Many homeowners are increasingly opting for ductless mini-split systems over other air conditioning systems such as window ACs and through-the-wall AC systems.
Why? Because mini-split systems are more aesthetically appealing and just as functional as the other AC types. Moreover, mini-split air conditioning systems are typically more energy efficient.
As a result, we’re seeing consumers buy mini-split systems even for whole-home projects that were initially reserved for central air systems.
This guide assesses the pros and cons of 5-zone ductless mini-split air conditioners and discusses tips to help you pick the right one if you choose to go the mini-split route for your whole-home air conditioning project.
What’s a 5-Zone Mini Split System?
A 5-zone mini-split air conditioning system is a mini-split system with one outdoor unit that connects to five indoor air handlers. The conditioned air from the condenser is split among five indoor air handlers according to the size of each air handler.
In most configurations, the compressor units range from 24,000 BTUs to 60,000+ BTUs, while the air handlers range from 9,000 BTUs to 24,000 BTUs.
Each air handler is controlled independently and comes with a separate remote controller. One or more can be off while the rest are running. You can also have all five on different thermostat settings as you wish. As such, you can have the air handlers in five different rooms.
Benefits of a 5-Zone Mini Split
The main advantage of a 5-zone ductless mini-split system is that you can use it for whole-house air conditioning in place of a central air system. Though central air systems are great, ductless systems are easier to install and maintain.
Additional advantages of 5-zone mini splits are as follows;
- Higher energy efficiency: Mini split air conditioning systems are inherently more energy efficient because of the configuration. The absence of ductwork means less cool air is lost between the condenser and the air exit points.
- Low noise output: The mini-split configuration also makes them inherently quieter than central air systems and other single-package AC systems such as window and through-wall systems. Since the often noisier condenser component is located outside the house, some units can be as quiet as 25dB inside the house.
- Double as heat pumps: Nearly all 5-zone mini-split systems work as heat pumps during the cold seasons. By extracting heat from the air outside the house and dumping the heat inside the house, they can raise temperatures in your rooms, even if only slightly.
Factors to Consider When Shopping for a 5-Zone Ductless Mini Split
As with any other air conditioning systems, finding the right 5-zone ductless mini-split for your application can take a bit of effort. We recommend that you prioritize the following considerations;
Five-zone ductless mini-split air conditioners are best suited for whole-home air conditioning or supplementary air conditioning in large homes.
A 48,000 BTU unit with 5 x 12,000 BTU air handlers, for instance, can serve homes up to 25,000 square feet. However, it’s important to install the right size air handler in each room. Ideally, you want 20 BTUs per square foot.
The energy efficiency of your AC directly impacts how much cool (or warm) air you can expect from the appliance. A low-efficiency rating means you’ll get very little cooling/heating even if you have a large-capacity AC.
For this reason, try to find the most efficient AC possible. We recommend 16.0 SEER or higher and 9.0 EER or higher.
Although noise level doesn’t impact how much cool (or warm) air eventually reaches the room occupant, an overly noisy AC may render the home uninhabitable.
Too much noise can interrupt your conversations and make it impossible to fall asleep at night. So, choose a quieter model. Any indoor air handler rated below 40dB is considered quiet enough.
Features and controls
The best air conditioners are feature-rich. Specifically, look out for programmable thermostats, timer functions, and auto-restart. An auto-restart feature reminds the AC to automatically resume operation at the previous settings following a power outage. Remote control, smart control (via app and voice), and variable speed function are the other features to consider.
Above everything, make sure to buy an appliance with a long warranty. You want at least five years on the compressor and three years on other parts.
Best 5-Zone Mini Split AC
1. ACiQ Stealth IntelliHeat 5-Zone Wall-Mounted Mini Split System
ACiQ’s multi-zone mini split air conditioning systems are designed to bring you intelligent cooling (and cooling) at a reasonable cost. This particular product, the model ACiQ-48Z-HH-M5, is a 48,000 BTU 5-zone mini-split with one 9,000 BTU, three 12,000 BTU, and one 18,000 BTU air handlers. It means that it delivers up to 1.25 of the rated BTUs at maximum capacity, i.e., up to 60,000 BTUs.
It uses an integrated InteliHeat basepan heater technology allowing the condenser to heat and cool down to -22˚F – one of the lowest ambient temperatures for air conditioners. The traditional central air system, for instance, doesn’t cool below 35˚F. At 22.5 SEER, you can also tell that it’s sufficiently energy efficient.
The air handlers are each equipped with an LED display at the front of the unit to show you details of the air conditioning process, from temperature output to mode changes.
A self-diagnosis feature means that the display panel also shows errors for easy appliance maintenance. Though the unit doesn’t have integrated Wi-Fi capabilities, it’s compatible with the Cielo Breeze Wi-Fi thermostat that automatically pairs with compatible smart home technologies.
This mini-split system arrives with 5-year parts and a 7-year compressor warranty. Upon registration of the warranty, the compressor cover jumps to 10 years.
- Powerful cooling at 48,000 BTU
- Highly efficient at 22.5 SEER, 11.6 EER, and 10.5 HSPF
- Quiet operation, down to 38dB
- Up to 10-year warranty on compressor
- Costs a staggering $5,000+
- No integrated Wi-Fi control
2. DAIKIN Model RMXS48LVJU 48,000 BTU Five Zone Wall Mounted Mini Split
The Model RMXS48LVJU ductless mini-split forms part of the famous RMXS Series mini-splits from DAIKIN compatible with three indoor air handler types in a wide range of capacities.
The units are rated 18.8 SEER and can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%. Each room is controlled separately using wireless or wired remotes.
This particular unit comes with five indoor air handlers, each rated 7,000 BTU. Each air handler features an energy-saving intelligent eye feature that reduces heating or cooling depending on whether the room is occupied or not. Each air handler also has a titanium photocatalytic air filter to remove unwanted airborne dirt and allergens from your home.
Key features of the AC include 3D airflow thanks to horizontal and vertical auto-swing airflow and a hot-start feature that prevents the unit from blowing cold a cold draft into the room when heating starts. It also has an auto-restart feature that reminds the unit to resume operations in previous settings following a power interruption.
This AC is rated 11.3 HSPF and 10.3 EER. It’s backed by a 12-year warranty that kicks in once you register your product online.
- Powerful at 48,000 BTU
- Doubles as a heat pump
- 3-D airflow, up to 350 CFM
- 12-year product warranty
- Expensive at over $5,000
- No voice control
3. GREE Model MULTI36HP230V1CO 36,000 BTU 21 SEER Mini Console Heat Pump System
The MULTI36HP230V1CO mini-split from GREE operates with lower power consumption and lower noise levels than most comparable AC systems, thanks primarily to the advanced G-10 inverter technology.
This inverter also increases operational efficiency, allowing the Model MULTI36HP230V1CO to save 20% power per year. It uses an eco-friendly R410A refrigerant.
However, the biggest advantage of this mini-split system over other 5-zone ductless mini splits is that you get to choose from a wide range of indoor air handler types – as long as none is less than 9,000 BTUs.
Indoor air handler options include wall-mounted Comfort Series LIVO+ units, ducted (slim or high static) units, ceiling cassettes, universal floor/ceiling suspended units, and floor-mounted mini consoles.
If you choose to go with the standard package, the unit arrives with five wall-mounted air handlers; four rated 9,000 BTUs and one rated 12,000 BTUs. All five are slim-profile units, some as low as six inches above the wall. The units also mount on the floor or under the window to save space.
Each air handler has Dry and Fan modes. Each unit is also equipped with washable air filters and features a Sleep Mode for quiet night-time operation.
- Powerful 36,000 BTU cooler/heater
- Very efficient at 21.5 SEER, 12.5 EER, and 11.5 HSPF
- Tranquil operation, down to 25 dB
- AHRI certified
- 5-year limited parts warranty
- No smart/app control
4. Cooper and Hunter Model CH48MSPH230VO 21.5 SEER 5-Zone Mini Split Heat Pump
If you’ve shopped for a mini-split AC system before, you’re likely aware of Cooper & Hunter. It’s another very trustworthy brand that makes efficient, high-performance appliances that guarantee a long life of productive use. This specific product is a 48,000 BTU 5-zone ductless mini-split air conditioning system rated 21.5 SEER.
The CH48MSPH230VO doubles as a heat pump rated 48,000 BTUs. Unfortunately, the heat pump is only rated 8.6 HSPF. We usually recommend heat pumps rated at least 9.5 HSPF.
Nevertheless, it’s a very reliable cooling and heating appliance that draws very little electricity. It’s also small and flexible. Each of the five zones is controlled independently.
The shopper can choose from a wide range of indoor air handler options, including ductless wall-mounted units, ceiling cassettes, and floor consoles. Each of these air handler units is rated between 9,000 BTUs and 24,000 BTUs.
Ducted air handlers are also available. You’ll need to purchase a few accessories separately, including a drain line kit, outdoor unit kit/bracket, and line hide kit.
This mini-split system is covered by a 5-year parts warranty and a 7-year compressor warranty. It’s the most affordable product on this list at just over $3,000.
- Powerful at 48,000 BTU
- Doubles as a heat pump
- Highly efficient at 21.5 SEER
- Most affordable on this list
- 5-year parts warranty
- Outdoor brackets purchased separately
- Drain line kit and power lines sold separately
5. Perfect Aire Model 2PAMSH48-MZO5 48,000 BTU, 21.5 SEER Five Zone Heat Pump AC
Finally, we thought it wise to include at least one mini-split system that arrives standard with a different air handler style than the common wall-mounted units.
This AC from Perfect Aire comes with concealed duct air handlers. Concealed duct air handlers offer a discrete option over their ductless counterparts, with most air handlers hidden in the attic, dropped ceiling, or crawl space. These units can be installed in the ceiling, on the floor, or the wall.
The AC itself is very powerful at 48,000 BTUs. You may also want to know that all the air handlers are rated 12,000 BTUs. A 12,000 BTU air handler can serve areas up to 550 square feet. It’s rated 21.5 SEER and 11.6 EER and features a built-in heat pump rated 10.4 HSPF.
Other standout features of the AC include an auto defrost mechanism that allows it to work even in freezing-cold conditions, a timer function for programmed control, and a Sleep Mode for quiet night-time operation. It also comes with remote control, self-diagnosis, and refrigerant leak detection for your peace of mind.
It comes with an initial 30-month replacement warranty but is also protected by 7-year parts and a 7-year compressor warranty.
- Powerful AC and heat pump
- It comes standard with discrete, concealed ducts.
- Highly efficient at 21.5 SEER, 10.4 HSPF
- Self-diagnosis and refrigerant leak detection
- A long, 7-year parts warranty
- Expensive at over $5,000
- No smart/app control
Five-zone ductless mini-split AC systems are the perfect alternative to central air conditioners. Since each air handler is controlled independently, it’s like having a stand-alone AC in each room.
If you’re currently shopping for an AC for a large area or the entire home, you should strongly consider purchasing a 5-zone mini-split.