When you choose to cool, heat, and ventilate your home with mini split systems, there is one of two main options you need to choose. You can opt for a mini-split system in every room to heat and cool that space. Or you could invest in several units that are linked to one compressor which is a multi-zone system. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and the choice you make may be determined by the design of your home. Personal preference is another key factor and in this article, we will look at each option in more detail to help you make an informed decision.
The Single-Zone Mini Split System
This consists of an indoor unit paired with an outdoor unit for every mini-split system. These units will need to be installed in every room where you require heating or cooling.
The Multi-Zone Mini Split System
This is a system with two or more indoor units which are connected to one compressor or outdoor unit. A typical configuration is one compressor connected to up to eight indoor units. The exact number of indoor units that you would need would be determined by the number of zones in your home that you want to heat or cool. So, you would have one indoor unit for every zone.
What are the Benefits of Zone Cooling and Heating?
Both single and multi-zone systems give the homeowner or business owner a way to heat or cool specific areas or zones. A zone temperature control refers to the capability of the HVAC unit to deliver heating or cooling in that zone at a different temperature to other rooms in the home. To put this into more simple terms, this means that you can adjust the temperature on an indoor mini split unit in one zone and the others could be operating at different temperatures.
This approach offers a great deal of performance and flexibility. Many of us have experienced hot and cold spots in homes and the upper floors may be warmer than the lower floors. This phenomenon may indicate a deeper core issue such as a lack of insulation. But, having the ability to fine tune the temperature in different parts of the home is simply not possible with a standard central HVAC system.
What are the Benefits of a Multi-Zone Mini Split System?
The installation of a multi-zone mini split system in a home has two main advantages. They are:
1. Aesthetic Appeal
There is no getting around the fact that outdoor mini split units are pretty ugly and they tend to spoil the aesthetic appeal of most properties. When there are fewer outdoor units required, the facade of the building is improved which can be important if you’re planning to sell.
2. Less Outdoor Units
Aside from the aesthetic implications, there is a clear advantage when your system requires fewer outdoor units. A single compressor can be used to run up to eight different indoor units which is far more efficient with no drop in performance. This reduces the costs of essential maintenance too because the HVAC technician will inspect and clean fewer outdoor units.
What are the Benefits of a Single-Zone Mini Split System?
An installed multi-zone mini split system also has two main advantages. They are:
1. Lower Installation Costs
Installing a single-zone mini split system is less complex than the installation of a multi-zone system. In many cases, a homeowner can install a mini split on their own if they have some basic DIY skills. When an installation is less complicated, it takes less time and this lowers the cost.
2. Easy to Install
Most ductless mini split systems are easy to install when you compare them to a central HVAC system installation. The single-zone units are even easier to install when they are compared to a multi-zone system. All that’s required is a 3” hole in the wall to connect the indoor and outdoor units together. Running the refrigerant lines from a single outdoor unit to multiple indoor units can be complex and invasive.
Which is Best?
As you can see, both single-zone and multi-zone mini split systems have unique advantages and this can make it hard to make a final decision. To determine if one is a better option than the other, it can be useful to look at the ideal applications carefully.
To make this clearer we have two typical scenarios where a multi-zone system is probably the best option:
1. Heating or Cooling Numerous Rooms
If you have a home where you need to cool or heat multiple rooms at the same time, it can be a challenge. Controlling the temperature in several rooms at once to keep everyone happy may require a multi-zone system. This is a better option than an installation of an indoor and outdoor unit in every zone (room).
2. Multi-Level Homes
Installing a multi-zone unit is a great idea in homes that have two or more levels to cool or heat. The alternative is to install several individual single-zone mini splits to deliver the required heating and cooling. But, with sufficient zones and correctly configured and installed indoor units the rooms can be cooled and heated without wasting energy in areas that are not in use.
Let’s take a look at two common scenarios where a single-zone system could be the best option:
1. Extra Heating or cooling
If you already have some kind of heating and cooling system in place, you may just want to supplement your existing setup in very specific areas or zones. Most people that choose this route don’t want the hassle of setting up ductwork and this is why mini splits are a good alternative. Adding a single-zone mini split where you need it most is a great way to add some extra heating or cooling at a lower cost.
2. Smaller Homes
If you live in a smaller home with a few rooms, it may be overkill to install a multi-zone system. In many cases, one or two single-zone units may provide adequate heating and cooling.
If you’re considering an HVAC upgrade or you need to schedule some essential maintenance, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.