Yes, a mini-split can cool a whole house. Large multi-zone mini-split systems are designed specifically for this purpose. For example, an 8-zone multi-zone mini-split system is more than capable of cooling an entire house.
Remember that you can also combine two multi-zone systems to cool a larger house. Some manufacturers provide the infrastructure and technology to combine two or more mini-split systems. However, you can also create a zoned system out of your mini split to cool the whole house.
Below we discuss some of the considerations to help you determine whether a mini-split air conditioner would be enough to serve your entire house.
How Many BTUs Do You Need to Cool a Whole House?
The first thing you need to ask is – how many BTUs do you need to cool a whole house? How big an AC do you need to serve an entire house? The answer varies depending on two main factors;
The size of the house in square feet
This is the main factor. How big is your house? The average American single-family house in the US increased in size since 2000, reaching 2,467 square feet in 2015 before falling slightly to 2,301 square feet in 2019. Given that experts recommend 20 BTUs per square foot, you’d need slightly over 46,000 BTUs to cool an entire house.
Are there mini-split systems rated 50,000 BTUs or higher? The answer is – Yes! Indeed, nearly every major AC manufacturer has a 48,000 BTU model. Moreover, a few manufacturers even make mini-splits rates 60,000 BTUs or higher.
Quality of insulation
Although the size of the home is the primary determinant when trying to size a whole-home air conditioner, the quality of insulation is critical. Newer buildings are generally structurally and adequately insulated to prevent air loss. However, older buildings can leak a lot of air, significantly compromising the air conditioning process.
Experts generally recommend adjusting your BTU requirement upwards by 30% for older buildings. So, assuming you need about 46,000 BTUs for the average home, a +30% adjustment gives us 59,800 BTUs for older homes. Are there mini-split systems rated 59,800 BTUs or higher? Again, the answer is – Yes!
A quick example is the 60,000 BTU LG LMU600HV. This means that you can find a sufficient-capacity mini-split system even for older houses.
How Many Rooms Do You Have?
Another key factor when shopping for an air conditioner for the whole house is the number of rooms in the house. Ideally, you want sufficient cooling in each room.
From the recent census, we find that the average US home has 4-6 rooms. At least 60% of households in the country have 4-6 rooms. Homes with eight or more rooms account for about 13% of the nation’s total. Smaller homes with 1-3 rooms are about 16%.
Multi-zone mini splits can serve up to eight different rooms
Mini-split systems come in single-zone and multi-zone configurations. Single-zone models are designed for single spaces, while multi-zone models target multi-room use.
Multi-zone configurations range from dual-zone models designed to serve two zones or rooms to 8-zone configurations that can serve up to eight independent spaces. In between, you can order a 3-zone, 4-zone, 5-zone, 6-zone, or 7-zone multi-zone mini-split.
Since most homes have between 4-6 rooms, it should be easy to find a mini-split that can serve your entire house.
Indoor air handlers can serve up to 1,600 square-foot rooms
The other question you might ask is – will I find large enough air handlers to serve my rooms? Again, the answer is – most likely.
Let’s begin with average room sizes in the US. According to the National Association of Home Builders, bedrooms are the largest rooms in the American home, on average.
The average size of the master bedroom is listed as 309 square feet. The kitchen comes a close second at 300 square feet, and family rooms are in third at 296 square feet.
You need about 20 BTUs per square foot. Therefore you’d need about 6,000 BTUs for the master bedroom. Even if you adjust the figure 30% upwards to account for poor insulation, the figure comes to 7,800 BTUs.
Can you find air handlers rated 7,800 BTUs or higher? Again, the answer is – Yes! Indeed, the majority of air handlers are rated 9,000 BTUs and higher. Some are 24,000 BTUs+.
Will You Get Independent Control?
Finally, everyone wants to be able to control the air conditioning in each room independently. For example, you don’t want a situation where switching off the AC in the kitchen turns off air conditioning in the rest of the home. Fortunately, multi-zone mini-split systems are designed purposely for independent control.
Each air handler in a multi-zone mini split configuration has an independent thermostat. Sometimes it’s an onboard thermostat built into the air handler. Other times it’s a wall-mounted thermostat installed separately on the wall in which the air handler is located. The bottom line is that each air handler has its thermostat.
This means that you can set the thermostat in the kitchen at 78˚F and leave the bedroom thermostat higher at 82˚F when cooking in the kitchen. After you’re done, you can turn off the kitchen thermostat and lower the bedroom thermostat slightly. The setting in one room doesn’t affect settings in the other room.
Independent onboard and remote control
Even better, each air handler in the multi-zone mini split air conditioner configuration has independent onboard and remote controls. If you walk to the air handler in your bedroom and press Turbo Mode, only the air handler in the bedroom will run in Turbo mode.
The same applies if you decide to program the kitchen AC. You can set it to run for 4 hours then go off, and it wouldn’t affect the other air handlers in your home. Only the kitchen unit will go off after the scheduled period.
So, Can a Mini Split Cool a Whole House?
The answer is s big – Yes! Multi-zone mini split air conditioners are some of the best whole-house air conditioning solutions. You get an air handler for each room. Better still, each air handler has an independent thermostat and remote controller. It’s a whole new level of convenience.