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Community and Q&A

Looking for mini-split install strategic plan

Derek Roff | Posted in Mechanicals on

I’m looking for advice on a strategic plan for installing a mini-split for heating an older home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At roughly 7,000′ of elevation, we need more heating, and less cooling than many people imagine. We get roughly a week of weather with low temperatures at or below 0 degrees F weather each year, and a couple of months with overnight lows in the teens or single digits. Snowfall is minimal. Although the rare storm may drop a foot of snow, in most cases we get a few inches at wide intervals, and it is gone before the next snow, a few weeks later. Bright sun during all or part of each day is the norm. Summer highs average around 90 degrees F, with nighttime lows in the 50s or 60s. Humidity is low, so with good roof insulation, cooling needs are modest, and many people do without it. However, most summers are hotter than historical averages, and the last decade has brought a new “hottest summer on record”, every few years. I have multiple concerns and questions on how to plan for adding a mini-split to the house of a good friend who wants to decrease his fossil fuel use, and further down the line, to my house. Motivation is primarily the use of greener energy, rather than strict cost/benefit. However, controlling costs matters. I would appreciate advice on how to plan.

The technology is changing fast enough, that new, interesting, higher performance models appear each year. Is there anything on the horizon that is worth waiting for, or should we make a selection when ready, recognizing that there will always be something better next year?

The local dealers/installers that I have talked to are often unaware of the newest models and options. Relying on them for selection information means being out of date by six months to a year, and I might never hear of new product lines or manufacturers outside of the ones that they are used to. What is the best way to identify and select a mini-split model, from among the most reliable manufacturers?

While my friend would prefer to pay for professional installation, we both recognize that local dealers will probably never have installed the specific model that we pick. How can we increase our chances of getting a good installation, done right?

Mini-split options from Home Depot and companies like Caribou cost 1/3 or 1/4th of the installed prices that we have been quoted. However, the equipment is not identical. Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, Daikin, etc, don’t want to quote prices or sell to a homeowner. At what point does it make sense for a homeowner to buy a unit, and try to hire an independent professional installer, perhaps someone moonlighting? How can we buy the model that we want, if there isn’t a reliable, local dealer/installer? While we have many skills, and would consider do-it-yourself installation, having read the GBA thread on DIY mini-split installation started by Justin Fink last year, DIY doesn’t look like the top choice for us.

What else should go into a strategic plan for upgrading residential heating, and a little cooling, with a mini-split system?

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  1. User avatar
    Dana Dorsett | | #1

    At your mid-winter temperature averages the most viable options are the Fujitsu XLTH series or the recently released "-FH" series cold climate Mitsubishis (which have some impressive heating efficiency numbers over their previous and popular "-FE", and their XLTH counterparts.

    Mini-split DIY isn't average handyman kind of stuff- to do the whole shebang takes tools you don't want to own, and experience you probably don't have to be able to get there with confidence. But typical handy-man skills and rough-electrician stuff can get you 90% of the way there.

    Both Fujitsu & Mitsubishi have "installer/dealer finders" on their US websites, and all of these models can be ordered via internet, if you can find a local refrigeration tech with at least some mini-split experience to install them on an hourly basis. As a reference, the 1- ton versions of either would run in the neighborhood of $3.5-4K installed in my area, the 1.25 tonners might come in at ~$4-4.5K.

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