The average national cost of a ductless air conditioning system is between $1,500 and $2,000 per ton of cooling capacity. For a standard 2,000-square-foot home, that means you'll spend around $1,800 to $7,000, depending on how many mini-split air handlers you need, the region of the country you live in and your electrical wiring system.
These ductless indoor unit options are fantastic for times when installing a full-scale air conditioning system would be impractical or overkill. You might want to install a ductless system or a ductless mini-split if your home has a condensed footprint, no ducted heat pumps or hot upper stories. Mini split systems are most often used in areas where a window AC unit or baseboard heating would be considered. Ductless are also excellent solutions for homes that lack a good location for a standard-sized outdoor unit — like those on a steep hill.
A ductless system — also called a ductless mini-split — is much smaller than conventional HVAC central air units. You'll have two main components you need to install. First, you have the outdoor unit (compressor and condenser), which looks like a small-scale version of larger air conditioning units; ductless mini-split units are compact. Indoors, you have a wall-mounted air-handling unit located in each room you want to keep cool. A conduit filled with refrigerant tubing and a condensate drain connects your indoor unit handlers to the compressor and condenser (outdoor unit).
What's in this cost guide?
- Mini-split ductless air conditioner installation cost factors
- Benefits of mini-split ductless air conditioners
- Negatives of mini-split ductless air conditioners
- How to save money on mini-split ductless air conditioning
Several factors can raise or lower the total cost of installing a mini-split ductless air conditioner. Below, we break them down for you:
The cost will be largely determined by the number of handlers (indoor units) you require -- basically, how many rooms you want air conditioning in. Not surprisingly, the more handlers you need to install, the higher the cost of both the units and labor.
For a standard 2,000-square-foot home, here's what you can expect to spend for the unit itself:
- One air conditioner: $1,800
- Two air conditioners: $2,500
- Three air conditioners: $3,000
- Four air conditioners: $3,800 or more.
If you're not sure how many indoor ductless mini-split units you'll need, a professional HVAC technician can help. They will determine the number of ductless handlers you need based on the size of your home and number of rooms, to ensure you have the appropriate amount of cooling power. They'll then decide where to install the outdoor unit for maximum energy savings.
Your contractor's hourly rates will affect the total air conditioning installation costs, too. Talk to your mini-split installer beforehand about their hourly rates, and make sure you understand exactly how long they expect the air conditioner installation will take. On average, it will take between one and two days to install a mini split system. The more air handlers you install, the more hours your air conditioning technician will spend on the job.
The outdoor condenser needs to be placed outside, on a concrete slab. If you don't already have a suitable concrete slab for the outdoor condenser, you will need to have one poured. That will cost between $9 and $20 per square foot.
A ductless mini-split air conditioning system requires a 220-volt circuit. If none are available, you'll need to hire an electrician to upgrade your wiring and add an outlet with the appropriate voltage. Expect to spend between $300 and $800 to add a new circuit or pay between $75 and $250 to add an outlet to an existing circuit.
In addition to being excellent options for small homes or awkward locations not suited for a large standard condenser unit, ductless has a number of other benefits. In many situations, they can be the ideal air conditioning choice:
- Central air systems often lead to heating losses — and thus larger electricity bills. Ductless avoid these problems and are a cost-efficient way to cool your home. In fact, if you purchase an Energy Star ductless unit, you can save up to 30% in cooling costs for your space and you may qualify for a federal tax credit and local utility incentives.
- With a ductless system, you cool only the rooms that need cooling. No wasted money keeping unused spaces chilly — you can simply turn those indoor unit air conditioners off.
- Ductless systems tend to be quieter and less visible. Say goodbye to deafening central air units!
- Because each room has its own mini-split air conditioner, each family member can choose the temperature that feels right for their room — no battling over the thermostat required.
- Ductwork can be home to a host of dust, pollen, dander, and mites. Ductless reduces allergens throughout the entire home.
- With a ductless system, only a small hole is drilled in the wall to install. This makes your home less susceptible to air leakage and security problems that go hand-in-hand with window AC units.
But it's not all sunshine and roses and cold air in the land of ductless air conditioners. Before you install a ductless air conditioner, be prepared for a couple of the downsides.
For example, the handlers can be ugly and take up room inside your house. And because each room gets its own, you'll see them everywhere. If you're looking for a streamlined space, ductless might not be the solution for you.
Additionally, just like a conventional HVAC unit, you'll need to bring a technician out for regular maintenance. But you'll also need to clean the air filters often — more than monthly if you live with pets or children. Skipping this DIY maintenance can lead to big problems down the line.
Installing a mini-split AC system doesn't need to cost an arm-and-a-leg. Here are some of our best cost-savings tips:
- Shop around and get multiple quotes. Typically, the same company who sells you the mini-split will be the ones to install it. However, as a savvy homeowner, consider shopping around for multiple quotes on installation fees – you may be able to save a good chunk of change!
- Costs may vary. A typical installation quote may not include the cost to install additional heat pumps/heating lines, the removal of old central air or HVACequipment, and the removal of existing ductwork that is no longer needed. Be sure to factor these items while developing your ductless mini-split budget.
- Think about all of your heating and cooling needs. Before moving forward with a mini split AC system, consider all of your heating and cooling needs. Ask yourself: will I need a heat pump in addition to the mini split system? In addition to heating your home, a heat pump can also help cool areas of your home. Heat pumps come as a mini split system as well, so be sure to factor in all of your heating and cooling needs prior to making a final choice – a heat pump mini split system may be all that you need!
Whether your home has a new addition that needs air conditioning, you're serving multiple temperature needs under one roof, or you're adding AC to a home with no existing ductwork, ductless air conditioning systems are an excellent option. As always, we recommend getting in touch with a Thumbtack professional prior to embarking on this project, as proper system sizing and installation is critical to getting the benefits from a ductless AC system.