or central HVAC, and they often make sense as a supplement to your existing heating and cooling equipment—giving a boost to an isolated area of your home. Add in thermostat-like controls alongside smart-home integration and mini-splits start to sound pretty great—but they aren’t cheap, with installation costs that can reach into the five figures. (Many local utility companies offer rebates to offset some of that.)

The exact mini-split equipment you need depends on your home’s unique heating and cooling requirements, and your options are limited to the qualified installers in your area—but we’ve researched this topic enough to be able to tell you about the scenarios when mini-split systems make sense and how to decide among the brands available. We asked installers, manufacturers, and homeowners who have mini-split systems to tell us what anyone considering one would need to know.

Who should get this

If you want to cool or heat specific rooms with better efficiency and less clutter than window ACs and space heaters—and less complexity than central HVAC—consider a mini-split system. Central HVAC usually forces air through several rooms—or the entire house—often heating or cooling rooms that aren’t even being used. “If you turn the water faucet on in the kitchen and every other water faucet turned on throughout the househow efficient is that? That’s what central systems do,” says Mike Smith, senior marketing manager of Mitsubishi Electric, one of the prominent mini-split brands sold in North America.

Pros of a mini-split system

Mini-splits are popular as retrofits into existing construction, for a reason that also happens to be another big source of their efficiency: They don’t require costly duct work. This means they’re much easier to install than a traditional ducted HVAC system, and they can deliver more of the conditioned air they produce, too. According to Tim De Stasio, president of Southern Comfort Consulting and Service of Greensboro, North Carolina, “ductwork loses heat, especially in attics, and here in the South our attics can get up to degrees.” This is not to say installation is simple, however.

Another appealing factor about a mini-split is a lot of flexibility in sizing the system to your needs. The system consists of two types of units: one outdoor condenser and the individually controlled air-delivering indoor units, which you have at least one of (or, maybe, four). These connect by a refrigerant line and a drain line. The indoor units vary in size based on what the room needs, and they’re typically mounted high on a room’s wall and are about the size of a long duffel bag. Some indoor units can also be mounted on the floor or recessed into a ceiling. The ceiling units are more discreet, but they require a much more invasive installation. The outdoor unit can be as small as a piece of luggage, but the more indoor units you have, the larger the outdoor unit needs to be to support them. “If you want to take care of more rooms in the future, you just leave a little extra capacity on the outdoor unit,” Smith said.

Mini-splits offer a lot of control, too, beyond their ability to be programmed like a regular thermostat. The best models can sense when someone is in the room (or not) and adjust the temperature accordingly, and then they can direct the air either away from you or toward you based on your preferences. Most models include a wireless remote and/or a wireless wall-mounted controller, and many can be controlled via smart phone or be integrated into a larger system like Nest or Alexa. We’ve tested a few standalone devices that act as thermostats for the individual rooms where the indoor units live.

Where mini-splits work well

A black mini-split unit on a living room wall.

Mini-splits can work as a small space’s primary system in a mild climate, but more often they’re ideal for rooms that don’t already have a heating and cooling system—like an addition, finished basement, attic bonus room, or a garage workshop. They can also add air conditioning to a high traffic area like a kitchen or living room, or even a room where you just might want a little extra temperature control like a nursery. For some homes, a couple of well-placed indoor units can handle the heating and cooling needs for most of the year.

Mini-splits also make sense in rooms that are off-kilter from the rest of the home’s heating system. De Stasio mentioned sunrooms, which are “pretty much glass ovens” that heat up and cool down much faster than the rest of the house. “The thermostat in the hallway 30 feet away has no idea that it’s 85 degrees in the sunroom.” A mini-split will allow you to condition that sunroom separately from the rest of the home.

For some homes, a couple of well-placed indoor units can handle the heating and cooling needs for most of the year.

Why not just get a window unit or portable AC?

All these advantages of a mini-split add up to increased comfort, especially when compared to the (much more affordable) options for treating single rooms: window air conditioners and portable ACs. For one, mini-splits are much quieter. With the system split between an indoor and outdoor unit, the only noise in the room is the fan needed to move air. There is none of the loud compressor hum that is typical of a window unit. In addition, most quality mini-split systems, much like the best whole-house systems, use variable-speed motors in their compressors. De Stasio explained, “On a mild day, a mini-split will actually run on a slower speed than on a hot day and save you energy, where a window unit will just come on and off on and off.” He added that this constant cycling of the window unit “consume[s] a massive amount of energy.” He explained: “Think of it like trying to push a car from a dead stop to 5 mph versus pushing it as it's already rolling forward. Which one requires more energy? The variable speed motors in a mini-split are never at a dead stop.”

Another downside to window units, De Stasio said, is that “every time that air conditioner shuts off and stays off for 20 minutes, you’re not doing any kind of dehumidification.” Since the mini-splits variable speed can dial down to near zero once the target temperature is reached, it’s actually at its most efficient when you leave it at the setting you find comfortable—win-win.

Beyond variable speed, a mini-split is comparably more efficient than a window unit due to its different construction. Mitsubishi Electric’s Smith explained that within the housing of the window AC are the same two components of a mini-split—the evaporator and a condenser. “Those two components of that system are separated by a very thin wall, and that thin wall is not doing a great job of keeping heat energy out.” With a mini-split, he said, the two components are “now separated by your insulated wall.”

The way a mini-split disperses air is better than a window unit or a portable AC. Smith explained, “When you’re trying to blow cool air into a hot room, the cool air will fall, so a window unit has a tougher time driving that cool air across the room because of the position of the window.” A mini-split is typically mounted high on a wall or even in a ceiling, giving it a much better throw of that cool air, with the ability to disperse it in a sweeping motion from side to side, up and down, or even directed towards a wall, if you want some circulation without a direct blast of air.

Last, a mini-split doesn’t occupy a room’s electrical outlet or affect the function of your windows. A window AC completely blocks a good chunk of the window, obviously. And even a portable AC hogs its share of the window space by requiring the window to stay shut tight against the vent hose hardware that every portable AC uses to dump heat outside.

Cons of a mini-split system

Mini-splits are never cheap. De Stasio told us a typical single-unit install costs roughly $3,$5,, but if you’re looking to create a whole-house system—which needs multiple indoor units and a larger outdoor unit to support them—it can start getting cost-prohibitive. In , a friend in Los Angeles installed a one-zone Mitsubishi Electric system with a single indoor unit for a total installed cost of about $4, In , a friend in Hawaii installed a Mitsubishi Electric system with four indoor units (of three varying sizes) and a 42, btu, 5-zone outdoor unit to serve his entire house. The total cost came in just under $17, That’s a lot, but it may still come in under the cost of a comparable ducted system; on the other hand, the best window units and portables range from about $ to $ apiece.

You also have to commit to a location with the indoor units, and there’s no moving them around, like with window air conditioners or portable ACs. Ideally, the pipes go through the wall directly behind the unit, where they’re hidden. Depending on how the wall is constructed, this may cause the unit to be off-center on the wall, which you may not want. One mini-split owner we spoke to said that he wished he had understood this better. “In our bedroom, the unit is a little closer to the side wall than I'd like because they couldn't access the coupling without putting the unit where it is.” The other option in this situation is to have the pipes do a short run along the interior wall before going through it, but, as he said, “Generally, the units look best when the punch-through is hidden behind the unit rather than to the left or right of the unit.”

Even in the perfect location, mini-split indoor units take up a chunk of wall space and they’re not the most attractive things in the world, as we heard separately from two friends who recently installed them. It’s basically a boxy rectangle, or, as one owner put it, “a big stupid plastic giant lunchbox thing on your wall.” Some manufacturers offer a variety of colors, at least, and LG seems to be hearing these complaints with models like their Art Cool Mirror line. Another option is to get units that recess into the ceiling. But a ceiling installation will likely be more expensive and invasive.

Mini-splits can also struggle in extreme temperatures. According to Mitsubishi Electric, their best systems can operate at percent capacity all the way down to an exterior temperature of about 23 degrees and will even operate at 75 percent at negative 13 degrees. Still, it’s something to consider when setting up a system for your home.

A related (more avoidable) downside is winding up with a system that feels undersized for your needs, even in less extreme weather, which happened to our LA friend. To play it safe, an installer might suggest going with a bigger outdoor unit, which has the flexibility to serve multiple indoor units. But the costs add up fast, and it can be tempting to try to get by with the minimum equipment possible. That may backfire if the system is underpowered. “I have to run the heat at 90 degrees for it to feel comfortable,” she says. “And then I have to run it all day.” On the bright side, she says, “the A/C works great.”

Last, mini-splits are nice in that they are all electric (and require no additional fuel or gas service, like with some traditional HVAC systems), but their electrical requirements are considerable. The 5-zone unit our Hawaii friend installed required a dedicated 40 A breaker for its volt service, and his installation crew used a licensed electrical sub-contractor for the work, adding cost.

How we’d pick a brand

We found four leading brands in our research: Mitsubishi Electric, Fujitsu, LG, Daikin, and Panasonic (and a handful of smaller names, like Mirage). You probably don’t have a ton of choice on which exact pieces of equipment you need—that’s determined mostly by your home’s size, climate, and the heating and cooling needs you’re addressing. But you do have a choice to make on what brand you go with, and in a big market, you can take your pick among qualified installers recommended by each of those four manufacturers. We evaluated the options by looking broadly at the characteristics common to the brands as a whole—comparing things like warranty, aesthetic options, smart features, and other factors that would make a meaningful impact if we were shopping for ourselves. Here’s an overview by brand, in the order in which we would begin our search locally.

Mitsubishi Electric stands out in this field, for starters, by being among the most common and popular options available in North American markets. That translates to a larger pool of service technicians to choose from, better availability of more models, higher likelihood you’ll be able to design a system to fit your needs exactly, and potentially faster service for troubleshooting or repairs. They also have a reputation for durability. “I can count on one hand how many replacement parts I've had to put on a Mitsubishi mini-split system,” De Stasio said. “There are other brands where I can't say that.” If something does go wrong, Mitsubishi Electric’s limited year parts warranty is among the best, and the brand’s popularity means lots of local utilities offer rebates. In Mitsubishi Electric’s brochure (PDF), you’ll find fairly limited aesthetic options for wall units, although matte silver and black wall unit finishes are available, and you can also consider ceiling mounts, floor mounts, or other special configurations. Mitsubishi Electric runs its smart features off a proprietary app, Kumo Cloud, which controls multiple zones via a clean-looking interface. The app seems to have picked up a lot of negative reviews initially (circa ), but usually works as expected according to several more recent reviews. We’ve just begun testing the app in summer and will update this guide with our notes.

LG is another big company that has advantages similar to Mitsubishi due to the company’s size, stability, and market saturation. You can find qualified LG installers in many metropolitan areas. Depending on the equipment involved, LG’s warranty can last up to 12 years, similar to Mitsubishi Electric’s, and LG’s local utility rebates vary by city, but they often cover at least some relevant mini-split equipment. LG’s catalog shows lots of aesthetic options on finishes for the wall units, and LG’s SmartThinQ app offers system-wide controls and reliable functionality. The app can potentially benefit some folks by also controlling other LG smart appliances at home, which would be convenient—and, to LG’s credit, after watching a lot of appliance makers’ apps have their ups and downs over the years, SmartThinQ’s roughly star average across about 3, reviews is definitely above average for the category.

Daikin is another worldwide company that offers a large selection of units. They have a wide ranging network of installers and, like Mitsubishi and LG, a year warranty for many of their products. The company offers many rebates as well as multiple control options.

Daikin and Fujitsu are fine alternatives to Mitsubishi Electric and LG. These may be lesser-known brands, but they both have wide-ranging networks of installers in most North American markets. The Fujitsu and Daikin warranties can last up to 12 years and both companies offer plenty of rebates. and local utilities offer rebates for lots of Fujitsu equipment, both in mini-split and conventional AC machinery. A minor reason we’d look to Mitsubishi Electric or LG first is that Daikin and Fujitsu offer relatively narrow choices on the look of the wall units, but fortunately, the various combinations of the system’s equipment still offer enough flexibility performance-wise to meet most homes’ needs. Daikin and Fujitsu offer similar smart-home functions to its competitors.

There are other manufacturers out there, but we can’t really imagine bypassing these four options for a niche brand with weaker availability, selection, and customer support.

How we’d pick an installer

Who you hire to install a mini-split system is as critical and difficult a decision as choosing the equipment itself. The machinery’s performance shouldn’t vary much, and defective units will be covered by warranty—but the commitment you make to an installer will determine how well the mini-split system functions in your space. A good HVAC firm will know what equipment to use—especially for tricky jobs that require some expertise and experience to design around—and the technical skill the pros bring to the installation will affect its initial performance as well as whatever service calls you make over the years. No pressure!

It is technically possible to install a mini-split yourself—how-to videos on This Old House look straightforward enough, and there’s a forum full of Reddit homeowners who say they’ve done it—but self-installation is probably not worth the risk. For one thing, even a perfect DIY installation may void the unit’s warranty, exposing thousands of dollars of equipment to the risk of not being covered on a legitimate claim. Beyond that, De Stasio told us, “There is so much that can go wrong if it’s not professionally installed. Your typical homeowner does not have the tools to do it or the instrumentation to take the measurements to know that it’s been done right.” Getting the right size unit is not as simple as calculating the area of a room, for example. “A square foot room in New Hampshire requires a different amount of heating and air conditioning than a square foot room in Florida.” A good HVAC installer will do a proper heat load calculation, which means, as explained by Todd Washam, director of industry and internal relations at The Air Conditioning Contractors of America, they “measure the windows, the tree overhangs for the shading, the pitch of your roof, the square footage, what type of floors, and the insulation in your attic and walls.”

There are companies, like Mr. Cool, that offer models that are marketed for DIY installation. These units are less expensive, but the installation process is not for the beginner, or even intermediate DIYer. It involves electrical work, plumbing, checking for refrigerant leaks, and drilling a 3½ -inch hole through the side of your house (and another one for the electrical line). This is not something that most people want to undertake just to save a couple thousand dollars. And after all of that, the warranty is shorter than the one provided by companies like Mitsubishi and LG. These DIY models are certainly an option, but not one to be taken on without carefully considering what you might be getting yourself into.

To give yourself a good chance at a satisfying mini-split installation, here’s how we’d approach the contractor hiring process for this job:

Ask locals who they used: If a mini-split makes good sense for your house, you’re probably not alone in your area. Start by asking homeowners in your community for recommendations for (or warnings against) local HVAC firms.

Seek mini-split experience: Seek some confirmation—photos of previous jobs, customer testimonials, Yelp reviews—that this crew has done a few mini-split installations before and their work has satisfied others. Equipment manufacturers can give you a bit of a head start: You can search for a qualified contractor in your area at the sites of Mitsubishi Electric, Fujitsu, Panasonic, LG, and other makers.

Set up a site visit and interview: For no charge, your prospective installer should come over, walk the property, talk about your needs, and discuss the equipment options available. Take notes on any models or sizes suggested, so you can do your own pricing research independently afterward. Ask detailed questions—could you potentially add another indoor unit in the future? Will this indoor unit adequately serve the entire space it’s meant for? Do they offer an ongoing service plan? Will the work be inspected? What kind of warranty does the contractor offer on the labor (independent of the manufacturer’s warranty)? Satisfy yourself that the installer understands the nuances of your space and the way the equipment can be configured to address your needs. This job requires engineering and design skills on top of technical know-how; your goal is to ensure you can get all of that.

Look for a personal connection: You’re getting into a relationship with this contractor. You’ll be in touch throughout the installation, and in the future for service calls, warranty claims, or other troubleshooting. Is this person reliable and responsive, or do you have apprehension about having them in and out of your house in the short term and in the future? Can you trust them?

Get three quotes: If there are multiple qualified installers in your area, call two or three of them. This is a multi-thousand-dollar job, but we’d advise this even for simpler work—it really gives you a clear sense of what the market for this work is like and often helps you weed out options you’re less comfortable with, giving you the confidence to commit to the best place available.

Request written estimates: At minimum, you should see a one-page quote outlining the work involved and the prices before you agree to start the job. Even better—detailed manufacturer’s information, from the pro, on each piece of equipment going into the job.

Weigh the options: If you’re deciding between some options—say, a 2-zone version of your system versus a 4-zone, ask for written estimates for both configurations. At the outset, when you’re asking lots of questions, be on the lookout for pushback, a dismissive attitude, or impatience—you should have questions, even some very basic ones, and it’s a good sign if a pro can answer them respectfully.

The outdoor element of a mini-split ac unit.

Specify equipment placement: Take pictures of the proposed locations of the installations, both on the indoor and outdoor units, to confirm their exact placement as part of your agreement. This is a final decision and can be a source of dissatisfaction among owners.

Make plans for maintenance: Mini-split maintenance is usually minimal but is also best done by an HVAC technician, at least until you watch them enough times to know the ins and outs yourself. It mostly consists of keeping the equipment clean and the drain line clear. De Stasio says, “At the end of the day, it’s a disinfectant cloth, it's a shop vac, it’s a water hose gently washing the outside coil. The tasks themselves are things that a homeowner can do, but a professional is going to know how to do them safely and how to do them thoroughly.”

What about smart controllers?

We tested three smart thermostat devices: the Ambi Climate 2, the Flair Puck, and the Sensibo Sky. At their most basic, they allow you to easily control your mini-split from your phone. Unlike manufacturer options such as Mitsubishi’s Kumo Cloud, which do the same thing, these 3rd party options do not require expensive professional installation. Though none of the three have so far lived up to our expectations, the Ambi and the Flair are much better than the Sensibo. We’re continuing to watch new releases and version upgrades and will test any that we think look good.

The Ambi Climate 2 is the most in-depth of the three. It attempts to monitor your home, AC use, and external temperatures then adjust your AC throughout the day. We like the set-it-and-forget-it use of it and how it adapted to our routine, but the app’s depth, amount of upfront information, and optional user settings makes it more complicated to use than others we tried. The controller units are not wall mounted but unobtrusive within most modern decor. Our experience with customer support was good but not great.

The Flair Puck is much simpler. The app is cleaner and much more straightforward, but it doesn’t try to do as much as the Ambi. It’s more like a modern replacement for the physical controllers that come with the mini-splits. It’s convenient, but it lacks some of the basic mini-split controls, like adjusting air direction, which the Ambi provides. The pucks can be wall mounted or stand alone and look like miniature Nest units though they aren’t as substantial. We like that you can also control the AC unit directly from the puck, which you can’t do with the Ambi. Flair’s customer service was excellent and very responsive. It’s also compatible with Ecobee sensors, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Both the Ambi and Flair had issues with connectivity, especially with dual band WiFi. The signal strength of the units to the AC is hit or miss. When it works we were able to set them up over feet away without an issue, but the best range seems to be closer to feet. Good enough for a small room, but tougher in larger ones.

Another downside is that Flair and Ambi are not directly compatible with Apple’s HomeKit. Ambi does integrate with Siri shortcuts and has a 3rd party work-around for HomeKit, but it needs to be running 24/7 on your home computer in order for it to work.

The Sensibo Sky was our least favorite of the three. We found the overall design unappealing, the app was difficult to use, and the controllers were difficult to connect to our AC units. They also sent us a few oddly formatted and what can best be described as vaguely spam-y looking emails.

About your guides

Doug Mahoney

Doug Mahoney is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering home improvement. He spent 10 years in high-end construction as a carpenter, foreman, and supervisor. He lives in a very demanding year-old farmhouse and spent four years gutting and rebuilding his previous home. He also raises sheep and has a dairy cow that he milks every morning.

Harry Sawyers

Harry Sawyers is the senior editor covering home improving, HVAC, and gardening at Wirecutter. He previously worked at This Old House and Popular Mechanics magazines; before that, he restored historic houses and mowed lawns for a living. He lives in a house in LA with his wife, three boys, a dog, and a lot of Wirecutter recommendations.

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