Ductless AC Buying Guide

Man on couch enjoying ductless cooling unit

Ductless air conditioning units are a great alternative to installing new ductwork in older homes, which can cost upwards of $5,000 for larger homes. While ductless AC units are more costly compared to central cooling systems, they are an effective way of saving on home’s energy costs, as they can be installed in specific areas. 

What Is a Ductless AC?

Conventional HVAC systems normally have indoor and outdoor units. The unit works through an outdoor cabinet, which is regarded as the “air conditioner,” along with a series of vents and ducts. The vents and ducts connect the AC to the furnace and the air handler for heating and cooling, respectively. Installing this system is costly as well as time and labor-intensive. Often, the ductwork is restrictive and prone to dirt and dust, which makes the unit noisy. Smaller homes and apartments may not even have the space required to host such a system.

Also referred to as mini-split air conditioning systems, ductless systems work in the same way as central systems, but the evaporator coil and fan in a ductless unit are housed in the same enclosure. They are referred to as ductless systems because they do not require ducts or vents to deliver hot or cold air.

Mini-split air conditioning units comprise the indoor evaporator/indoor air handling unit that delivers the conditioned air into a room, evaporators mounted on a ceiling or wall, and the outdoor condenser/compressor that powers the indoor evaporator and is responsible for the transfer of heated or cooled air into and out of the room. The indoor unit is connected directly to the outdoor compressor through a refrigerant line, suction tubing, a power cable, and a condensate drain line as opposed to a complex duct system. Due to the absence of ducts and vents, mini-split systems are not predisposed to pressure imbalances, heat gains, or air leaks that could negatively affect their performance or efficiency.

Who Should Get a Ductless Air Conditioning Unit?

While most homes are designed to handle a central system, some of them are not. You may need to get a ductless unit if you face any of the following scenarios:

  • If you live in an older home where installing or adding new ductwork would affect the house’s structural integrity
  • If your living space is large enough that some areas are hotter than others
  • If you have expanded your living space and the new space is too far from the existing ductwork
  • If you have converted your basement or attic into livable space but temperatures are still uncomfortable
  • If your energy bills are unreasonably high

How to Buy the Best Ductless AC

While ductless mini-split systems have been in the market for quite some time, they are far from gaining as much popularity as traditional AC units. It is imperative to choose the right product for your heating and cooling needs, and for that, you will need a knowledgeable installer. 

  • Compare Ductless AC Cost

As mentioned, ductless AC systems cost more than central systems. A simple but reliable model could cost up to $1,000 with higher-end models as much as $5,000. Multi-zone units usually cost more compared to their single-zone counterparts. Additional features such as a winter heat pump can add to the overall costs. Be sure to consult your local HVAC professional for accurate installation by getting an in-home estimate. 

  • Consider the Cooling Area and the Unit’s Power

You need to establish whether you are looking into cooling single or multiple living spaces in your home. This will help you determine whether you should purchase a single- or multi-zone system. For a unit to be effective, the number of BTUs (British Thermal Units) has to be appropriate for the room’s square footage. Single-zone mini-splits start at 6,000 BTU for a 150-250 square foot room. Multi-zone units can have as much as 60,000 BTU, as is the case with YMGI’s Five-Zone unit. BTU measures the energy needed to raise one pound of water to one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. In this context, it measures how fast a unit can cool a space. Keep in mind that the higher the BTU number, the larger space the unit is able to cool. 

  • Consider the Types of Ductless Acs

There are two main types of ductless air conditioning systems: single-zone and multi-zone units. Single-zone units can only cool or heat a single space within your house, while a multi-zone system can condition 2-6 rooms. Multi-zone units are made to overcome temperature inconsistencies in the house through temperature zoning. Essentially, they feature an innovative climate control system that divides your home into different zones for effective heating and cooling. Multi-zone units offer you personalized comfort, significant energy savings, and better control over your cooling system. However, installation costs are higher compared to single-zone units. 

  • Energy Efficiency

Most ductless units produced today are Energy Star certified. Only cooling the room you intend to be in also helps keep energy consumption and costs low. Before settling on a unit, make sure you check its SEER rating. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) is the computed ratio of an AC’s cooling output over a typical season divided by the energy used in watt hours. The higher this rating is, the lower its energy consumption. 

  • Read Ductless AC Reviews

Reviews afford you some first-hand experience of how a unit works along with the unit’s efficiency rating, manufacturer’s warranty information, and comparisons with similar units. Reading these reviews ensure you purchase the ideal unit for your living space. 

  • Extra Features

Depending on the climatic conditions of the area you live in, you may need additional features such as a dehumidifier function, remote control, reusable filters, or a programmable timer. As this is a significant investment, you may need to choose one that has a warranty. This ensures that minor or major repairs will be taken care of. Under some warranties, the whole unit may be replaced if it proves faulty. 

Selecting an appropriate air conditioning unit should boil down to what gives you comfort and what’s within your budget. Before settling on one, make sure you talk to an HVAC professional. Some states offer perks in the form of rebates, particularly if your unit has heat pumps. 

Ductless AC Brands

  • Pioneer Ductless ACs

Pioneer is an established and well-known brand that has provided quality ductless ACs for years. Pioneer offers a wide range of ductless ACs to meet different needs and requirements. In terms of capacity, the ACs have capacities of between 9000-48000 BTU. When it comes to mounting, you can choose a ceiling, floor, or wall-mounted appliance.

The Pioneer WYS series, in particular, the Pioneer WYS012-17, is a good buy. The Pioneer WYS012-17 will cost you $768 with installation and placement costs affecting the final cost. This mini-split AC is easy to install and features a heat pump. It is also precharged and delivers a maximum efficiency of 17.2 SEER. This unit also features quiet operation, making it great for home and light commercial use. Buyers benefit from free tech support and five-year coverage on the compressor.

  • Senville Ductless ACs

Senville ACs feature mini-split, multi-zone, and portable ACs. The ductless ACs from this brand are some of the most advanced and high-end units on the market. Some of the popular Senville brands include the SENL-24CD 24000 BTU, SENL/09CD 9000 BTU, and the SENL/12CD 12000 BTU.

The SENL-24CD 24000 BTU is the most popular and costs an average of $1,099 for the unit alone. For this price, you will get an appliance with a four-in-one design that includes air conditioning, dehumidifier, heating, and fan functions. This unit also features Inverter Technology, ensuring efficient and powerful climate control, and Whisper Technology that supports quiet operation, making it perfect for bedrooms, living rooms, and commercial applications. Energy star certification and SEER ratings as high as 17 let you create a comfortable home environment without having to worry about higher energy costs. Multidirectional air vents promote air circulation while remote control capability ensures convenient operation. This Senville unit carries a two-year warranty on parts and a five-year warranty on the compressor.

  • Classic America Ductless Mini-Split Inverter AC

Classic America offers a wide range of high-performance, value-oriented ACs. The manufacturer integrates the latest innovations in its products and leverages technology, so you can operate your unit efficiently. 

The ductless mini-split inverter AC sells for around $700. For this price, you get a unit with a cooling capacity of 12000 BTU that delivers efficient, powerful, and dependable performance. This AC boasts impressive features including automatic air swing, timer function, sleep function, auto-restart, a three-speed fan, and an anti-freeze pipe sensor. The appliance also has a wireless remote control that lets you operate it conveniently. Automated temperature mode and independent zone control allow you to change the temperature depending on your needs. In terms of efficiency, the Classic America AC delivers up to 16 SEER.

  • MRCOOL DIY Ductless ACs

MRCOOL has highly efficient and easy-to-install air conditioning systems perfect for DIY projects. These ACs can be controlled from an Android or iPhone app and deliver reliable comfort when the weather heats up, making them a smart and economical choice. The great compressor quality ensures durable performance for a comfortable home.

The MRCOOL DIY 36000 BTU works great in rooms with high ceilings, which is not possible with most of the mini-split models in the market. You also get an AC with built-in Wi-Fi that allows you to change the unit’s settings through a mobile phone app. The system is easy to install, eliminating the need to call a technician to do the installation for you. The quiet operation ensures you enjoy a peaceful atmosphere whenever the unit is running. An intelligent inverter system and BTU rate of 36000 ensure even temperature control. With the inverter system, you can change the temperature depending on your choices.

This ductless AC carries a five-year warranty on all parts to the original registered user, a seven-year warranty on the compressor, and a one-year warranty on the remote control unit.

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How I Created My Own She-Shed – Reader Story

Did you update your bathroom? Revamp your kitchen? Install new flooring? We would love to share your project, big or small! Send us what you did and our editorial team will consider it for our “My Fresh Home” series, which will be published every Thursday. Check out our submission instructions at the bottom of the page.

Today we want to share a story from TPG reader Krissy, who built her own she-shed in her backyard:

The over-sized shed in our backyard that was made over into a home office.

My husband would likely die if he read that headline, especially because he is using our new she-shed too. We should really call it a “We-shed.” This is the story of how we turned our over-sized shed into an amazing work space for two!

Why do we need a she-shed?

This project all came about when we found out we were expecting our third child.  While absolutely thrilled with this news, it meant that our 4 bedroom home no longer included a home office. During my maternity leave, my husband took a new job and his commute changed from taking the train into the city to sitting on our bed working from his computer. I also work from home and have been doing so for about two years. When maternity leave was up, and I needed to reclaim the bedroom as my office, we thought that this house might not work for us anymore. 

We considered a couple of options for our home office. This included everything from buying a new house-not in the budget, to renting an expensive office space, to converting our garage into an office. Then one day I said what about our shed?  When we bought our house two years ago, it came with a huge shed used by the previous owner as a woodworking space. We literally only used it to store a lawn mower and a canoe, so we thought this may be a viable option. The shed already had electricity, and we thought it would only need heat and a WiFi signal to be all set. If only it were that easy!

Manland in the fall.

Prior to this, my husband had initially claimed this shed and its land as his own and called it ‘Manland.’ Since the kids play area took over our basement, he had no man cave space to claim for himself. So he moved to the wood near our shed and built a fire pit area. He strung some lights, added some Adirondack chairs and made a really cozy little campground dubbed “Manland.” This space stayed Manland for about 2 months and now has been turned into our We-Shed…with a cozy fire pit for s’mores breaks.

Laying the plans to build a she-shed

The minimal interior of the shed allowed us to determine its viability as an office pretty easily.

Deciding to convert our shed into a home office was the easy part; figuring out IF we could convert it took a lot more work.  Living in the Northeast, our weather conditions played a big role on the development of our shed. If you live in San Diego or any other comfortable 74 degree location, you may be able to skip the insulation and heating/cooling portion of this process. Here in Pittsburgh, PA, we knew insulation and heat was a must. 

Creating a comfortable space

We added insulation to the walls, ceiling and beneath the floor boards to keep the external elements outside.

To determine if the shed could be a warm and comfortable space in the dead of winter, we hired a contractor to come out and check out our space. It was easy to figure out what we needed to do because the space was just framing, no drywall or really anything but the bare bones of a structure. The contractor recommended that we add insulation to the walls and ceiling to protect from the exterior elements. He also ripped up the plywood floorboards and added a water barrier to protect the floors from the bare ground below. This would ensure warmth but also serve as a moisture barrier. On top of the barrier he laid more insulation before adding new floor boards.

It’s starting to come together. The shiplap paneling is getting installed.

Because a shed is more exposed to the elements, we opted for wood paneling walls vs. sheets of drywall. This would also help to protect against moisture. Now I’m sure when you think wood paneling you are thinking your grandfather’s 1970’s television den, but paneling has come a long way people! Perhaps you have been living under a rock and aren’t familiar with the term “shiplap,” but thanks to the influence of Joanna Gaines we fell in love with the white shiplap look. So that is exactly what we selected.  (PS taking three kids to Home Depot to pick out your She-Shed materials isn’t exactly an enjoyable way to spend a morning.)

Three kids in Home Depot, not a relaxing way to spend a Saturday.

At Home Depot we also selected our floor covering. Now if you thought paneling was dated, wait for this term… VINYL. I promise, this was a great option for our space and like wood paneling it’s evolved a lot since that 1980’s kitchen look we all remember. The vinyl comes on a big roll 12 ft wide and cut to whatever length you need.  Our space is an 11 foot box, so this meant we wouldn’t have any seems in our floor, another way to protect from moisture. It was also super affordable.

Vinyl has come a long way since my childhood 1980’s kitchen.

Power, internet and flipping the switch

We really thought that insulating and making the shed feel comfortable would be the extent of our work. When our contractor came out to inspect what we were working with, however, we learned that we needed to add some additional elements. I mentioned earlier that there was electricity to the shed, but the voltage was too low to power all of our office equipment and we needed to beef up our panel with the necessary voltage.  Unfortunately, the conduit that ran the power from our house to the shed was too small to hold the additional wire. This meant we needed to retrench our yard.

Thanks to the new wiring run up to the shed, we have a TV that we can use indoors as well as outdoors.

We had our friend who runs a landscaping business rent out the necessary equipment to dig an 18 inch deep trench in our yard the 120 feet from our house to the shed.  Luckily we knew that we had a fairly large gas line buried in our back yard so we made sure to reach out through 411 to have the team come out and mark where the line was.  To be sure we didn’t cut this line, we hand dug the trench in this area. After we dug the trench we were able to run a new conduit to the shed with the appropriate power needed as well as the lines needed to have ethernet, cable and phone service in the shed. My husband was thrilled with this addition because it mean he could have a television in Manland.  Football and firepits all fall long!

The additional power capacity was an added expense and something that we didn’t really anticipate, but was necessary to make the space function for our needs. The trench and electrician work nearly doubled our initial budget. This did not make me happy at the time, but I can now say I’m so happy we did it the right way.

All the little details

We have walls, floors, baseboard heat and lights… it’s looking like an office!

We are still in the midst of adding details to make the office shed feel really comfortable, but here are some of the things we’ve done so far to make it workable. We added two matching desks from IKEA.  We already had one desk so we added another and put them right beside each other to allow us to make the best use of our space. This also allows us to enjoy the sunshine that comes through our screen door. Come summer we will have to think through ways to keep our space cool (an HVAC unit was not in the budget at this time), but having a screen door should allow for some nice breezes. Speaking of temperature, we added two baseboard heating systems. These run off electricity and keep the space super warm. We keep them on all day to make sure the space is super comfortable as soon as we arrive every morning.

Screen door added for extra sunlight and a warm summer breeze.

We also added LED can lights that have various colors of brightness. Sometimes LED lighting can be too white, almost like fluorescent lights, so we like that we can adjust the softness of these lights to make sure the lighting is just right.  We also added a place to put our shoes, hang our coats and wipe our feet so that we don’t trek mud, dirt and moisture into the space. We are in the midst of hanging whiteboards and bulletin boards and hope to add some art to the space to punch up the color.

Cost and evaluation of our shed renovation

Desks and computers are in and the space has been fully functional for about a month.

All in we spent nearly $9,000 to renovate, rewire, insulate and furnish our shed office. It’s way more then we had hoped to spend, our original budget was $6,000, but totally worth it. The space has been a huge boost to our productivity and has allowed us a space to escape for work.  Oftentimes, when you work from home it’s hard to separate work and home life.  Having this separate space has really allowed us to leave our work in the office shed at the end of the day to come back down to our house and enjoy our lives with our little family.

How to Submit User Stories

1: Include “My Fresh Home Project” in the subject line. Then, in the body of the email, please provide an explanation of why you chose to do the project, an outline of steps you took to get it done, and any advice for readers considering similar projects. Make sure to include your name and any before/after images you have! 

2: Email your story to [email protected]. (note: link)

And that’s it! Easy, right? If selected, your story will be shared as an article on Freshome!

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What You Need to Know to Prepare for a Move

moving 1

The excitement of moving into your new dream home takes a back burner, temporarily, to the overwhelming feeling of anxiety that packing up the contents your home and moving them all to another location. There is so much involved with a move – so many moving pieces that must be organized accordingly. We hope this guide will help so that you can feel at peace with the process and enjoy your move.


Organization is the key

Being organized is the best thing that you can do to ensure a smooth, flawless move. It’s important to make lists of everything that needs to be done – this includes purchasing packing supplies, packing itself, interviewing movers and securing a date. Make lists for your lists, if need be. Make lists of rooms and items to pack and be sure to keep them in a very secure location. Will you need to hire a cleaning crew to clean your home once it’s empty?

Will you need to hire a cleaning crew for your new location prior to your arrival? Will you be moving from one home to the other on the same day or will you need to arrange for a place to stay for a night or two. Do you have pets that have special needs? Do you have young children? If necessary call the electric company, water company and phone company to have these utilities turned on and put in your name.

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Get rid of unwanted goods

There’s nothing more annoying than unpacking unwanted and unused items. Nevermind the expense wasted on moving these items. Before you move purge your closets, drawers, cabinets, attics, basements and garages. Donate your items to charitable causes. Toss them in the garbage. Pass items off to friends as hand-me downs. Have a tag sale (or garage, or yard sale – whatever you call them in your area.) List them on eBay or Craig’s list. Just get rid of anything you don’t use and don’t foresee using. You will feel so much better when you do, especially when it comes to unpacking!

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Research your moving company

All moving companies are not alike. They differ in many ways. Interview various companies to learn about their fees and their policies. Moving is very expensive.  How much more will it be for them to pack your belongings for you? Discuss with them how much it would cost to pack some, but not all of your belongings.

Ask about their insurance policies and their protocol for storing your possessions in their trucks overnight.  Ask questions, as many as you have. Do they charge per box, per hour, by distance? Get it in writing. Whatever you agree to must be documented in writing. You have a lot at stake.




Packing is the most mundane, most dreaded chore. It’s also the most overwhelming and the most intimidating. Take baby steps. If you have time to plan, the more time you allow to get your packing done, the better. The worst thing you could do is to save it all for the last minute. If you can afford to and would prefer to hire the movers to pack for you, then your stresses will be cut in half. But this is a very expensive proposal. You may want to have the movers packs some items – perhaps your more valuable, fragile items such as artwork, china, silver coffee service. They’re trained to pack well and safely. These items, if packed by the moving company will also be insured. You, then can pack the rest.

Start off by packing up the least used items. Save the items that get used the most for last. Keep very detailed lists of what you’ve packed into each box. This will make unpacking so much easier. Mark each box well. Mark each box on all sides. List the name of the room the box belongs in, and put a number on each box. So therefore, in the Living Room you will have Box 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, the dining room table, chairs and the buffet. You will have one master list for each box, with the contents. This too will make unpacking easier, allowing you to know exactly what is in each box. I highly recommend NOT labeling the contents directly onto each box.

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Packing Supplies

You’ll need packing tape. Lots and lots of packing tape. More than you will ever imagine. Don’t skimp and buy discount here. You want a good packing tape that won’t tear or shred or stick to the roll. You’ll tape your boxes and re-tape and re-tape them. We don’t want the bottoms falling out now, do we? You’ll need bubble wrap, packing paper or newspaper, scissors, bold black markers such as Sharpies and boxes – lots and lots of boxes. When purchasing your boxes do shop around. If you purchase them from your moving company it is likely you will pay a small fortune.

Check out the boxes at self-serve moving companies and office supply stores. Go to your local liquor store. Not only will you welcome a nice stiff drink at the end of the day but there is always an abundance of boxes here that are only going to get tossed anyhow. Think “green” and reuse some of these boxes. Also contact your Realtor or local real estate company. Likely they will know of someone who has just moved and eager to get their moving boxes off their hands. When you move, do the same. Let’s help one another out and keep these boxes out of the landfills!

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Don’t overlook your pets

Pets are very sensitive to moving. They are creatures of comforts and like their known home base. Make this new transition as easy for them as you can. In a well marked box, keep all your pet’s supplies together – toys, beds, medications and anything he will need. Make sure food and snacks or treats are easily accessible, as well as lead, collar and water dish. Help your pet acclimate to the new location -sights and smells, while ensuring there is plenty that he is familiar with. Many pets often run away from new homes in search for their old ones. Keep all external doors closed, and if necessary, locked. If you cannot be in your new home that first night, be sure to have a plan for your pet that includes a place to stay if he can’t be with you.

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Comfort your Children

Involve your children in the moving process. Show them their new home, walk through it and the grounds. Let them have a say in what they might like their bedrooms to look like. Let them get familiar with the house’s floor plan and property. Why not have a picnic lunch there one day? Children love to feel involved and a part of the process. Like pets, they too can feel a sense of homesickness for their previous home. It is therefore important to pack the things that matter to them – their favorite stuffed animals, pajamas, blankets, even a few of their toys.


Pack a suitcase

Pack as though you are going away for a night or two. Have the most important and essential items together in this suitcase – clothes, medicine and toiletries, for example. This way, should you need anything you won’t have to rifle through box after box after box.

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Have an unpacking plan

So you made it. You had everything packed up, loaded into the trucks and unpacked. As if you’re not already exhausted – now you need to unpack everything. Much in the way you had a packing plan, you need an unpacking plan. Thank goodness for those lists you made while you were packing – they will help you greatly in the unpacking process!

Start with what you need first. Start with the rooms that will be used first. Bedrooms – both master and childrens –  take priority here. Have the beds set up and made so that you have someplace comfortable to go to and crash at the end of the day. Have towels placed in bathrooms and your toiletries in place so you can wash up at the end of the day.

Unless you’ve arranged with your cable, internet or satellite provider ahead of time, you may not have a television to watch at the end of the day. Make sure lamps and reading lights are unpacked so you can read in bed… or on the couch… as you make your way around the sea of boxes.

The next most important room would be the kitchen. Start by unpacking pots and pans… tea kettles, coffee makers… the items you will be needing most. You’ll need items for food prep, plates, cups and glasses. Once the most important items have been put away, you can either continue with the rest of the kitchen or move on. I would suggest continuing with the rest of the kitchen – unless, of course, you plan on doing any work to the space. Then it would be wise to take out and use only the essentials.  Once the bedrooms and kitchens are unpacked you can go at your own pace. I would strongly suggest not to move on to the next room unless the one you are working on is all done. If you go back and forth you are more likely to take a longer time unpacking…

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