Is a Mini Air Conditioner Right for You?
Stay cool this summer, even if a conventional central air conditioning system - or a window unit - is out of the question. There are other options. There are two distinct type of units which are both referred to as "mini air conditioners." The first, and most common, is a ductless air conditioner system, and the second is a portable air conditioning unit.
Mini Split Air Conditioners: Ductless A/C
A ductless air conditioning systems does more than solve the problem of not having ducts; it also offers a few advantages over regular central air systems. Since it operates on zones, mini air conditioners offer homeowners the ability to set different zones to different temperatures. For example, if the kitchen, dining room and living room operate on one zone, it can be set to a cooler temperature than, say, an office area which may not be in use as often. Being able to regulate indoor climate saves money on electric bills, is less taxing to your system and is kinder to the environment.
Without ducts to blow air through and without an attached compressor, you might be wondering how such a system works. It’s simple. A compressor unit sits outside and a line for refrigerant, condensation and electrical runs between this unit and interior zone units. It is a lot like a miniature split-unit central air system, hence the name. Units are controlled by remote control.
Mini-split air conditioners offer homeowners a great deal of control. Central air cools an entire house to a specific temperature, but a mini A/C system allows each zone to be set individually for ultimate interior climate control and energy efficiency. Since they don’t rely on duct work, mini air conditioners are ideal for room additions, attic conversions, sunrooms and other spaces that may not be serviceable by a central air conditioning unit. Another advantage, particularly for room additions, is that units with heat pumps are also available.
The biggest disadvantage is price. A mini split air conditioner runs $1,500-$2,000 per 12,000 BTUs (or per ton), which will cool 450-550 square feet. This is twice as much as a window unit. They also need to be professionally placed and installed. A professional will be able to place units for maximum impact. Systems with one to four indoor zone units are available. The indoor units are long and slim and usually hung high on the wall. This is an eye sore to some people. New lines also run on the outside of your home.
Portable Air Conditioner Units
Aside from window units, which can pose a security issue as well as an eye sore, there is only one other kind of truly portable air conditioner. These are generally referred to as PACs, though some people refer to them as mini ACs. These are freestanding units that cool a roomapproximately as well as a window unit does. These units look a lot like dehumidifiers. They must be manually drained or drained out of a window using a window kit. Some units are self-evaporating and require no drainage.
When reading online reviews about portable air conditioner units, the biggest complaint was the noise and the cost. Expect to pay more for a portable unit than a window A/C. Portable units also require twice the amount of BTUs to cool the same size space.
Many people use portable, or mini, air conditioners in places that aren't serviced, or aren't serviced well, by central air, such as a garage, room addition or sunroom. Expect to pay a minimum of $400 for a basic unit and over $1,000 for a sophisticated one that featuresself-evaporation, an independent dehumidifier, a quality air filter, an adjustable thermostat and more.
If central air isn't an option and a homeowner association, apartment complex or historical society doesn't allow window units, homeowners and renters still have the option to stay cool at home in the summer with mini air conditioners.
Anne Burkley is a writer from central Pennsylvania. She specializes in marketing writing and feature articles on health and home improvement. Want to ask Anne something about her article? Sendher a message.