Four Myths About Ductless Mini-Splits

Mini split in room near ceiling

Understanding the Pros & Cons of Ductless Mini-Split AC Systems

Over the past few years we have all observed the U.S. HVAC industry’s fascination with ductless “mini-split” air conditioning systems in the U.S. Recent HVAC trade shows have been crowded with OEM’s promoting this “new” way of providing home comfort. National advertising and media/public relations tactics would make us think it is just a matter of time before we all say goodbye to our central AC systems and get with the rest of the world (i.e. Japan, China and Europe) in the way we keep our homes and businesses cool and comfortable.

The article below was written in 2013. We have updated information for homeowners busting myths about ductless mini split systems, outlining what to consider when choosing a new HVAC system, as well as recommendations on when a ductless system might be right for your space.

The AC & Heating Connect staff has also conducted research on ductless systems and uncovered some facts that might be of interest to contractors and distributors as the industry plans for the future growth of this segment.

Myth #1 – The sales of ductless mini-spit systems continue to grow and will dominate the U.S. market in a few years.

Industry statistics would not support this statement. While the ductless segment has posted impressive growth rates in the U.S. since 2005, the growth rates have been slowing recently and the largest ductless segment (small, single evaporator systems) have not grown at all since 2010. These sales remain stable at about 260,000 units per year, or only about 4% of total unitary AC shipments. Some larger VRF-style commercial systems continue to grow at higher rates, but their numbers in the U.S. remain small at only 28,000 units per year.

Myth #2 – Ductless mini-splits are ideal whole-home HVAC solutions in the U.S.

The current economic facts about ductless simply do not support this claim. The installed costs associated with using mini-splits to cool and heat an average 2,000 square foot home with ductless mini-splits would cost almost three times the cost of simply replacing your central AC system with another ducted system. Even in a home where you had to provide new ductwork for the central system, you could still expect to spend about 50% less on a typical central AC system installation versus the more expensive ductless options.

Myth #3 – Ductless mini-splits are more energy efficient because there are no air leaks in the ductwork.

What people who make this claim fail to mention is that in ducted homes, which have poorly installed and leaking air ducts, the conditioned air is probably leaking out of the ductwork but it is going into the conditioned space somewhere and helping to keep the house cool. In those cases the cooling energy is really not lost to the homeowner. While mini-splits don’t have duct losses, they do have other losses. Instead of distributing conditioned air throughout the home, mini-splits distribute refrigerant. In many cases these refrigerant lines are run outside the conditioned space and in these cases there are thermal losses associated with energy transferring from those lines to the space outside the home. A legitimate energy loss occurs when you are heating or cooling your backyard with mini-split refrigerant lines (see photo below). Duct leaks that leak into the conditioned space are not really losses at all unless they escape to an unconditioned space. The other claim made by mini-split advocates is that they provide energy saving due to “zoning” or shutting off energy use in unoccupied rooms. What they fail to mention is there are other modern methods to zone off rooms besides using ductless methods. There are many ways to achieve zoning.

*Discover the updated status of this myth here.

Myth #4 – Ductless mini-splits provide superior comfort and quality of life.

The problems with ductless cooling are not well understood by many U.S. consumers since they are relatively new to this region. The typical comfort experience with mini-split systems could provide a real challenge for American consumers who are used to central AC systems with good airflow exchange, filtration and humidity control. Cold and hot spots are also common with ductless systems due to the spacing of the indoor units. In addition, there are concerns about US homeowners’ reaction to the aesthetic and architectural impact of having air conditioning systems hanging on several interior walls and having refrigerant lines running to various rooms on the sides of their homes. Before installing a ductless system with multiple evaporating units it might be good to show your customer some photographs of some of your previous mini-split installations so they have proper expectations.

*Discover the updated status of this myth here.

The Bottom Line on Ductless Mini-Split Systems

Ductless mini-split systems are ideal for spot cooling situations in homes and businesses where ductwork is either not available or difficult to install. It is important for contractors to have these systems in their portfolio of HVAC solutions for certain situations and learning where and when to recommend them is essential. Knowing the facts associated with these new systems is also essential to avoiding problems when customers are surprised by the many “myths” about this technology.

The myths in this article have been reevaluated. You can find the updated article here.

What has your experience been with ductless mini-splits? Leave us a comment below!

A typical indoor wall-mounted, evaporating unit – usually one per room are required to minimize hot and cold spots.

A typical U.S. style home is shown here with a retrofit mini-split system. Notice the exterior line sets and condensate drains. Thermal losses could be expected from the vertical, external refrigerant lines and these might cause the system to have trouble keeping up on really hot days. Also, notice that the window-room air conditioners have not yet been removed. A close up photo of the house above, showing the external refrigerant lines and a condensate drain line. Ductless mini-split systems are often used to cool room additions as shown here in the garage area. A large, high rise apartment building is shown, using many mini-split systems – one or more per apartment.A large, urban apartment building is shown, using mini-split systems – one or more per apartment.


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538 thoughts on “Four Myths About Ductless Mini-Splits

  1. If all the pros and cons came out equal, consider…how many filters do you want to deal with on a monthly basis?

  2. That sounds awfully high. I installed 3 mini-split systems in my old 1400 sq foot home and it only took me two days. I had no previous experience with mini-splits. The actual cost of the units was under 2400 dollars

  3. I recently bought an old home built in 1880, totally restored, but without air conditioning or duct work, so I am getting quotes for a mini-split system.
    I only need two units, one upstairs and one on the main floor. Each area is small, less then 800 square feet. I was surprised with the first quote (haven’t received the others yet) that was $7,000! The contractor stated that these systems save at least 1/3 in heating costs so the return on savings over the years makes installation of the mini-system cost-effective. I wonder if anyone knows just what the heat energy savings (over oil heating)
    actually is? And, do you think $7,000 for a very small house is a reasonable price? Thanks.

  4. Ductless AC units offer flexible and easy installation due to its lack of ductwork. This makes ductless mini-splits a great addition to any home, whether it is new construction, an older house, or an add-on. Adding ductwork to any construction can be a lengthy process that requires a lot more space, handiwork and involves higher installation costs.

  5. The current economic facts about ductless simply do not support this claim. The installed costs associated with using mini-splits to cool and heat an average 2,000 square foot home with ductless mini-splits would cost almost three times the cost of simply replacing your central AC system with another ducted system.

  6. Installing a single mini-split unit is less expensive than replacing a complete HVAC system. Yet, the cost of installation depends on what type of system you are comparing to.

    On the other hand, installing multiple multi-split units in bigger areas can be more expensive. Now, if you compare it to having to expand and install an entire new ductwork system in an older home, then the installation of multiple multi-split units can be more cost-efficient.

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  8. We had mitsubishi mini splits installed summer 2020 and its been a nightmare. My ceiling bedroom unit doesn’t cool enough even at 9000 btu for a 10×15 room. We had installed brand new windows too but room won’t cool more than a 20 degree split difference. Yep, so on a hot and humid 100 degree day our room won’t go under 80 degrees. I am so angry that this was not presented by sales. Also, the unit in my daughters room cracks and pops loudly conveniently (sarcasm ) between 130am -5am. This is completely unexceptable for a unit that is only suppose to whisper… had service over more times than I can count and even a rep from mitsubishi. I have requested the manufacturer to make the product of a less problematic and more durable material to temperature changes for customers convenience. Of course tye unit never performs this nuisances while techs are here. I absolutely CAN NOT STAND IT. I’m told its expansion and contraction normal noises – not acceptable. I want to rip this out of my wall!!!!!!! I definitely am looking into filing suit against mitsubishi.

  9. What is the name of the spray product which will clean mold and protect from more mold, etc?
    I plan to install a mini split a/c in a destination trailer (it will not be moved) and it would be easier to run the coolant lines down the wall INSIDE the trailer and through the floor than the normal install through the wall. DO YOU SEE ANY PROBLEMS WITH THIS IDEA? OR WOULD YOU DISCOURAGE THIS PLAN? Thank you,

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