Let’s quickly illustrate why exactly the best DIY mini split systems are so popular:
Installing a 20 SEER 1-ton ductless mini split costs $2,000. Installing a 22 SEER MrCool 1-ton mini split can cost $0. What’s the difference between these two units? The first one was installed by a professional, and the second one was a DIY mini split (installed by a regular guy).
With installation costs running in several $1,000s, the DIY mini split air conditioners are quite an attractive option (they can be a fun afternoon project). Of course, not all mini splits that come with an installation kit are that easy to install. In fact, some have subpar energy efficiency and questionable reliability.
To help homeowners with some technical skills out, LearnMetrics made a list of the best DIY mini splits currently on the market. The primary focus here is how easy a mini split is to install by yourself and the specification (SEER rating, HSPF rating, specified coverage, reliability). You can skip to the best DIY mini splits here (check the installation details before, however):
Let’s first address one of the most frequent questions we get about mini splits, namely:
“Can I install a mini split myself?”
This question should be tackled from two perspectives:
- Do you have the requisite technical skills for DIY mini split system installation?
- Do you need a permit to install a mini split air heating and cooling system?
The best mini splits have a user-friendly installation process. The whole point here is that someone with some technical skills (and at least a power drill lying around in their garage) can install a ductless mini split completely by himself. If you know to handle a power drill, you will be able to install a mini split by yourself.
Permits are another matter. Most states require you get a permit for installing a mini split unit. You should check your state’s permit requirements; here is an example of requirements in Portland. In most cases, a local inspector will want to make sure the DIY mini split is installed adequately (less than a 10-minute visit). We will outline what they check further on.
To illustrate which DIY mini splits are the best (and easiest) to install, let’s check out which specs you should focus on when picking a mini split you want to install yourself. After that, we will also look into how you can install a mini split step-by-step (it’s easier than most homeowners imagine), what tools you will need, and if you need a permit for a mini split.
DIY Mini Split Selection (4 Key Specs To Check)
If you want to install a mini split yourself, you have to first check some specification sheets of these DIY ductless split system units. Here is what you are looking for:
- What size DIY mini split do you need? You have to adequately size a mini split (determine how many BTU or tons of cooling capacity you need). DOE’s rule of thumbs says you need about 20 BTU per sq ft. That means that a 1-ton DIY mini split can adequately cool 600 sq ft of space. Here are the rough sizing estimates:
Size Of DIY Mini Split: Estimated Coverage: 1-Ton (12,000 BTU) Up To 600 Sq Ft 1.5-Ton (18,000 BTU) Up To 900 Sq Ft 2-Ton (24,000 BTU) Up To 1,200 Sq Ft 2.5-Ton (30,000 BTU) Up To 1,500 Sq Ft 3-Ton (36,000 BTU) Up To 1,800 Sq Ft
- High cooling energy efficiency DIY mini split (SEER rating). To lower cooling running costs, look for a DIY mini split with at least an 18 SEER rating. Mini splits are very energy efficient; use that to your advantage.
- High heating energy efficiency DIY mini split (HSPF rating). DIY mini splits can provide heating in the winter as well (they are basically DIY mini split heat pumps). Shoot for at least an 8 HSPF rating to lower the heating costs as much as possible.
- Pick a reliable brand. The most reliable and durable DIY mini split brands include MrCool (of course), Cooper & Hunter, Pioneer, and so on.
Based on these 4 key specs, you can pick the best DIY mini split for your home. This is exactly what we have done in the list of the best DIY mini splits you find further on.
How To Install A DIY Mini Split? (Step-By-Step Instruction)
All DIY mini splits come with an installation kit as well as an installation manual. The manual outlines exactly how to install a mini split by yourself.
The most comprehensive installation manual is provided with the purchase of MrCool DIY mini splits (by far the most popular DIY units). If you want to know how to install a MrCool mini split, the manual that comes with the unit will help you every step of the way.
Here is a rough step-by-step outline of how to install and wire a MrCool mini split unit:
- Outline the location of the indoor unit. In the MrCool kit, you have a wall template you can use to measure the precise location of the indoor air handler. Use a screwdriver to mark where the holes for refrigerant lines will be located on the wall (through the holes in the wall template).
- Set up the mounting template. On the back of the indoor air handler, you will find a mounting plate. Take it off the unit and set it to the marked location on the wall. In the MrCool DIY kit, you will find hardware with which to mount the template on the wall.
- Drill a hole for refrigerant lines and wires. The indoor unit is connected with the outdoor unit via refrigerant lines. Take a 3.5-inch hole saw and drill the hole. Once you have drilled the hole, use a wall sleeve (in the MrCool DIY kit) and push it into the hole. Cut off the leftover sleeve that sticks out on the outer side of the wall.
- Install the indoor air handler. Now you have everything you need to mount the indoor unit. First of all, channel all the communication wires, refrigerant lines, and drain hose through the hole in the wall. Then you can mount the air handler. You put it on the mounting template and fix it by bending the piping on the back of the air handler.
- Start with the outdoor unit. Take the refrigerant lines and the communication wires that are sticking out in the outer wall and channel them along the wall (in downward direction). Use the included MrCool lines cover to cover the lines and secure them (insulation) from outside elements (it also looks nicer).
- Connect the refrigerant. You have to connect the refrigerant lines that are coming out of the wall and the lines that come out of the outdoor unit (condenser). You have color-coded caps that help you match the right line from the air handler with the right line from the outdoor unit.
- Open the valves. You will find the valves on the outdoor unit are covered. Remove that cover and open the valves. You get Allen wrench with the MrCool installation kit; open the valves in a counter-clockwise direction.
- Secure the refrigerant connection indoors. At the back of the indoor air handler, you will find the refrigerant connectors. Wrap them with the included noise-reducing pads and cover them with vinyl tape (the tape is included in the installation kit).
- Wire the mini split. First of all, check the voltage. For 12k MrCool you need standard 110/120V but for 18k, 24k, and 36k units you will need 220/240V. For easier wiring, all the wires are labeled (color and number). Use the manual to connect them; you might want to call an electrician if you experience problems with wiring a mini split.
- That’s pretty much it. The MrCool mini split is installed. Don’t forget to install the air filter in the indoor air handler and insert the smart controller (for smartphone connectivity). Once you have done that, you can turn the unit on and control it via iOS or Android phone.
This may seem like a lot but the detailed manual will help you every step of the way. Most homeowners who know their way around power drills will be able to install a DIY MrCool mini split in one afternoon.
Let’s quickly go over the tools you might need for other DIY mini splits:
Tools For DIY Mini Split Installation
An easy to install vs. harder to install mini split unit differ in what tools you get with the kit.
MrCool DIY units, for example, were specifically designed to be installed by a regular Joe. You will need a hole saw, maybe a cordless drip, and that’s pretty much it.
Other harder to install by yourself mini splits may not have the comprehensive tool arsenal you get with MrCool. It’s better to check beforehand what tools you will need to install a mini split yourself.
Here is a list of 8 tools professional installers use when installing a mini split:
- 3-inch, 3.5-inch, or 4-inch hole saw.
- A drill. A cordless drill is the best.
- Vacuum pump to empty the refrigerant lines. Luckily, in most DIY kits, you have the pre-charged refrigerant lines (no need to put freon in there yourself).
- Adapter for mini splits. Choice of adapter depends on which refrigerant is used; namely, we have R410A adaptor, R22 adapter, and so on.
- Gauge. This can be a manifold or micron gauge for measuring the refrigerant pressure inside the lines.
- Flare tool. To mount the indoor air handler and bend the refrigerant piping, if applicable.
- Allen wrench. For opening the valve.
- Torque wrench.
We may have some of these things lying around the garage. Most DIY installation kits include specialized tools you will have to use. None of these kits, for example, includes a hole saw (a more general tool).
Now, let’s look at the permits for mini splits:
Do You Need A Permit To Install A Mini Split?
In most cases, you will need a permit for DIY mini split installation. This is more of a formality really; check your state’s website and you will find what permits you need.
A permit for a mini split will make you eligible for mini split installation. It’s just a list of paper that costs $10-$30 that allows you to install the unit. If you choose a professional installer, he or she will deal with this paperwork.
After the unit is installed, you have to notify your local authorities about the newly installed mini split. They will send an inspector to check if everything is installed properly. This usually takes less than 10 minutes and costs up to $50.
Inspectors usually check (in our experience, they are not the most diligent people) the following things:
- Are all the holes sealed up?
- Is the piping or ducts hanging insecurely? They check every 4 feet of lines.
- Were grommets used in wholes for thermostat wires?
- Is the amp breaker or fuse the right size? You can check what size AC breakers you need here (in most cases, you use 15A, 20A, 30A, or 35A breakers).
- Was any ductwork sealed during the installation? If you don’t have pre-existing ductwork, you don’t have to worry about this.
In most DIY installations, this inspection goes over quite smoothly. It’s just a check that everything is OK. If you follow the DIY manual, you will have no worries at all.
With all this in mind, let’s look at which are the best mini splits for DIY installation:
4 Best Mini Splits On The Market (Easiest To Install)
1. Best DIY Mini Split AC/Heat Pump By Far: MrCool DIY Mini Split Units
|Installation Difficulty:||Very Easy|
|Available Capacities:||12k, 18k, 24k, 36k BTU|
|Cooling Energy Efficiency:||22 SEER|
|Heating Energy Efficiency:||10 HSPF|
MrCool is the #1 brand in the DIY mini split industry. They were the first ones to introduce ductless mini split systems an average Joe can install himself. These units are the easiest to install and have the best specs; they are the go-to choice for most homeowners looking for a DIY mini split unit.
MrCool offer 4 different models in their DIY 3rd generation series:
- 12k unit with a 22 SEER rating (with up to 600 sq ft coverage). This is only MrCool mini split that runs on a standard 110/120V circuit, it’s easiest to install, and it costs about $1,450 with the included DIY installation kit.
- 18k unit with a 22 SEER rating (with up to 900 sq ft coverage). It runs on 230V and costs about $1,750.
- 24k unit with a 20 SEER rating (with up to 1,200 sq ft coverage). It runs on 230V and costs about $2,050.
- 36k unit with a 16 SEER rating (with up to 1,500 sq ft coverage). It runs on 230V and costs about $2,050.
All of these units are very easy to install by yourself. You get everything in the installation kit, including the tools, a pre-charged R410A 25 ft lines, and so on. You don’t need special training to install them.
Thanks to the use of a superb variable-speed inverter compressor, they have exceptionally high energy efficiency. As you can see, MrCool units (1-ton, 1.5-ton, and 2-ton) have a 20+ SEER rating. This drastically decreases your electricity bill.
The heating efficiency is great as well. Most of the MrCool units are capable of achieving a 10 HSPF rating.
On top of that, you get the SmartHVAC app. This is a smartphone application you can use to control the mini split remotely.
All in all, the MrCool units are the best DIY mini splits on the market. They are affordable, easy to install by yourself, have exceptionally low running costs, and are the most reliable DIY ductless mini splits out there:
2. Easy ‘Do It Yourself’ Mini Splits To Install: Klimaire DIY Mini Splits
|Installation Difficulty:||Fairly Easy|
|Available Capacities:||12k, 18k, 36k BTU|
|Cooling Energy Efficiency:||20 SEER|
|Heating Energy Efficiency:||10 HSPF|
Klimaire is not as well-known a brand as MrCool. Nonetheless, their DIY mini split units are relatively easy to install and they have great energy efficiency specs. They also cost a few $100s less than MrCool units.
Klimaire offers 3 different DIY mini split models:
- 12k unit with a 20 SEER rating (with up to 600 sq ft coverage). It runs on 115V and costs about $1,200.
- 18k unit with a 19 SEER rating (with up to 900 sq ft coverage). It runs on 230V and costs about $1,500.
- 36k unit with an 18 SEER rating (with up to 1,500 sq ft coverage). It runs on 230V and costs about $2,150.
The installation kit includes the pre-charged lines (no need for vacuum pumps). The wiring of Klimaire units is also relatively easy; you don’t need specialized wiring tools.
Efficiency-wise, the 12k unit can achieve a 20 SEER rating. The HSPF ratings are above 8 (10 HSPF, to be exact).
Klimaire 36k DIY mini split (3-ton) is especially interesting. It has an 18 SEER rating (that’s even more than MrCool 36k unit) and it is one of the most energy efficient 3-ton mini splits. Of course, it also costs a bit more since the running costs are that much lower.
All in all, Klimaire is a good option for relatively easy-to-install DIY mini splits. They are cheaper than MrCool units and have almost as high energy efficiency. You have an option to pick between 3 models with different capacities:
3. Best Multi-Zone DIY Mini Splits: Cooper & Hunter DIY Dual-Zone Units
|Available Capacities:||28k, 36k BTU|
|Cooling Energy Efficiency:||22 SEER|
|Heating Energy Efficiency:||10 HSPF|
Many homeowners are interested in the DIY multi-zone mini split systems. Cooper & Hunter offers the best 2-zone DIY mini split units that cool a house more homogenously.
You can choose between:
- 2-zone 28,000 BTU DIY mini split with a 22 SEER rating (up to 1,400 sq ft coverage). It costs about $3,000.
- 2-zone 36,000 BTU DIY mini split with a 22.5 SEER rating (up to 1,800 sq ft coverage). It costs about $3,500.
Now, immediately we see the pros and cons of a DIY multi-zone mini split system. Due to having 2 indoor air handlers, the Cooper & Hunter Sophia series units are harder to install than single-zone mini splits. They also cost quite a lot more than DIY single-zone units.
However, you do get two air handlers. This gives you two airflow points and makes for a more homogenous cooling. It reduces the likelihood of you experiencing hot pockets or hot rooms.
Smaller units have higher energy efficiency. Both 28k and 36k units are comprised of 2 indoor air handlers and can achieve much higher energy efficiency. The 36k unit with the Toshiba-GMCC inverter compressor, for example, can achieve an extremely high 22.5 SEER rating (compared to 16 SEER MrCool). Yes, it might cost quite a lot more, but you will save quite a lot more on running costs as well.
All in all, Cooper & Hunter makes the best DIY multi-zone mini split systems. These units generate a more homogenous cooling at heavily reduced running costs that in many cases justifies the higher upfront cost of the unit itself:
4. Cheapest DIY Mini Splits: Pioneer Diamante Series DIY Mini Split Units
|Available Capacities:||9k, 12k, 18k, 24k, 36k BTU|
|Cooling Energy Efficiency:||20 SEER|
|Heating Energy Efficiency:||10 HSPF|
The whole point of DIY mini splits is to save costs (installation costs, to be exact). If you want to reduce the upfront unit costs as well, you go with the Pioneer Diamante series DIY ductless mini split AC units. These are the cheapest DIY mini splits on the market.
Pioneer offers the widest range of DIY ductless mini split units. All in all, they have models with 5 different capacities:
- 9k unit with up to 300 sq ft coverage. This is the smallest DIY mini split currently on the market. It is also available for two different voltages. 110/120V model has a 20 SEER rating and costs $740. 220/240V model has a 19 SEER rating and costs $720.
- 12k unit with up to 600 sq ft coverage. You also have two voltage options here; 110/220V 20 SEER unit costs $780 and 220/240V 19 SEER unit costs $760.
- 18k unit with a 19 SEER rating and a total cost of about $1,050.
- 24k unit with an 18 SEER rating and a total cost of about $1,350.
- 36k unit with a 17 SEER rating and a total cost of about $2,150.
As you can clearly see if you compare these DIY mini splits with other DIY mini splits, Pioneer’s best models are the smaller 9k and 12k models. First of all, Pioneer is the only company that offers the smallest 9k DIY mini split units.
The small 9k and 12k are very cheap. These are the only DIY mini splits below $1,000 on the market. You can choose between different voltages; despite about $20 hike from 220/240V to 110/120V, the 110/120V are a better option. That 20 SEER vs 19 SEER rating is worth a lot more than $20 and you won’t have to upgrade the electric circuit if you go with the standard 110/120V models.
It has to be said, however, that the installation kit Pioneer offer is not as user-friendly as the MrCool DIY kit. You will require a lot of technical skills and will have to use some specialized tools to install it yourself.
All in all, if you are looking for the cheapest DIY mini splits, especially for smaller homes or several rooms, the Pioneer Diamante series is your go-to choice:
This has been a short course on the best DIY mini split units. We hope it helps you in making an informed decision on which DIY mini split is the best for your home. If you have any questions regarding the installation, you can use the comments below and we’ll try to help you out as best we can.
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