Why Use a Split or Multi-Split AC Unit?
Whether you need to cool a single room in your home or the entire house, a ductless split air conditioner or a multi split air conditioner is an ideal alternative to a traditional forced air system.
With a split or multi split air conditioner system, there’s no need for ductwork. It’s a complete system designed specifically for individual interior areas, so it’s meant for homes that lack ductwork—or for individual rooms that don’t have ducting. See more in our overview of ductless air conditioning.
What is a Split Air Conditioner?
If you rely on central cooling at home but also have one ductless room that you’d like to make more comfortable (like a garage or sunroom), you’ll want to use a split system air conditioner. Because the system consists of just one compressor and one air outlet unit, it works for a single room only.
Unlike a central air system that requires a series of ductwork networked throughout the ceiling, split air conditioners rely on a set of pipes to connect the outdoor to the inside air unit. Refrigerant is dispersed through the copper pipes that cycle through the system to generate either heated or cold air.
What is a Multi-Split Air Conditioner?
Whereas a split air conditioner is comprised of one compressor and one air outlet and cools only one room at a time, a multi-split air system lets you cool multiple rooms at a time. A multi split ac uses a single compressor to power up to five air outlets. Unlike a conventional system that works off one thermostat to control temperatures, a multi split provides individual control of each room’s temperatures. In addition to having unique temperature regulation, it also provides a money saving advantage, since you can heat or cool only those rooms you are using versus the entire house.
Benefits of a Split or Multi-Split Air Conditioner
- Split and multi-split systems are flexible and easy to install, requiring less labor than traditional systems.
- Because they’re ductless, split and multi split units don’t lose energy the way a central ac system does. According to Energy.gov, more than 30% of wasted energy in a traditional unit can be attributed to duct loss.
- Split air conditioner systems are designed with interior compatibility in mind. The air outlet that disperses the air is relatively small and can be easily installed flush against a wall.
Cost of a Split or Multi Split Air Conditioner
The upfront cost of a ductless system installation is more expensive than that of a central AC installation, with the average unit costing between $1,500 and $2,000. But there’s more to it than that. Because a ductless system is more energy-efficient than a central air conditioning unit, this reduces utility bills and yields a better ROI. Also, if you need a ductwork replacement, or if your home has no ductwork, you can expect to pay double the cost for your central ac system as you would for a ductless unit.
Choosing a Split or Multi-Split Air Conditioner
- SEER rating: Also known as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER), this measures a unit’s efficiency. You’ll want to select a unit with the highest possible rating for the most efficient air conditioner.
- EER rating: Also known as the Energy Efficiency Rating (EER), this measures the energy usage per square foot of cooling, and a higher rating signifies better efficiency.
- BTUs: The British Thermal Unit (also known as BTU) measures the amount of cooling a particular unit is capable of dispensing. The larger your room, the higher the BTU count will be necessary to keep it cool. You can estimate your BTU number by using an online calculator or simply ask your HVAC contractor.
- ENERGY STAR rating: These systems have been tested and passed the rigid standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The ENERGY STAR rating validates that each product bearing the label is cost effective, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly.
Of course, a higher rating in these categories will increase the cost of the system—anywhere from $1,400 to $3,400 for a split unit and $1,700 to $3,600 for a multi split unit—and but it’ll pay off over time since the system will cost less to operate. In fact, you can save up to 30% on your monthly cooling bills with a ductless split or multi split air conditioner.
Installing a Split or Multi Split Air Conditioners
A split or multi split air conditioner must be installed by a certified HVAC technician to maintain the validity of its warranty.
Installing a multi-split system requires drilling a hole of at least 3-inches in diameter to run copper tubing to transport refrigerant. A certified HVAC contractor will then run lines for the coolant, along with electricity and drainage.
You will need to buy the tubing, also referred to as line sets. The amount of tubing you’ll need is determined by the distance from the outdoor compressor to each individual indoor air outlet. A condensate pump may also be necessary for drainage of accumulated indoor condensation.
If you only need to cool one room in your home, a split air conditioning system is the answer but it you want to air condition two rooms or more, a multi-split air system is the right choice. The initial cost for the system and materials may be as much as or more than a conventional central air conditioning unit, but the benefits of such a versatile, flexible, and energy efficient system will more than pay for itself over time.
Curious about theHVAC contractor? Here are some of the most trusted names that offer split and multi split air conditioning systems.
- Mitsubishi Electric