What are Ductless Mini Split Heat Pumps: Best Brands & Cost Guide

Homeowners are increasingly more concerned with energy efficiency when heating and cooling their homes. When it comes to heating and cooling open spaces, efficiency apartments, additions, etc., there is an increasing curiosity about ductless mini-split heat pump systems and whether or not they are a good investment.

Ductless mini-split heat pumps are the most cost-efficient and energy-efficient method for heating and cooling open spaces. Ductless mini-split heat pumps are universal, mainly where ductwork is absent or not feasible. These benefits make ductless heat pump systems a great investment.

However, there are two main factors to consider before investing in a ductless mini-split heat pump: the current energy efficiency of the house and layout. 

If you live in an older home that is not well insulated, your first order of business should be to add additional insulation into your home, particularly in the attic. This will help maximize the energy efficiency of the mini-split heat pump system.

Second, mini splits need open spaces to be effective. Because they do not use ductwork to distribute air into the room, they are most effective in open areas where air can flow freely. 

Mini splits are not suited well in spaces with numerous interior walls forming rooms and hallways. Later in the article, we will discuss areas ideally suited for ductless mini-split heat pump systems.

So, without further ado, let’s get started. 

What is a Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump 

To begin with, let’s give a layman’s exclamation of what a ductless mini heat pump system is and how it works. 

Ductless mini heat pumps have two main components; an inside unit (often either a wall-mounted unit or an in-ceiling unit called a cassette) and an outside unit. Like traditional heat pumps, ductless heating and cooling units use refrigerants like R410a to transfer heat. 

The inside unit contains a heat exchanger coil, a check valve, and a small fan to push the air across the heat exchanger coil and out the front of the indoor unit. 

The outside unit contains a compressor, heat exchanger coil, large fan, check valve, and a reversing valve. The reversing valve changes the directional flow of refrigerant in the system to provide heating or cooling.

The main difference between mini split heat pumps and traditional air source heat pumps is the presence of ductwork. The components, while they may look different, work precisely the same.

The conditioned air travels through the main supply duct with branch ducts to individual rooms in a standard air-source heat pump. A ductless mini-split system does not have ducts. There is a vent in the front of the indoor unit where conditioned air is distributed.

How Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps Work

The indoor unit acts as the evaporator in cooling mode, and the outside unit acts as a condenser. The refrigerant passing through the outdoor heat exchanger coil is hotter than the outside air. The outside air cools the refrigerant before it enters the compressor. The greater the difference in the outside temperature and the refrigerant, the greater the heat exchange.

The compressor condenses the refrigerant to a cold liquid. As this cold liquid passes through the inside heat exchanger, the fan blows warmer inside air across the cold heat exchanger, where the air is cooled and distributed out the front vent of the inside unit.

This exchange process warms the refrigerant as it leaves the inside heat exchanger before heading back to the outside unit, where the cycle repeats itself.

We mentioned before about the reversing valve, well, in heat mode, this above process is reversed, and the inside unit acts as the condenser. The outside unit acts as the evaporator.

The inside unit mounts on an exterior wall’s interior side, and the compressor installs outside on a concrete pad or platform. The two units are connected through two refrigerant lines that connect to the heat exchangers. 

Like standard air-source heat pumps, these units have a refrigerant that travels back and forth between the units. 

Wondering if a new heat pump will add value to your home, check out our article Will a Heat Pump Add Value to Your Home?

Single vs. Multi-Zone

Ductless mini-split heat pumps are great for use in open spaces where air can move freely. Many newer homes, townhomes, and condos have open concept floor plans, making them an excellent choice.

Depending on the layout, ductless mini-split heat pumps can even be used as an auxiliary system in a home or a whole-house option.

For instance, as an auxiliary system, a ductless heat pump is an excellent choice if you have an addition or a finished space over a garage and don’t want to upgrade your entire HVAC system.

Depending on the layout, a multi-zone ductless system can allow for affordable whole-house heating and cooling as a whole-house option. I recently inspected a two-story home with an open kitchen/living room concept, a downstairs bedroom, and a primary bedroom upstairs. The whole house was heated and cooled by a three indoor unit multi-zone heat pump system.

A multi-zone ductless system will usually have a maximum of 4 indoor units. The maximum square footage covered is about 1500 square feet as a whole-house option. When planning a multi-zone configuration, you need to know the total square footage and the square footage of each room, and the BTU rating for each unit in the system.

Typical sizing of a ductless heat pump system is as follows (this is only an estimate and does not represent your exact situation):

Area To Be CooledCapacity Needed (BTUs Per Hour)
150 to 250 square feet6,000 BTUs
250 to 300 square feet7,000 BTUs
300 to 350 square feet8,000 BTUs
350 to 400 square feet9,000 BTUs
400 to 450 square feet10,000 BTUs
450 to 550 square feet12,000 BTUs
550 to 700 square feet14,000 BTUs
700 to 1,000 square feet18,000 BTUs
1,000 to 1,200 square feet21,000 BTUs
1,200 to 1,400 square feet23,000 BTUs
Up to 1,500 square feet24,000 BTUs

Insider Tip: When sizing for a mini-split heat pump, you should add 20% to the BTUs if you have ceiling heights over 8 feet or live in a poorly insulated house. You should add 30% to the BTUs if you live in a climate that has seasonal temperatures over 90 degrees F. 1

Best Uses for Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

Ductless mini-split heat pumps work best in open spaces. As you can see above, the 9000 BTU inside unit can heat/cool approximately 350-400 square feet. Air should be able to move freely in the interior space for maximum effectiveness. Examples of areas where mini splits are best used include: 

  • Small homes – single-family or multi-family homes and townhomes with four rooms or fewer and less than 1500 square feet. For example, a single-family home or multi-family building where each unit has two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen are ideal candidates for a multi-zone setup.
  • Apartments/condos – apartments and condos with four rooms or fewer and less than 1500 square feet. Same example, an apartment or condo with 1 or 2 bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen are ideal candidates for a multi-zone setup.
  • Finished basements – Basements generally have an open floor plan. A single-zone or multi-zone system is ideal because space is usually less than 1500 square feet, and it may be difficult to install traditional ductwork.
  • Portable buildings – Portable office buildings for job sites or mobile classrooms are ideal for ductless systems. These buildings are generally under 1000 square feet.
  • Commercial buildings – Commercial buildings and offices, including salons, restaurants, small retail stores, etc., are good candidates due to their open spaces. Due to building configuration without expensive renovations, older commercial buildings may be difficult to install ductwork.
  • Sheds – Have a she-shed or man-cave? Using a shed as a workshop or art studio? Sheds are ideal for mini splits as you can run them only for the time being used.
  • Garages – Spend a lot of time working on your car, truck, or motorcycle in your garage? Installing a ducted heat pump in a garage is against building codes as it can allow car exhaust back into the house, causing carbon monoxide poisoning. Ductless systems eliminate this problem and can keep you cool while you work.
  • Bonus rooms – Bonus rooms are generally located over an existing garage. Often, single-story homes are built with an option for a room over the garage to be completed later. Installing a ductless system allows you to finish this space without altering the existing HVAC system.
  • Pool houses – Pool houses are great additions to a swimming pool by providing a recreational place to hang out without tracking back inside your house. Pool houses often have an indoor bathroom, living space, and kitchenette, making them ideal for installing ductless heat pumps because you can control the ductless heat pump system.
  • In-law suites – As parents age, many families opt for additions to existing houses, referred to as In-law Suites, to care for guests or live-in parents. These additions usually consist of a private living area, bedroom, and bathroom and are generally well within the 1500 square feet limit.

If you are installing a standby generator and wondering if it will power a ductless heat pump see our article Will a Generator Run Your Heat Pump?

Popular Features of Ductless Heat Pumps

Superior Energy Efficient – Ductless heat pump designs increase efficiency over standard air-source heat pumps due to their ductless design. Standard heat pump designs can lose as much as 30% of the heated and cooled air produced through cracks in the ductwork. If the ductwork is older with damaged insulation around the pipes, you can lose nearly all of the heated and cooled air produced. 2

Remote operation – Ductless systems have a remote control that doubles as an in-room thermostat. The remote can control the system or program the remote like a thermostat to function at specific times and temperatures.

Smartphone integration – Many systems have smartphone integration allowing you to control the system from a smartphone. Want to turn your system on from your office or car while on the go? At work and realize you forget to turn your system off? No problem. With remote access through WIFI or Data, you can control your system anywhere.

No air ducts/better air quality – Because of its ductless design, there are no ducts to collect airborne particles such as allergens and mold spores. This improves your air quality. Ductless systems also have a washable reuseable air filter located in the inside unit.

Quiet to use – Ductless units are very quiet compared to other appliances. Ductless units average about 32 decibels, which is lower than a dishwasher which usually operates at 46-60 decibels. Comparively, a window AC unit on low-speed averages about 43 decibels. They are even quieter than an oscillating fan which runs at about 38-50 decibels.

Independent Comfort Settings – Ductless heat pumps put the control at your fingertips. You can control zones independently, which gives you better control to suit your needs. For example, in a standard heat pump, the thermostat controls a single temperature over a wide area, creating hot and cold spots. Ductless systems allow you to control room temperature more evenly.

Lower installation cost – A multi-zone ductless heat pump and standard heat pump can be approximately the same when the equipment is concerned where existing ductwork is present. However, a significant saving exists where ductwork is not present, or duct replacement is needed. According to Homeguide.com, new ductwork can cost $35 to $55 per linear foot. 3

Installation flexibility – The positioning of a ductless system offers flexibility in that the indoor unit can be mounted at various positions and only requires a 3-inch hole in the wall to run the refrigerant lines to the outdoor compressor. The outside unit can be installed up to 50 feet from the inside unit.

The typical outside unit weighs approximately 155lbs and is only about 38x31x16 inches in size. This compact and lightweight design allows the outdoor unit to be installed on an elevated platform for the second story or higher installations.

DIY Installation optionDuctless mini-split heat pumps allow for a DIY installation with a few skills and some general know-how. The ductless heat pump installation system is relatively straightforward.

However, the hardest portion of the installation is the required electrical work. The electrical work needed includes:

  • Installing a 240v double breaker in the main panel.
  • A service discount box at the outside unit.
  • Wiring from the breaker to the service disconnect.
  • Wiring from the service disconnect to the outdoor unit.

If you are comfortable working with electricity, you can easily handle this DIY job. However, if not, you are better off hiring a professional to do the installation.

According to PickHVAC.com, the total potential installation labor savings are up to $2,700 if you do the entire installation yourself, including the electrical work. If you hire a licensed electrician, you can expect to spend about $850 – $1400 to do the electrical work. This leaves an approximate savings of $450 to $1,100 with an average savings of $675. 4

Best Ductless Heat Pump Brands

Samsung Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

https://youtu.be/ooK1iFaI06U

Samsung offers several models of single and multi-zone ductless heat pumps ranging from 7,000BTU to 36,000BTUs. One of the most popular models is the Smart Whisperer Max Heat®. Some of the unique features of this Samsung ductless mini-split heat pump include:

  • The Smart Whisperer Max Heat® system is an Energy Star® certified cold climate air source ductless heat pump. It is ideal for temperatures as low 5 degrees F down to as low as -13 degrees F, making installation in climates that experience all four seasons, including subfreezing temperatures during the winter months.
  • Features a triangular design air intake that allows for more fresh air intake. This allows the unit to draw in more air with a larger fan than competitor models, allowing for better air distribution.
  • It has built-in Wi-Fi, allowing you to control the unit from anywhere through the SmartThings App. As long as you have WIFI remote access, you control this system.
  • The Digital Inverter compressor features variable speed control that automatically adjusts the compressor to maintain the desired set temperature.
  • The Smart Install is a self-diagnosis feature that checks for installation errors such as miscommunication with the outdoor unit, poor refrigerant flow, and other system points. This makes the DIY installation of this system a breeze.
  • Features a twin BLDC compressor for high performance and low noise and vibration.
  • Features a 10-year warranty on the compressor & parts and a 1-year limited labor warranty.
  • Single zone and multi-zone mini-split configurations are available.

Certified Dealers sell Samsung ductless heat pump systems. You can search for a certified dealer near you at Samsung HVAC Locater.

Carrier Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

The Carrier Performance Series ductless heat pump system offers a single or multi-zone setup. This ductless system will perform at 100% heating capacity at 5 degrees F.

So, while it may not be suitable for cold northern climates that experience routine sub-zero temperatures, it is ideal for more moderate climates.

Some of the features include:

  • Very efficient 23.8 SEER cooling efficiency rating and up to 10.5 HSPF heating efficiency make this one of the more efficient models on the market.
  • Features a variable-speed digital inverter compressor that automatically adjusts to maintain the desired set temperature.
  • The indoor air handler has four fan speeds with a turbo mode setting for quick temperature adjustment to quickly reach your desired temperature.
  • Quiet indoor operation as low as 27 decibels
  • As of this writing, it has a 4/5 star rating on the Carrier website.
  • Connects two to five multiple styles indoor air handlers (Performance™) off a single outdoor unit
  • 10-year parts limited and 10-year compressor limited warranties.

Mitsubishi Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

https://youtu.be/cFeDRrsd-Dg

Mitsubishi is a market leader in ductless mini-split heat pumps and features both single-zone A/C and heat pumps and multi-zone heat pumps. Mitsubishi features advanced technology, making them a top choice for your heating and cooling needs.

Mitsubishi ductless mini-split heat pumps operate at 100% capacity in extreme cold down to 15 degrees F. Multi-zone systems feature patented Hyper-Heat technology which provides efficient warmth, even in colder climates.

  • A very efficient 26 SEER cooling efficiency rating and up to 10.5 HSPF heating efficiency make this one of the best models available.
  • Inverter-driven compressors automatically adjust compression to maintain the desired temperature and energy efficiency for optimal daily operation.
  • Connects up to five multiple mix and match style indoor units off a single outdoor unit.
  • 3D I-See Sensor technology helps provide precise desired temperature by scanning the room and adjusting the output accordingly.
  • Instant Hot Start prevents cold air starts by providing instant warm air on startup.
  • Features auto-restart following a power outage.
  • Kumo cloud wireless controls allow wireless operation through an app on your tablet or smartphone.
  • 5-year parts limited and 7-year compressor limited warranties.

Certified Dealers sell Mitsubishi ductless mini-split heat pumps. You can search for a certified dealer near you at Mitsubishi Dealer Locater.

Daikin Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

Daikin manufactures both single-zone and multi-zone ductless heat pump systems. The DAIKIN Dual (2 Zone) 4MXS Air Conditioner Heat Pump + Maxwell 15 ft. Installation Kit + Wall Bracket (15000 + 18000 BTU) is available at Amazon. This model is a 2 zone system with two indoor wall-mounted units to distribute air through the home.

Some of the features of Diakin ductless heat pumps include:

  • The above model offers an 18.9 SEER cooling efficiency rating and a 10.7 HSPF heating efficiency. Cooling and heating efficiency vary depending on the models.
  • Offers a variety of interior unit designs, including wall-mounted and ceiling cassettes, among other options. The above model provides wall-mounted indoor units.
  • Remote control operation with programmable settings. Wifi capabilities are not included but are an additional option.
  • 12 years parts warranty available provided a professional HVAC contractor installs the system.

Cooper & Hunter Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

Cooper & Hunter manufactures several single-zone ductless heat pump models, including Cooper & Hunter 18,000 BTU, 230V 19 SEER Ductless Mini Split AC/Heating System Pre-Charged Inverter Heat Pump with 16ft Installation Kit available at Amazon. This model consists of an outdoor condenser and one indoor unit to distribute air through the home.

Some of the features of Fujitsu ductless heat pumps include:

  • Compact design and installation flexibility are a trademark of these systems. With a slim outside unit design and a wall-mounted indoor unit.
  • Works for heating with ambient temperature up to 5F°, so it performs better in moderate climates.
  • The above model offers a 19 SEER cooling efficiency rating. Cooling efficiency varies depending on the models.
  • Cooper & Hunter ductless heat pumps offer a variety of interior unit designs, including wall-mounted ceiling cassettes, among other options. The above model provides a wall-mounted indoor unit.
  • Includes long-life ion deodorizing filters that remove odors, dust, and other harmful airborne contaminants. Filters are washable and reusable.
  • Remote control operation with programmable settings. Wifi capabilities are not included but are an additional option.
  • 7 Warranty on the compressor and 5 years on parts are available, provided a professional HVAC contractor installs the system.
  • Multi-zone setups are available. Consult with your professional HVAC contractor for setup options.

Additional Ductless Heat Pump Systems

Toshiba Carrier Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

Made by Carrier, the Toshiba Carrier Highwall ductless heat pump system is the perfect single-zone setup ductless system. This ductless system will perform when outdoor temperatures are as low as 14 degrees F and as low as 5 degrees F.

So, while it may not be suitable for cold northern climates that experience routine sub-zero temperatures, it is very suitable for more moderate climates.

Some of the features include:

  • Very efficient 23 SEER cooling efficiency rating and up to 10.0 HSPF heating efficiency. Making this one of the more efficient models on the market.
  • Features a variable-speed digital inverter compressor that automatically adjusts to maintain the desired set temperature.
  • The indoor unit has five fan speeds with turbo mode setting for quick temperature adjustment to quickly reach your desired set temperature.
  • Quiet indoor operation as low as 26 decibels
  • 5-year parts limited and 7-year compressor limited warranties.
  • As of this writing, it has a 4/5 star rating on the Carrier website.

Senville Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

Senville manufactures both single-zone and multi-zone ductless heat pump systems. The Senville 28000 BTU Dual Zone Mini Split Air Conditioner Cold-Climate Heat Pump is available at Amazon. This model is a 2 zone system with two indoor wall-mounted units to distribute air through the home.

Some of the features of LG ductless heat pumps include:

  • The above model offers a 23 SEER cooling efficiency rating. Cooling efficiency varies depending on the models. Energy Star rated.
  • Offers a variety of interior unit designs, including wall-mounted and ceiling cassettes, among other options. The above model provides wall-mounted indoor units.
  • Remote control operation with programmable settings. Built-In WiFi for remote operation from anywhere you have a WiFi signal.
  • A 3-year parts warranty and a 7-year compressor warranty for the system. A DIY installation is an option, but the faulty installation could void the warranty. It’s best to have a professional HVAC contractor handle installation.
  • Inverter-driven compressors automatically adjust compression to maintain the desired temperature and energy efficiency for optimal daily operation.
  • 100% heat operation down to as low as -22 degrees F
  • Whisper Technology for quiet operation makes it a great addition for residential and commercial installations.

Gree Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

Gree manufactures both single-zone and multi-zone ductless heat pump systems. The Gree MULTI30CVIR402-30,000 BTU Multi21+ Quad-Zone Wall Mount Mini Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump is available at Amazon. This model is a 4 zone system with four indoor wall-mounted units.

Some of the features of Gree ductless heat pumps include:

  • The above model offers a 21 SEER cooling efficiency rating. Cooling efficiency varies depending on the models. Energy Star rated.
  • Remote control operation with programmable settings. Wi-Fi Capable – Kit Sold Separately.
  • Inverter-driven compressors automatically adjust compression to maintain the desired temperature and energy efficiency for optimal daily operation.

Pioneer Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

Pioneer manufactures single-zone ductless heat pump systems. The PIONEER Air Conditioner Pioneer Mini Split Heat Pump Minisplit Inverter is available at Amazon.

Some of the features of Pioneer ductless heat pumps include:

  • The above model offers a 22.5 SEER cooling efficiency rating and a 10.5 HSPF heating efficiency. Cooling and heating efficiency vary depending on the models.
  • Remote control operation with programmable settings.
  • Inverter-driven compressors automatically adjust compression to maintain the desired temperature and energy efficiency for optimal daily operation.
  • Arctic heating version with base pan heaters can heat as low as -12 degrees F ambient.
  • Low-cost systems are an affordable DIY option. Some tools will be required.

DIY Mini-Split Heat Pump System

MrCool Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

MrCool is designed with the DIY installer in mind. It is the only actual DIY ductless mini-split heat pump on the market. Other systems can be DIY but require special tools. The MrCool DIY 18k BTU 20 SEER Ductless Heat Pump Split System 3rd Generation – Energy Star 240V with Line Set Cover & IR Wifi is available at Amazon. The MrCool ductless heat pump has features comparable to more well-known brands.

Some of the features of MrCool ductless heat pumps include:

  • Control your system through the SmartHVAC app. It is also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant. Control with your tablet or smartphone from anywhere there’s a WiFi connection.
  • Auto-restart: System will automatically restart in the event of a power outage.
  • Easy DIY installation: 25ft quick connect line doesn’t require special tools, equipment, or training. The unit is factory pre-charged with R-410a refrigerant, which eliminates the need for an HVAC technician to charge your system.
  • Gold fin condenser that is corrosion-resistant and stands up to coastal weather.
  • Variable-speed DC inverter compressor adjusts automatically to meet and maintain the desired temperature.
  • The leak detection feature alerts you if the is a leak in the system to prevent damage to the compressor.

For more on ductless heat pumps, see our article Best Uses For Ductless Heat Pumps.

Finally, our Complete Guide to SEER Ratings is your complete resource for information on heat pump and air conditioner SEER ratings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Brand of Ductless Heat Pump?

The best heat pump brand is often subjective to people’s individual needs. Mitsubishi and Daikin are two of the oldest and best ductless heat pump technology brands. However, many other well-known brands like Carrier also create mini split systems. Often, the internal components are similar, and the determination of the best brand often falls on warranty and customer service.

Rather than getting stuck on an individual brand, we find it more beneficial to focus on the features such as energy consumption, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER rating), heating capabilities, and the number of wall or cassette units, etc.

What Size Ductless Heat Pump System Do You Need?

Generally, a well-insulated home with energy-efficient doors and windows can expect an output equivalent to one ton (12000 BTU) per 450 to 550 square feet of open space. The effectiveness of the ductless heat pump can vary largely on the efficiency of the home.

What Does a Ductless Heat Pump Run On?

Ductless heat pumps are all electric-powered units. Electric power can be provided by your local utility company or solar energy. A present, there are no ductless heat pumps that offer heating via natural gas or propane.

What is the Outside Unit of a Ductless Heat Pump?

The outside unit of a ductless heat pump is the outside compressor. The outdoor compressor and fan facilitate the heat transfer that heats or cools based on the interior setting.

What is the Inside Unit of a Ductless Heat Pump?

The inside unit of a ductless heat pump is an air handler or cassette. It draws interior air across the internal coil to heat or cool the air before distributing heat or cool air from the front of the unit. The cassette is most often wall-mounted in residential homes. Still, ceiling-mounted options are also more commonly found in commercial settings like office buildings or restaurants.

Where to Mount a Ductless Heat Pump?

The indoor wall cassette should mount in the upper third of the interior wall. The best practice is to install the wall cassette at least six feet above the floor in a room with 8-foot ceilings. For higher ceilings, like 10 to 12-foot ceilings, install the wall cassette a minimum of 7 to 8 feet above the floor.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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