Many homeowners are shifting to ductless mini-split systems from traditional furnaces and air conditioners to lower their power bills and save the environment. And, it makes sense because mini-split systems are 30% more energy-efficient, according to the Department of Energy.
Moreover, ductless systems are typically beautiful units that can easily uplift your outdoor and indoor décor compared to traditional HVAC systems. Ductless mini-splits also require less maintenance and last 15 years on average.
This guide focuses on the cost of installing a three-zone ductless mini-split AC in case you’re shopping for a whole-house system. So what budget do you need to purchase and install a 3-zone mini split AC?
What’s the Cost to Install a 3-Zone Mini Split?
The average cost to install a 3-zone mini-split system is $3,200 to $10,500, depending on multiple factors, including your location, the mini-split brand, and the size of the mini-split unit in British Thermal Units (BTUs).
Factors Affecting the Cost of Mini Split Installation
Below is a detailed explanation of how various factors affect the cost to install a three-zone mini-split system;
Number of Rooms/Zones
Beware that the two terms don’t mean the same thing. While an entire room may constitute one zone, sometimes large rooms are split into several independent zones for optimal cooling and heating.
The higher the number of rooms/zones, the higher the price of the mini-split and the cost to install it. For instance, a 3-zone mini-split is more expensive to buy and install than a two-zone system.
Size of the Air Conditioning System in BTUs
It’s cheaper to install a smaller ductless system than a bigger unit. For instance, an 18,000 BTU 3-zone mini-split is cheaper to install than a 24,000 BTU 3-zone system.
Remember that 12,000 BTUs is equivalent to one ton. Therefore, 24,000 BTU = two tons and 18,000 BTUs = 1.5 tons.
Mini Split Efficiency Rating
It takes more effort and skill to set up higher-efficiency ductless air conditioners. For instance, you need a lot more wisdom and effort to set up a 20 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) system than a 15 SEER air conditioner, even if both are 3-zone systems.
Choice of Contractor
Different contractors charge different rates. For instance, one contractor may quote $3,000 and another $2,500 for the same 3-zone mini-split system. These rates vary depending on the contractor’s level of education, industry experience, professional certifications, and warranties.
For example, a contractor who offers a 2-year warranty on labor will likely charge more than one who only offers six months.
General Mini Split Installation Prices (Industry Averages)
So, now that you know the main factors affecting the cost to install a mini-split system let’s find out the industry averages. How much do homeowners pay to install a 3-zone system, on average?
We’ve split the values into various categories for ease of understanding.
Ductless Mini Split Average Installation Prices by Zones
Generally, you need $1,600 to $3,500 to install a single-zone mini split air conditioner with one outdoor unit and one indoor air handler.
Meanwhile, the average cost to install a two-zone unit (one outdoor unit and two indoor air handlers) is $5,250 to $7,100, and a 3-zone unit (one outdoor unit and three indoor air handlers) costs $6,500 to $9,800 to install. Four-zone+ units or more cost $6,500 to $22,500 to install.
The largest ductless mini-splits are 8-zone systems with one outdoor compressor and eight indoor air handlers.
Average Mini-Spit Installation Costs by Type
Mini-split system air handlers are available in different styles, depending on your needs. These include wall-mounted, ceiling cassettes, ceiling-suspended, concealed duct, and vertical air handler systems. Your air handler choice directly determines the overall cost to install the mini-split system.
Wall mounted air handler systems are the cheapest to install, costing $850 to $3,000, followed by floor-standing systems ($1,300 to $4,000) and ceiling cassettes ($1.500 to $7,200).
Meanwhile, ceiling-suspended systems ($2,500 to $4,500), concealed duct ($2,900 to $7,500), and vertical air handlers ($3,600 to $8,800) demand a bigger budget.
Average Mini-Split Installation Prices by Brand
Finally, installation costs vary from one brand to the next, even for similar-sized units designed for the same number of zones.
Generally, Senville, Frigidaire, and Cooper & Hunter brands are the most affordable to purchase and install. For example, 3-zone ductless mini-splits from these brands cost between $1,800 and $4,850 to install.
Meanwhile, Samsung, Fujitsu/Rheem, and Mitsubishi/Trane are the most expensive to purchase and install. A 3-zone unit from these brands costs $2,400 and $9,300 to install. Daikin, LG, Panasonic, GREE, and Mr. Cool are mid-range brands.
How to Use Mini Split Installation Cost Calculators
Besides industry averages, you can use online calculators to determine the ballpark range for mini-split installation costs in your area.
A typical mini split cost calculator prioritizes the following seven factors;
- Square footage: You must provide the square footage of your home or the application, as this figure helps determine the size of the mini-split ideal for your application. You can easily measure the length and width of each room and multiple the figures to find the area in square feet. For multiple rooms, add the individual areas of all the rooms.
- The number of zones: Rooms and zones mean the same thing in the typical home. However, you can split larger rooms into two. Generally, you need to split any room larger than 700 square feet into two zones.
- Cooling only or cooling + heating? Yes, many mini-split systems are dual-purpose HVAC appliances that serve as air conditioners in the summer and heat pumps in winter. So, you must be specific whether you’re installing a cooling-only unit or a dual-purpose cooler and heater.
- Indoor air handler type: At least seven different types of mini spit air handlers. Which one do you prefer? You can always keep costs down by going for the standard wall-mounted air handler. Alternatively, you can install an elegant recessed or vertical air handler system if you have the budget.
- Cooling efficiency: Most HVAC technicians charge a lower fee if they know they don’t have to break much sweat to fine-tune your new air conditioner to 98%+ energy efficiency. However, be prepared to pay handsomely to achieve the highest efficiency.
- Manufacturer: Finally, you must specify the manufacturer/brand as different mini split brands cost different amounts to install. While some, like Frigidaire, are cheap to install, luxury models like Samsung are very expensive.
- Others: Three other things you may be asked to specify are the quality of your home’s insulation (you need professional help here) and your geographic location. For instance, mini-split installation prices are 25% higher on the west coast (WA, OR, CA) than in the south-central regions, including Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama.
Calculating Labor Costs
Apart from online calculators, you can also calculate labor charges manually. The following are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to go this route.
Professional HVAC technicians generally charge $300 to $1,500 to install a single-zone unit. Meanwhile, multizone units generally cost at least $600 to install.
Each additional indoor air handler adds $300 to $1,000 to the original price. This means that you will likely pay the HVAC technician around $900 and $2,500 to install a 3-zone mini-split.
Factors Affecting Labor Costs
The installation quote will depend on several factors, from your location to the area’s accessibility and everything in between.
The following are some of the most important factors;
It costs a little more to install a 3-zone mini-split on the second or third from than the main floor. Why? Because the technician must cover more distance.
More distance means more time spent on the job, thus a higher quote. Keep in mind that the location also impacts the cost of materials, such as refrigerant lines and wiring conduits
You’ll have to pay more if the technician must maneuver multiple obstacles to access the installation location.
For instance, installing the AC in a difficult-t0-access siding means the installer will spend more time and energy on the project. So, they’ll certainly charge you more.
Where do you live? Which state? Which city? Which neighborhood? All three can affect the cost of installing a ductless mini-split system.
For instance, as we saw earlier, it costs about 25% to 30% more to install a ductless mini-split unit in the west coast states, including Washington, Oregon, and California, than the south-central states of Texas and Arkansas.
Installation costs also depend on the time of the year. Generally, it costs more to retain an HVAC professional during high-demand seasons, specifically the heat of summer. So, you should be prepared to pay about 30% more during this period.
Finally, the best HVAC professionals (and even brands) offer labor warranties that may last up to two years or more, depending on the brand/contractor and type of AC. However, these warranties typically come at a premium, usually 10% above standard costs.
Other Installation Cost Factors
Besides the above factors/costs, you should also be prepared to shoulder/factor the following items in your budget.
- Electrical wiring: Most HVAC technicians don’t do wiring themselves. Instead, they hire licensed electricians. This can cost you an extra $200 to $500.
- Carpentry and masonry work: Cutting the hole necessary for the refrigerant line to pass through and creating a cement board, among other tasks, require a professional carpenter and mason. These two jobs can cost you an additional $200 to $300.
- Permits/licenses: You need a permit to install an air conditioner system in our home. It’s what the law says. Air conditioning permits cost $250 to $400, depending on the state and municipality.
- Rebates/discounts: Finally, you may get a discount from the AC manufacturer or the installation contractor, depending on the time of purchase/installation or other factors. The government also offers rebates, up to $300 for ultra-high-efficiency AC installations. These, too, impact the final installation cost.
Do You Need Accessories/Upgrades?
It isn’t uncommon for the air conditioner installation kit to arrive without some components, including the following;
- Wired remote controller ($50 to $300)
- Wired thermostat ($100 to $300)
- Drain pan heater ($140 to $560)
- Condensate removal pump ($120 to $280)
- Condenser pad ($40 to $100)
- Wall mount bracket ($40 to $100)
- Others (snow legs, replacement filter, etc.)
You must be prepared to pay for these items separately, ultimately adding to the installation costs. As you can see, the first six items on the above list alone amount to about $1,600.
So, what’s the cost to install a 3-zone mini-split?
It depends on many factors. However, you need a budget between $3,200 and $10,000 to be on the safe side, assuming you’re getting a complete installation kit.
Mini-Split vs. Central Air Installation Cost
Ductless mini-split systems are significantly more expensive to install, ranging from $3,200 to $11,000, whereas it costs $3,300 to $6,000 to install a central air system.
Cost To Install 3 Zone Mini Split FAQS
What’s the Lowest Priced Ductless Mini Split?
The lowest-priced mini-split from standard brands, such as GREE, cost about $700, excluding installation charges. These are typically single-zone systems.
How Long does it Take to Install a Ductless Mini Split?
Installing a single-zone mini-split system is a day’s work. However, multizone systems take 1-4 days to install, depending on the number of indoor air handlers.
How Long do Mini Split Air Conditioners Last?
Generally, a mini-split air conditioner lasts 15 to 20 years. However, a few models can last 25 years with good maintenance.
Why are Mini Split Units so Expensive to Install?
Mini-split systems cost more to install because of indoor air handlers. Remember that each air handler must be independently wired to the outdoor unit and is controlled independently. It takes significant time to set up multiple independent indoor air handlers.
Are Multizone Mini-Splits Worth it?
100%. Although a multizone mini split costs more upfront (including the installation), they are highly energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. The Department of Energy says you can save 30% of your energy bills by switching from a traditional central air system to a whole-home multizone mini split air conditioner.
So, there you have it. It costs between $3,200 and $10,000, on average, to install a 3-zone mini split air conditioner.
However, the actual cost can be as low as under $1,000 to as high as $11,000+, depending on several factors, such as your location, the AC brand, and whether the installation kit contains everything you need for the installation process.