MrCool, Pioneer and a few other brands make air conditioners and heat pumps for DIY mini split installation. You’ll save all the labor costs when you do it yourself – and you don’t need the EPA 608 Certificate for refrigerant handling, since the systems come pre-charged with refrigerant.
If you haven’t chosen a system yet, our Best DIY Mini Split Buying Guide will help you make the right choice for your needs.
What you Will Learn in This Article
Options: In this article you will learn about the different types of mini split units available. This is important because if you’re going to install a system, you might as well choose the one that will best serve your needs.
Step by Step DIY Installation: You will also learn how to install without professional help from an HVAC technician, and what tools and materials you will need to use to complete the job efficiently. Finally, you will learn how to check your mini split system to make sure it is working properly.
What’s Available – Ductless AC and Heat Pump Systems
Here are options to consider.
Single-zone and Multiple Zone Mini Splits: There are many different types of mini split systems available. Single zone systems with one outdoor unit and one indoor unit are the most popular, but dual zone and multi zone units are offered that include one outdoor unit, the condensing unit, and two or more indoor evaporator units.
Voltage Requirements: The units also vary depending on the voltage or power that the mini split system requires. The most common are 208/220v and 110/120V, so you will have to be able to hook the mini split unit up to your home’s electrical system.
Important Tip: You likely know this, but if you are planning on installing this type of system yourself you will need to buy a system that has a pre-loaded refrigerant. This enablesMake sure it is sold/marketed as a DIY mini split. Mini split systems without the pre-loaded refrigerant must be installed by an HVAC technician due to building codes. EPA (environmental protection association) requires a 608 tech certification in order to install refrigerant to an air conditioning unit.
Pre-loaded, DIY systems allow you to simply connect the evaporator unit in the outside condenser and you are good to run it after following the necessary steps for the complete installation.
Single Zone Installation
Single zone mini split systems have one condenser and one head. This type of unit is better suited for a smaller area of 750 square feet or less. With only one condenser and one head this unit is much easier to install than a dual or multi-zone system. A big advantage of installing one or multiple single zone systems is that if one unit isn’t working properly you will only have to troubleshoot one system, rather than all the other evaporators.
Dual or Multi-zone Installation
Dual or multi zone systems have two or more heads or evaporators for each condenser. As with any project, the more parts or systems that need to be installed, the more tedious and time consuming the project will be. Dual and multi zone units are also available online from a number of sellers and at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
It’s worth a reminder in case you didn’t see the earlier comment: Make sure that when you are purchasing a mini split unit that you buy a unit that is designated as DIY. This ensures that the refrigerant is already preloaded into the hose that connects the condenser and the head.
If you’re fairly new to ductless heat pumps, aka mini split HVAC systems, then see our comprehensive Mini Split Guide, Reviews and Costs. It is the ultimate Buying Guide for mini split systems with the goal of helping you choose a good fit for your application, whether a single-zone or multi-zone ductless system.
Single-Zone vs Multi-Zone Systems
Both have their place, but for DIY installation, we recommend using single-zone systems. While the equipment cost is higher for two to four single zone systems than for a dual zone or quad zone system, here is our thinking:
If installation doesn’t go well on one of the units – or if after installation one of the units fails down the road, you’ll still have the use of one or more mini split systems and will be able to stay warm or cool depending on the season.
If you’re having a pro install the equipment, then get multiple estimates and take their recommendation. In fact, even if you’re considering DIY, there’s no harm or cost in getting free installation estimates from the top installers in your area. No cost. No obligation. Good advice on the best system for your home. And you can compare DIY cost vs pro cost to see what your savings might really be.
Mini Split DIY Tools needed – To install the mini split unit there are not a lot of tools needed, and most of the tools are probably already in your possession. The following is a list of tools needed to complete the installation process:
- Adjustable wrench
- Hole saw
Materials needed – The following is a list of tools all the necessary materials, in addition to the tools listed above, needed to install the mini split you by yourself:
- Ductless mini-split system- this can be a single, dual, triple or a quad zone unit, depending on the needs of your house
- Condenser brackets or a cement pad
- Plastic or rubber condenser pad
- Plastic line set cover kit
How to Install a DIY Mini Split System
Here are the Steps for installation – Installing a DIY mini-split unit is something that can be done without hiring a professional HVAC technician. That’s the beauty of it, of course.
However, it isn’t the easiest project to tackle, but by following the steps listed below, it can be done. As long as you have the basic skills for electrical work, can work simple power tools, and are patient, this is a project that you can do!
Step 1: Choose the Right System (see our Guide): The very first step is to choose the mini-split unit you would like to install in your home. Depending on the square footage of the area that you want to heat and cool, you will need a single zone unit all the way up to a quad zone system.
Check the BTU’s of the system to make certain that it can handle the square footage needed. Each system will have a condenser that is located outside of the home and one or more air handlers or evaporators. Make sure that you don’t go too small with your mini-split system. Get enough air handlers to do the job. Obviously, a single zone system will be the easiest to install. The more zones that you need to cover, the more work it will take to install your mini-split unit.
Step 2: Get Power to the System: Running the electrical is the next step to properly install a mini-split unit. You can connect to an existing electrical line, but your best option is to run a new breaker line. The mini-split systems usually run on 120V or 220V. Make sure you check your unit to ensure that you are running the proper electrical lines to your mini-split unit. If you are not very familiar with electrical, you can contact your local electrical inspector. They can point you in the right direction and give you some useful advice. Another option is to hire the electrical out to a licensed electrician – which is a good idea if you don’t have experience installing a new electrical circuit and wiring.
Step 3: Condenser Bracket or Pad Installation: Next you have to prepare the area where you are going to place your condenser. This will be outside of the home and near the area where the air handler will be placed.
The two most popular options are to pour a concrete pad to mount the condenser on or to mount the condenser to a bracket connected to the house. A cement pad usually takes around six 80 pound bags of concrete, and a bracket can cost anywhere between $79-$200. If you decide to use a bracket, make sure you connect it relatively close to the air handler and that the bracket is very secure.
Step 4: Evaporator Bracket Installation: The indoor unit or air handler installation is the next step. First of all, it should be located on an exterior wall and at least six feet off the floor. It is also a good idea not to have it direct sunlight and in an area that might have furniture covering it.
Check the installation manual for your system to make sure that your indoor unit is not too close to the ceiling. This distance varies depending on the brand of unit you purchase. Locate the studs, using a stud finder, and mount the indoor unit bracket using the proper hardware supplied by the manufacturer. Also, use a level to ensure that your evaporator mount is level. Finally, make sure where you place your indoor unit is free from wires or pipes since you will need to drill a 2-3 inch hole through the wall to the outside.
Step 5: Creating a Hole for the Wiring and Refrigerant Lines and Drain Line: First, use a smaller bit and drill a starter or pilot hole. Next using a hole saw drill the proper diameter hole. Use the manufacturer’s recommended directions on where to drill and how big of hole is needed.
Step 6: Install the Lines, Etc. Next, run the line set. Uncoil the lines from the evaporator. The lines will be the refrigerant line, the drainage tubing, and the control wire. Use electrical tape to keep it together. Carefully feed the lines through the 2-3 inch hole.
Step 7: Evaporator Installation: After the line sets are run, you can mount the evaporator to the bracket inside the home. Simply follow the manufacturer directions on how to connect the evaporator to the bracket and then add any extra insulation to the area around the line set to ensure that there is as little heat loss as possible.
Step 8: Condensing Unit Installation: For best results, the condensing unit/outdoor unit should be located on a north or east exterior wall, and it must be close to the indoor air evaporator. As stated above, you can place your condenser on a cement pad or on a bracket. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that you have the proper clearance from the roofline and from the wall. You need to place the condenser on the rubber mat that is usually included in the entire mini-split system if it is going to rest on a concrete pad. The line set from this air evaporator to the condenser must be close to the home and as flush as possible.
Step 9: Refrigerant Line Set Installation: Next, connect the pre-charged refrigerant lines. Depending on the model or unit you choose to purchase, the directions will vary. Some refrigerant lines have a lever locking mechanism and other lines are threaded. Be very careful to not cut or puncture the lines, as refrigerant will leak – and then you’ll definitely be calling a pro to make a repair at a very high cost. Refrigerant can also cause damage to your skin.
Step 10: Install the Line Set Casing: One of the last steps is to cover your line set with some sort of metal, aluminum, or plastic casing. Many mini-split systems come with the added covers or you can create your own if they are not included.
Testing your DIY Mini Split
Once the indoor evaporator and the outdoor condenser is installed, the refrigerant, power, and drain lines are run, and the pre-charged refrigerant lines are connected to the indoor and outdoor units, you are ready to power on your mini-split system. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an HVAC technician to test or check to make sure everything is working and connected properly. This would probably cost between $80-$120 for a quick double check. Also, the electrical inspector can be used to ensure that all the electrical is up to code.
The hoses are connected, the power is run, the evaporator and the condenser are secure, and now it is time to turn on your mini split system and make sure everything is working properly. Most systems have remote control or you can connect the system to your smartphone. Turn on the mini-split system, set the temperature you require, and watch the system either cool or warm your home.
If your mini split system is not working, troubleshoot any possible problems: If you’re using a remote, are there batteries in it? Is the circuit turned on in the electrical panel? Is the unit set to AC instead of Off or Fan mode? If you cannot get your system working properly and troubleshooting isn’t helping, then you probably should call an HVAC technician to fix the problem.
How Much Can You Save with DIY Mini Split Installation?
Installing a mini split heat pump will make your home a more comfortable place to relax and enjoy life. Using the newest heat pump technology you can upgrade your home heating and cooling system at a relatively reasonable price. Traditional air conditioning systems can cost at least $3,000 and a furnace can also run around $2,500 to $4,000 installed.
A DIY mini split heat pump is both a heater and an air conditioning unit at around half the cost.
Installing the multi split system yourself will save you a lot of money and also give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will take an HVAC technician anywhere from 4-6 hours to install a single zone unit. You will pay at least $80 per hour for labor, so you will save at least $350-$500 dollars or more by doing the project yourself. A dual or multi zone unit installation will take the technician from 6-12 hours to finish the job, if not more. In this case you can save upwards of around $600 to $1,000 or more for just the labor costs of your mini split unit.
As you begin to plan your installation process, figure on spending at least two complete days of working on installing your mini split system, depending on your experience and your skills.
This YouTube video will also help you understand the entire process of installing a mini split system on your own. It’s a daunting task, but it is something you can do on your own, and improve your home while making it more comfortable, regardless of the season or temperature.