The Tiny house Blog

An In-Depth Review of a Mini-Split HVAC System

Updated on:
June 11, 2024
mini-split HVAC system

Do you live in a small home? Thinking of downsizing soon? Love eating quinoa bowls and guzzling kombucha in your decked-out van?

Then you'll need to make sure the place you call home is as comfortable as possible. And that means installing an HVAC system in your miniature, minimalist kingdom.

If you're like us, you think huge homes are overrated (and overpriced). You're always on the lookout for ways to make minimalist living more enjoyable. And if you enjoy hanging out in small spaces, then a mini-split HVAC system is a must-have.

A mini-split HVAC is perfect for tiny homes and small places. You can even install them in vans and RVs if you love life on the open road. They're efficient and quiet—perfect for anyone who wants to keep a small home comfortable without breaking the bank.

In this article, we'll review the mini-split HVAC system in detail. We'll discuss why they're perfect for tiny homes and small places, how they work, and some of the pros and cons of the system. If you're interested in learning more, keep reading!

What Is a Mini-Split HVAC System?

A mini-split unit is a heating and cooling system that allows you to control the temperature of select rooms and spaces. The system is made up of two main components: an outdoor compressor and condenser and an indoor air-handling unit.

A mini-split system is a great way to heat and cool a small home. They use small, individual units mounted on the wall or in the ceiling. Each unit operates independently, so you can customize the temperature in each room.

How Does a Mini-Split HVAC System Work?

A mini-split system works by drawing in outside air and heating or cooling it before sending it into your home. The air is then dispersed through ducts or conduits that run to each individual room, which can be individually controlled.

This allows you to spot heat/cool specific areas instead of trying to condition your entire home.

Like traditional central air conditioning systems, some mini-split HVAC systems use ducts to distribute cooled or heated air throughout your house.

But most units are ductless, which means they don't require any expensive ductwork. If you're renting or live in a small place, a ductless mini-split system is likely your best option.

Components of a Mini-Split HVAC System

Mini-splits systems are made up of two main parts: an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit. Ductless installation is usually straightforward, requiring only a three-inch hole in a wall for the conduit.

The conduit contains the power and communication cables, copper tubing, and a condensation drain line connecting both units together.

Mini-split heat pumps are excellent for whole homes and new buildings. But they're also a great retrofit option for houses with ductless heating systems.

They're an excellent choice for room add-ons where expanding or installing ductwork isn't possible. Additionally, energy-efficient new homes that need only a modest amount of space conditioning will also benefit from a mini-split.

Types of Mini-Split ACs

There are two types of mini-split ACs: single-zone and multi-zone.

A single-zone system is designed to cool or heat a single area, like a room or small home. A multi-zone system can cool or heat multiple areas at the same time.

If you have a large home with several different climate zones, then you'll want a multizone mini-split system. If you only need cooling or heating in one area, then a single zone unit will work just fine.

The Benefits of a Mini-Split HVAC System

There are a lot of cool benefits you get when installing a mini-split HVAC system in your home. Here are some of the best reasons to choose a mini-split unit:


Mini-split HVAC systems are vastly efficient. They use less energy than traditional central air conditioning systems.

They can operate as high as a 30 SEER rating, which rates better than a high-efficiency AC unit! Mini-splits are perfect for people who value saving energy and money long-term.

Long-Term Savings

Mini-split units can be a little pricey upfront. But they're worth the investment because of their excellent long-term efficiency and savings. Make sure to also consider the cost of installation when budgeting for your new system.

No Ductwork

Most mini-split systems don't require any ductwork. This is a great option if you live in small places because it saves you a ton of money. It's an excellent choice if you want to avoid the cost and hassle of installing ducts.

Customizable Temperature

With a mini-split HVAC system, you can control the temperature in each room. This is great for your friends and family who want to be able to adjust the temperature depending on their needs.

Quiet Operation

Mini-split air conditioners are the quietest units on the market. They're perfect for anyone who wants to avoid noisy machines in a small living space. Their average noise level clocks in at 32 decibels. That's quiet!

Flexible Installation

Mini-split units can be installed in a variety of places, including tiny homes, apartments, RVs, and boats. They're also a good choice for people who value their security, only requiring a small hole in your wall.

The Drawbacks of a Mini-Split HVAC System

There are a few drawbacks to consider before installing a mini-split HVAC system in your small living space. Here are the most important factors to consider:

Poor Ventilation

Mini-split units don't work very well if your home doesn't contain quality air. They're designed to condition the air that's already present inside your home.

So, if you have poor home ventilation, you'll have to make sure your air is relatively clean to protect you from dust and bacteria.

Initially Expensive

Mini-split HVAC systems are initially more expensive than traditional central air conditioning systems. Their price runs at about 30 percent more than a central unit.

You can expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $10k on a ductless mini-split unit. And the average cost per 12,000 BTU is about $1500.

Requires Professional Installation

Mini-split systems often require professional installation, which can add a lot of extra cash to your budget. The average cost of installing a ductless system in a small home totals about $12,000.

Mini-Split HVAC Vs. Central Air

Central air conditioning systems are the most common type of system for conditioning air. They're usually installed in homes with more than one room. And currently, 90 percent of new homes are equipped with a central air system.

Central air conditioning systems condition air at a centralized area in your home. Then, it uses a network of ducts to distribute cooled or heated air throughout the remaining areas of your house.

Ducts can be expensive and difficult to install, making them a less-than-ideal choice for small homes.

The perks of installing central air include:

  • Increased home value
  • More discreet and appealing
  • Better ventilation
  • Better humidity control
  • Many new homes already have it

On the other hand, mini-split HVAC systems are perfect if you live in a small home or apartment. They're a better option if you're looking for the best possible efficiency.

The perks of installing a mini-split system include:

  • Unbeatable efficiency
  • Surprisingly quiet
  • Rich customization
  • No ductwork needed
  • Long-term savings

The verdict: If you want to save money on installation costs and enjoy the benefits of customized temperature control in each room of your home, a mini-split is the way to go.

If you want something a bit more aesthetic for a larger area that conditions outside air, you'll want to go with a central air system.

Installing a Mini-Split HVAC System

If you're interested in installing a mini-split HVAC system in your small home, there are a few things you need to know before getting started:

System Requirements

Not all homes are compatible with mini-split HVAC systems. Your home must have an outdoor area where the compressor/condenser can be installed.

The indoor air handler must also be located near an electrical outlet and a window to dispose of harmful exhaust fumes.

To Duct or Not to Duct

If you're replacing an existing central air conditioning system, your home likely has the necessary ductwork. If this is the case, you can choose a mini-split system that uses your existing ducts.

However, if your home doesn't have any ducts, you'll need to install a ductless mini-split system.

Type of Unit Needed

You'll need to decide between a single-zone system and a dual-zone system. A single-zone system is perfect for cooling or heating a single room.

A dual-zone system can cool and heat two different rooms simultaneously. You probably won't need anything past that, though, especially as a minimalist.

Interested In Building Your Own Tiny Home?

We hope we made learning about mini-split HVAC systems for your small home easy and fun. You're now equipped with everything you need to know for when you pick out an HVAC system for your compact abode.

Want to learn how to build your own tiny home? We've made it our mission to be your go-to source when it comes to designing, building, and decorating your own tiny home. Get involved and see what's new in the Tiny House community today!

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