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Community and Q&A

Which mini-split has the least ugly indoor unit?

davidmeiland | Posted in Mechanicals on

I’ve been trying to persuade my wife that we should install a mini-split, but the look of the indoor units is a non-starter for her. Personally I can overlook the issue because I like the energy savings, and I can get the thing for almost nothing by using utility rebates, but I do agree they look clunky and mechanical. A lot of people I talk to have the same feeling about them.

Haven’t done much research yet, but I’ve seen one line that has a flush-mounted ceiling unit, and I’ve heard of others that allow recessed mounting in a wall. We have an attic, so it would be possible for me to install a bit of ductwork up there and box it into the building envelope if that’s what it takes. Those in the know… what can you tell me?

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  1. dankolbert | | #1

    They're all pretty nasty, David. On our current big job, we've finessed the issue by going with a central, hidden unit and ducting from there. Don't know if that's an option for you.

  2. davidmeiland | | #2

    I might have to do that. Unfortunately it kills the utility rebate. Got any photos or details about what you did, what equipment you used, etc.?

  3. user-1020588 | | #3

    how about the Art Cool by LG?

  4. dankolbert | | #4

    Why does that kill the rebate? I'll e-mail you some photos, but there's not much to see.

  5. gusfhb | | #5

    Art cool ,and a few of the off brands have a bit of a copy. Most brands now have a ceiling cassette and also a little ducted unit you could hide in a false soffit.

    I had considered building a 3 sided trim box

  6. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    Because of the inefficiency inherent in any duct distribution system, all of the ducted minisplits carry an energy efficiency penalty compared to the ductless units. In other words, just because of aesthetics, you will be paying an energy penalty forever.

  7. user-600754 | | #7

    I've installed single zone ductless Mitsubishis in the last 7 superinsulated homes I've built and the customers love them. A few of them were a bit hesitant at first, but after living with them they don't even notice they are there. In a superinsulated house the location of the indoor unit is really that critical so you can place it somewhere where it wont stick out like a sore thumb.

  8. gusfhb | | #8

    I would not see any reason for lower efficiency with the mini ducted unit, other than the fact they are not the highest available SEER. The difference between being in front of the wall and behind would not seem significant. One would not think a person putting in a minisplit would suddenly opt for 50 feet of duct

    Something nice looking and something you get used to looking at are very different things.

  9. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #9

    Check out the numbers. Moving air through ducts wastes tremendous amounts of energy. See Michael Chandler's blog on the issue: Stuff I Learned at Joe Lstiburek’s House, Part 2.

    One of the main reasons that ductless minisplits are so efficient is that they have no ductwork. (That, and the fact that the fan and grille are carefully engineered for smooth air flow.) Once you install ducts, the efficiency goes out the window.

  10. wjrobinson | | #10

    Nick, Martin, please do a blog with pictures and floorplan examples to do with where best to place mini splits. Nick, tell us more details w pics if you would. Many of us will be following your lead.

  11. davidmeiland | | #11

    My understanding is that ANY ductwork results in a significant increase in fan energy used. Even if the ductwork is entirely inside the envelope with no loss to the exterior, you still pay more to move all the air.

  12. gusfhb | | #12

    cassette units have no ductwork

    the 'ducted' units need have no ducts, they are just behind the wall.

    Yes, if you added lengths of duct it would reduce efficiency. They would still be better than you standard ac system.

  13. gusfhb | | #13

    won't let me edit today, they do come in somewhat smaller sizes than the ones I linked, but do tend to be larger

  14. user-1012653 | | #14

    I really do not think they look all that bad. All of the images I have seen they sort of vanish into the room. My wife was against it for our home at first as she thinks of a hotel system. But I showed her images and she said she would probably never notice it.
    I think we will go with the Mitsu hyper heat units, but I am still undecided about how many I need. The BTU for the 3 stories (basement, main, and upper) is right around 19-20k required with a design temp of -14. I was thinking min. 2 12k btu units but I worry it will not condition the upper level well enough so I am thinking 3 9k units, 1 for each floor. Each floor is right around 1000-1200 sqft. The 2nd floor is open to the first over the dining room. Basement is open via staircase (no doors going up or down). Problem is, when it gets below 5 out the units start to drastically drop so they are below my needed BTU. I plan on putting in a few electric baseboard heaters to help out however. I understand at some point they will shut down and I will be running on nothing but baseboard heaters. Hopefully it will not be for long.

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