From the world of building products that make their way to North America from overseas, ductless mini-split HVAC units are on a growth track in the U.S. “Mini-splits are growing at a rate of about 12% per year for the last five years,” says Natalie Hunter, product manager for Lennox. “It’s still a fairly small representation of the whole category, but there’s a lot more interest and more visibility to it.”

In remodeling, mini-splits solve a variety of problems, primarily they allow for space conditioning without the need to run new ductwork. Older homes that rely on baseboard or radiant heating may not have space for ducts in walls or ceilings, making mini-splits ideal. And in homes with existing central air, split systems can allow for HVAC zoning.

Save Energy, Save Money

According to the Department of Energy, duct losses can account for more than 30% of space conditioning energy consumption. With no ducts, mini-splits avoid that issue entirely, and their energy efficiency is improving. Most wall-mount mini-splits range from 16 to 22 SEER. Johnson Controls recently introduced units under its York, Coleman, and Luxaire brands that can reportedly achieve 27 SEER.

Homeowners inclined to further reduce utility bills could see more savings when mini-split systems are used to condition only the rooms they use.

Simpler Systems

Hunter says dealers are embracing mini-splits for their ease of installation. With just a small hole in the wall to run electrical and refrigerant lines, mini-splits require less time and hassle to install. Contractors must still size the systems appropriately. Single-zone mini-splits are available for space conditioning in one room, while multi-zone systems connect one outdoor unit to several indoor units for larger areas. Homeowners will appreciate remote-control operation.

The biggest drawback for ductless mini-splits is aesthetics, but most say the appearance of a wall unit isn’t a sacrifice for many homeowners. “We’ve heard people say they see it for the first day and then they get used to it,” says Steve Hoffins, senior brand manager for Johnson Controls. “They also remind us that the rest of the world uses these systems and are reaping the benefits.”

—Lauren Hunter is the senior products editor at REMODELING. Find her on Twitter at @LaurenHunter_HW or @RemodelingMag.