If the average person where looking for an air conditioner how would they determine if you need a mini-split air conditioning system (mini split) – great question. A good rule of thumb is that a mini-split air conditioner might be used when you have limited space, do not have access to a basement with a furnace or have added a room with no ducting to your central air conditioning system. In general, they can be used in commercial, residential or really any type of multi-family dwelling.
Each mini split would consist of both a unit that is outside and up to three to four handling units that are locatedinside. The unit that resides outdoors would contain the compressor and the condenser. Typically, the unit that is outside in a regular central air conditioning system would hook to the furnace, which would disperse cold air through-out a residence, utilizing the blower in the furnace and the duct-work in the residence. In the case of the mini-split air conditioner, the unit outdoors would hook to one ormore units indoors. The connection between the indoor and units outdoors would typically be no more than 50 feet in length – the physical connection would be via 1” to 2” conduit. The conduit would contain the power cable, the tubing with the Freon (or refrigerant) and a tube that would allow any water droplets (or condensation) to drain from the unit inside the home.
When activated, the mini-split air conditioner would circulate the Freon / refrigerant through the outside unit, which would make the Freon / refrigerant super cool. This super cool Freon / refrigerant would then be sent to the unit inside (via the tubing in the conduit.) The inside component would essentially be the blower (or the furnace replacement) taking warm air from the room and blowing it over the Freon / refrigerant so that the air gets cooled so it can be re-circulated through the room (making the room cool.) In essence, any type of air conditioner takes hot air out of a room and sends it back to the compressor / condenser so the process can begin all over again.
On the surface, mini-split air conditioners seem like the right choice when you have limited space, do not have access to a basement with a furnace or have added a room with no ducting to your central air conditioning system; however, they can be expensive – costing up to $3000 or more (depending on a number of characteristics such as cooling capacity, number of components indoors, how much labor will be to install the mini split, length of conduit run and more.)
Many times, mini-split air conditioners are much more expensive that regular central air conditioning systems. The reason, you might ask? Central air conditioners utilize a forced air furnace to circulate the cold air (essentially, what the inside component of a mini split system does). In addition, consumers may find that window-based air conditioning unit may be more cost effective. The choice is ultimately yours, let common sense prevail and you will be on the right track!