Mini-Split Fit Guide: Single Zone or Multi-Zone?

  • May 6, 2024
  • By MR COOL

You’ve decided the best option to keep your space comfortable is a MRCOOL® mini-split system, but now you aren’t sure if a single zone or multi-zone unit is the best fit for your needs.

It might seem like all you need to ask yourself is how many rooms you want to heat and cool with your mini-split system, but there are a few other factors you should consider. Let’s start by covering some basics. 

How Do Mini-Splits Work?

The main components of a mini-split consist of an outdoor condenser and one or more indoor air handlers. When in heating mode, the condenser absorbs heat to send inside via the refrigerant where the air handler releases and disperses that heat throughout the room. In cooling mode this process occurs in reverse, as heat is absorbed from indoors and moved outside. The air handler uses those gasses to change the temperature and ventilates cold or heated air into your space.

Basically, a mini-split heating and cooling system moves heat energy around instead of producing it. Mini-splits don’t require expensive ductwork and are more efficient.

You might already know how a mini-split works, because you’ve decided a MRCOOL® mini-split is the solution for you. The next step in finding the ideal heating and cooling solution is to decide if you want one or more than one indoor unit. As you’ve likely figured out, a mini-split with one indoor unit is single zone, while a mini-split with two or more indoor units is multi-zone

Think of zones as different rooms in your house or office. The kitchen is one zone. A home office is one zone. The family room  is also, you guessed it, one zone. 

Our multi-zone mini-split systems can support up to five separate zones. 

Benefits of a Single Zone Mini-Split

A single zone ductless system is the most straightforward HVAC option for managing the comfort of a room. This type of appliance uses one condenser, one air handler, a line set, a communication cable, and a condensate drain line.

Benefits of choosing a single zone system include:

  • Lower initial cost: Installing this type of mini-split is simpler, which means the initial purchase cost and installation fee is less. If you opt for a DIY® unit, single zone systems require less time and consideration to install. 
  • Energy efficiency: Since single zone mini-splits are one-to-one, they minimize energy usage and provide the most optimized performance, making them the most efficient choice for a single space. 
  • Lower carbon footprint: Single zone units are excellent for people who are climate conscious.
  • Easier maintenance: Our single zone mini-splits are built with easy to clean filters that keep them running efficiently.

You might think with all these benefits, a single zone is clearly the winner. Before making your decision, let’s go over the benefits of the second option, a multi-zone mini-split.

Benefits of a Multi-Zone Mini-Split

The function and operation of a multi-zone mini-split are very similar to a single zone unit. Ductless multi-zone mini-splits use the same components. The only difference is that they require multiple air handlers, line sets, and other accessories.

Multi-zone mini-splits offer reliable performance and allow you to customize how each space feels with only one outdoor condenser unit. Other benefits include:

  • Controlled, customized environment: You can tailor the air temperature of each zone of a multi-zone system to your personal desire. For example, your kitchen might get extra hot when baking goodies or cooking dinner in peak summer months. With a multi-zone cooling system, you have the flexibility to adjust the temperature so that one room can be made cooler than others in your house, ensuring that individuals in different areas aren’t subjected to uncomfortably cold temperatures.
  • Fewer outdoor units: If you have limited outdoor space, a multi-zone unit serves a wider area with only one outdoor condenser. 
  • Eliminate wasted energy: You can turn off or significantly limit the heat and air for rooms that are empty most of the day.

Let’s go through some scenarios for each mini-split option to better understand which ductless HVAC system will serve you best.

When to Choose a Single Zone System

  • You are adding on to an existing structure. Add-ons typically aren’t connected to existing HVAC systems. An excellent option to heat, cool, and ventilate new construction is to install a single-zone mini-split. 
  • You’re renovating your space. Renovations may not fit with your current heat and air system. To avoid costly reconfiguration you can install a single-zone mini-split to manage the comfort in tandem with your current HVAC. 
  • You don’t want to use a window unit. Many homeowners have a garage or workshop outside their house. Instead of using a bulky window unit, install a single zone system so you can continue opening windows on those perfect spring days.
  • You have one space that needs extra climate control. Maybe you have an attic that is underserved with your current system and gets too hot. Install a single-zone mini-split to better control the temperature and protect heat sensitive items stored in the extra space.
  • Your space is on the small side. Even with multiple rooms, small cabins or tiny houses might only need a single-zone system to stay comfortable year round as long as there are fans for adequate airflow. Make sure to check the capacity of the single-zone system to ensure it fits your needs. 

When to Choose Multi-Zone

  • Your building has multiple floors. We all know heat rises. Keep your upstairs cool without freezing the main level by installing a multi-zone system that allows you to make temperature adjustments per level or room. 
  • You live in an old or historic home. Older homes can pose a challenge when new ductwork is required to keep you and your loved ones comfortable. Instead opt to install a multi-zone mini-split. It’s less invasive than running ducts through the walls in every room. 
  • You have rooms that go mostly unused. Be more energy efficient and save money on your utilities by installing a multi-zone unit that allows you to turn off or significantly reduce the temperature control in rooms that aren’t used often, such as storage areas or formal sitting rooms. 

You need to customize the climate for sleeping spaces. Different people can want or require a specific temperature to fall asleep. Comfortable to one person might be freezing to another. Keep everyone well rested and happy by getting personalized, custom climate control with a multi-zone HVAC system.

Which Mini-Split Is Right For You?

Ultimately, you should consider cost, building requirements, space allotment, and other situational factors to determine whether a single zone or multi-zone mini-split is the best option for your needs. 

If you are looking for more guidance, we are pleased to bring you the MRCOOL® Configurator, a tool to help you determine which mini-split set is right for you and your space. 

We’re dedicated to helping you find the perfect fit because your comfort is important to us.

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