Split AC Installation Cost | 2024 Guide

By Jessica Wimmer Updated January 23, 2024

Typical costs range from $3,000 to $9,000.

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The average cost of a ductless AC system is between $3,150 and $9,000.* Even if your house doesn’t have existing ductwork, you can still benefit from whole-home air conditioning. Split air conditioners, also called ductless mini-split systems, are an alternative to central AC systems that can cool air in multiple rooms at once. A multizone mini-split system even allows you to customize cooling in different rooms.

Lots of top air conditioner brands offer mini-split systems with many options and features. Our guide covers various factors that affect this price and provides information to help you determine the right type of system for your home.

*Article cost data sourced from Fixr and Home Advisor.

 

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Overview of Primary Cost Factors for Split AC Installation

The major factors that determine mini-split installation cost are the system size and type, number of units or zones, and the labor needed to install them.

Cost by Unit Size

An air conditioner’s size and power is measured in either tons or British thermal units (BTU). Tons doesn’t refer to the unit’s weight, but rather the amount of air it can cool in an hour. Similarly, BTU measures how much heat an AC unit can remove from the air. One ton of cooling capacity is equivalent to about 12,000 BTU. Mini-split units are more commonly measured in BTU.

The air conditioner size you need depends on variables such as your ceiling height and local climate, but plan on about 20 BTU per square foot of home space. That means a home of 1,200 square feet usually needs a system of at least 24,000 BTU. However, you should work with an HVAC contractor to determine the best air conditioner size for your home. One benefit of a mini-split system is that you can choose to cool specific rooms, so you’ll likely be able to choose a size smaller than your home’s total square footage.

As you might expect, air conditioner prices increase with size and power. Here’s how that breaks down for various sizes.

Unit Size in BTUUnit Size in TonsUnit Cost
6,0000.5$450–$1,600
12,0001$700–$3,200
18,0001.5$1,000–$4,200
24,0002$1,100–$5,200
30,0002.5$1,600–$5,700
36,0003$1,800–$6,000
42,0003.5$3,000–$8,000
48,0004$3,500–$10,000

Cost by Number of Units or Zones

A split air conditioning system has an outdoor condenser unit and one or more indoor air handlers. A central air conditioning system has a single large indoor unit that blows cool air into the ductwork, while a mini-split has a smaller air handler in each room that requires cooling.

Most homes only require a single outdoor unit, but larger homes may need multiple condensing units. Rooms are sometimes referred to as zones, so a mini-split AC with more than one air handler is called a multizone system. The more air handlers required, the higher the system price.

Cost by Air Handler Type

Most manufacturers offer several indoor air handler types based on where and how they’re mounted. All must connect to the outdoor unit via refrigerant lines.

Wall-Mounted Units

  • The most common type of mini-split air handlers are wall-mounted near the ceiling to best circulate air. Wall-mounted units are also the least expensive option, usually between $850 and $3,000 each, though not everyone likes the AC unit’s boxy look on the wall.

Floor-Mounted Units

  • Floor air handlers are typically mounted very low on a wall, usually in rooms that can’t accommodate traditional wall-mounted units because of sloped ceilings or high windows. They’re slightly pricier than wall-mounted air handlers, but still on the low end at $1,300 to $4,000 each.

Concealed Duct Systems

  • It’s possible to have a single, more powerful air handler that cools multiple rooms if you have space to install a concealed duct between rooms. The air handler itself is also concealed, so it doesn’t take up wall or ceiling space. These are slightly more expensive at $2,900 to $7,500 each, not including duct installation costs.

Ceiling Cassettes

  • Ceiling cassettes are a great option for homeowners who don’t want visible air handlers, as they’re installed into the ceiling to look like a standard ductwork vent. They require a certain amount of clearance above the ceiling and may not work with every interior design. However, for homeowners with recessed ceilings, cassette air handlers can be an excellent midrange option at $1,500 to $7,200 each.

Ceiling-Mounted Units

  • These air handlers are suspended from the ceiling, providing improved airflow and often more power than ceiling cassettes. They start at a higher price, usually between $2,500 and $4,500 each.
Type of Air HandlerCost Range
Wall-mounted$850–$3,000
Floor-mounted$1,300–$4,000
Ceiling cassette$1,500–$7,200
Ceiling-mounted$2,500–$4,500
Concealed duct$2,900–$7,500

Labor Cost

Ductless mini-split air conditioners must be installed by HVAC technicians, so you’ll need to budget for professional installation on top of unit costs. For a single-zone mini-split, labor typically costs $300 to $2,000, depending on the installation’s complexity. A unit that must be mounted inside the wall or ceiling will cost more than one mounted on top of the wall. A multizone system can cost $700 to $3,000 to install, depending on the number of air handlers. 

An HVAC company may charge $50 to $100 per hour, and installation can take between two and eight hours. You may also need to hire an electrician ($40 to $100 per hour) or carpenter ($13 to $39 per hour) to put in appropriate wiring or make substantial wall changes.

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 Other Potential Cost Factors to Consider

Depending on your home’s specifics, the following factors may also affect your total air conditioner installation cost.

Brand

Most brands that sell split AC units offer a range of systems from budget-friendly to high-end. Some brands include more features and thus cost more. Daikin is a more cost-effective option, whereas Mitsubishi offers deluxe systems with multiple programmable settings and high-quality sensors. Here are some typical price ranges for popular brands, excluding installation.

BrandCost range
Daikin$1,200–$4,000
Mitsubishi$2,500–$6,500
Fujitsu$2,700–$4,500
LG$3,000–$5,000

Efficiency

SEER (or seasonal energy efficiency ratio) is a measure of an air conditioner’s energy efficiency. Cooling systems are given a SEER rating based on how efficiently they consume electricity. Starting in 2024, all central air conditioners sold in the U.S. must have a SEER rating of at least 14 in the North and 15 in the South.

Since ductless split systems don’t lose cooling capacity within a duct system, they’re typically more efficient than central AC and have higher SEER ratings. A system rating of 17 or above is considered high-efficiency. These systems cost more up-front, but you’ll save on utility bills in the long run. The more efficient the AC unit, the more expensive it is.

Electrical Upgrades

If this is your first time installing a whole-home air conditioner, you may need to upgrade your home’s electrical panel. Although mini-splits are more efficient than central AC units, they still require a lot of electricity to run, and older homes may not have the proper wiring to support the increased power. Any system over 12,000 BTU will require a 220-volt circuit and potentially a surge protector. This upgrade can cost between $1,300 and $3,000.

Features

  • All split AC units include features such as thermostats, but high-end models are often available with additional perks. Some may have remote controls or Bluetooth connectivity so you can control them from your mobile device. Others have automatic timers, programmable thermostats, or extra air filters to pull allergens out of the air. Finally, some mini-splits have heating features, allowing them to work as heat pumps in winter. The more features a unit has, the more it costs.

Removing Old Equipment

  • If your new mini-split is replacing an old HVAC system, you may pay for extra labor to remove and dispose of the old unit. This typically costs $50 to $200, depending on the system’s size.

Permits

  • Most whole-home HVAC installation projects require a building permit. The amount you pay depends on your city and state. You may also require an inspection upon project completion to ensure the system meets relevant building codes.

Location in House

  • Anything that increases the project’s time and difficulty also increases labor costs, so you’ll pay more if you want your mini-split installed in a difficult-to-access location. Additionally, if the outdoor compressor must be located far away from the air handlers, you’ll need more extensive wiring, incurring higher costs.

Professional vs. DIY Split AC Installation

Split AC systems should be installed by professional HVAC technicians in most cases. Here’s what you can expect from this home improvement job.

Professional Split AC Installation

  • HVAC contractors begin by installing brackets where the indoor air handlers will be mounted. Then, they put in the air handlers and wire them to the home’s electrical system. Holes are created for wires and refrigerant lines and the outdoor unit is installed, usually on a concrete pad or on the roof. For a single-zone system, the indoor unit will be connected directly to the outdoor unit. For a multizone system, each indoor unit must be wired to the outdoor unit individually. The technicians will then test all system parts to ensure they’re working properly.

DIY Split AC Installation

  • Some simple mini-split air conditioners come with installation kits, including the necessary brackets and tubing. However, only the most experienced do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) should attempt this installation. If the AC unit needs to be connected directly to the home’s wiring, even experienced DIYers should hire a licensed electrician.
  • Altering your home’s electric system yourself could void your warranty or affect the integrity of your home’s wiring. Labor costs are part of whole-home air conditioner installation.

How to Hire a Professional

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Split AC systems are often a great choice for older homes or those without existing ductwork. They may be insufficient for very hot climates, but in most other locations can cool your home more efficiently and with greater customization than a central air conditioner.

A mini-split system typically costs about 30% more than central AC, but you’ll make up the additional expense over time in energy savings, and you’ll avoid installing ductwork. Many HVAC companies offer free consultations to help you pick the right system. Work with a professional contractor to determine what size air conditioner or number of zones is best for your cooling needs.

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Split AC Installation Cost FAQ

Do split AC systems add to home value?

A ductless mini-split system will increase your home’s resale value if you don’t have ductwork. Any air conditioning system has more value than no air conditioner at all, but if your home has existing ductwork, you’ll get a better return on investment with a central air conditioner.

Are split AC systems efficient?

Yes, a mini-split air conditioner is more efficient than central air conditioning because it has no ductwork. The Department of Energy estimates up to 30% of a cooling system’s energy is lost in ducts. Since mini-splits blow cool air directly into the living space, they’re more efficient.

What should I do to prepare my home for a split AC installation?

Here are some ways to prepare for installing a split AC system:
• Pick a licensed HVAC contractor to perform the installation.
• Consult with a professional about what size system you need. An air conditioner that’s too powerful or not powerful enough will waste energy.
• Decide on the type of air handlers you want. Wall-mounted are the most popular and least expensive, but floor- and ceiling-mounted are also options.
• Determine the right location for the outdoor unit and clear the area of foliage and debris.

Are split AC systems more expensive than central air?

Yes, ductless mini-split air conditioners cost about 30% more up-front than central AC units. However, if you don’t have existing ductwork in your home, installing ducts plus a central air conditioner would cost much more than buying and installing a mini-split.