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Single VS Multi Zone: Which is right for me?

Single VS Multi Zone: Which is right for me?

Say you’ve decided to install a ductless mini split system. After weighing all the pros and cons, you’re convinced that this is your best cooling and heating option for your home. And you have the money, or maybe a solid credit score to back your financing deal for an HVAC purchase. Basically, you’re ready—even anxious—to invest on a ductless system and get the ball rolling right away. Everything seems to be going well and perfect, except that you’re in a little bit of quandary. You’re not sure which one to choose for your ductless mini split application: Should you go for a single-zone or opt for a multi-zone? 

What is Ductless Mini Split Zoned Cooling and Heating?

Zoned cooling and heating is a type of HVAC installation configuration where the home is divided into different zones. Each of these zones is a targeted space for climate control. While central air conditioning system can also be used for temperature zoning, the more innovative ductless mini split system is specifically designed for this type of application, making it the more conducive system for single-room or whole-home climate control.

How Does Zoned Cooling and Heating Work?

In zoned cooling and heating through ductless mini split system, the temperature in each zone is independently regulated and controlled via a designated thermostat or remote controller. This means that you can set different levels of temperature in different rooms or even decide to turn on or off the indoor unit in each room without any impact on the rest of the units. How many zones you designate and how many indoor units you will use throughout the home will really depend on the number of rooms or spaces that you need to heat or cool.

What are the Control Options?

As mentioned in the previous section, a designated thermostat and a remote controller can be used to control the climate in each zone. The remote controllers can either be handheld remote controller or wireless remote controller. Today, most of the highly advanced mini split models offer connectivity with smart mobile devices. This development now enables you to easily control your ductless mini split system directly from your smart phone, tablet, or any smart mobile device where a specific app is installed.

What are Your Zoning Options?

Zoned cooling and heating can be done in two ways—single-zone and multi-zone configurations.

What is Single-zone Cooling and Heating?

The single-zone cooling and heating is a 1:1 configuration, which means it is set up in a single room using a single ductless mini split system which consists of one indoor unit and one outdoor unit.

What is Multi-zone Cooling and Heating?

The multi-zone cooling and heating requires one compressor which is connected to two or more indoor units. The number of indoor units depends on the number of zones or rooms that you have targeted for cooling and heating. Typically, one compressor unit can be connected to up to eight air handlers or indoor units.

What are Your Outdoor Unit and Indoor Unit Choices?

The outdoor unit of a ductless system is basically just the compressor/condenser unit. All outdoor units may vary in capacities, but they generally all look the same. In contrast, the indoor units of a mini split system come in different styles, characteristics, and capabilities. While all are built for the same purpose, they are installed differently.

For the indoor unit, your choices include the wall-mounted which is set up on the wall; the horizontal-ducted which is normally concealed in a ceiling or below the floor; the ceiling-cassette that you can place discreetly even in a hard ceiling, the durable ducted air handler that you can practically place anywhere (even in cramped spaces); and the floor-mounted that is installed just a few inches from the floor.

What are the Main Differences between Single-zone and Multi-zone Cooling and Heating?

Aside from the number of indoor units required, single-zone and multi-zone configurations differ in the following:
  • Cost: 
    Understandably, multi-zone ductless system installation would cost you more than a single-zone application. The cost, of course, would come proportionately with the number of indoor units that correspond to the number of your home’s designated zones
  • Simplicity/Complexity of installation: 
    Ductless mini splits are easy to install. Comparatively, however, a single-zone system is much easier to set up than a multi-zone solution.
  • Requirement for additional materials or components: 
    A single-zone configuration would just typically require three basic main components—one outdoor unit, one indoor unit, and a refrigerant line set. A multi-zone application, on the other hand, would require you more combinations of these components depending on your specific cooling or heating requirements.

    When Does Single-zone Cooling and Heating Work Best?

    While conventional single-room HVAC systems, like room air conditioners for example, can be practical options in many ways, single-zone cooling and heating through ductless mini split system remains the best choice. That is, if you’re looking for higher efficiency, performance, and savings. This is in addition to the fact that traditional systems do not always work as well you’ve expected based on your specific requirements, expectations, and situations. In particular, single-zone cooling and heating using mini split works best in the following conditions:
    • When you are adding room to your home.
    • When you are converting an area of the house into a new functional space.
    • When you are constructing a new home or remodeling a house.
    • When you are upgrading or replacing a part of your old cooling and heating system.
    Why these given situations merit the need for single-zone cooling and heating via ductless system is due to two simple reasons:
    1. Ductwork is an issue.
    2. Energy-efficiency is a must.
    Let’s explain.

    Despite the many advancements in HVAC solutions, it can’t be denied that most of the cooling and heating issues that many households grapple with are directly caused by the limitations that are inherent to traditional, ducted systems. Luckily, the single-zone ductless systems provide a perfect workaround when you want to cool or heat a room where ductwork is not possible or cost-effective. Offering precise temperature control, your single-zone ductless system will enable you to effectively cool or heat any room (like garages, attics, basements, etc.) where ductwork is not present, can’t be installed, or expanding it might be too expensive, not practical, or just entirely not possible.

    When Does Multi-zone Cooling and Heating Work Best?

    Just like with the single-zone application, one of the main issues that multi-zone cooling and heating is related to temperature inconsistency, energy-inefficiencies, and other limitations that are associated with ducted systems. Specifically, here are the situations when multi-zone cooling and heating might be your best option:
    • Your home has two or more floors or levels.
    • Your home’s ducted system wouldn’t be able to accommodate (for cooling or heating) a few of the rooms in your house.
    • You live in an old house and installing a new ductwork is not an option or just not possible.
    • You are using a centralized HVAC system but the temperature inconsistencies are causing rift within your family due to different needs and preference, especially when it comes to temperature level.

    Essentially, effective climate control is one of the biggest reasons why multi-zone cooling and heating is your best choice for whole-home comfort. Through individual controllers for each unit inside the room, you will be able to set different temperatures for different rooms or turn on or off the system in any unoccupied room. This provides an excellent way to enhance your temperature comfort at home while earning substantial savings from lower energy consumption.

    What are the Benefits of Zoned Cooling and Heating?

    In view of the many cooling and heating challenges that we face with regard to traditional HVAC systems, zoned cooling and heating via mini split systems provide the following benefits: 
    • Precise Temperature Control: 
      Zoned cooling and heating enables you to effectively cool or heat a specific room, zone, or any space targeted for climate control whenever you want to and as as conveniently and as easily as possible.
    • Customized Comfort: 
      Zoned cooling and heating enables you to select the temperature for any room based on your specific needs or preference, which in effect, allows you to experience more personalized comfort
    • Powerful Cooling and Heating: 
      Ductless mini split systems are typically designed with advanced HVAC technology. When used for zoned cooling and heating, you can be assured of maximum comfort regardless of the type of installation.
    • Cost Savings: 
      Typical ductless mini split systems, consume less energy even when cooling or heating at full capacity and at a longer period than traditional systems. Using these systems also enables you to completely avoid the usual problems that are related to loss of cool or warm air. Additionally, mini splits have excellent level of energy efficiencies as attested by their high SEER and EER ratings as well as Energy Star certification. If you’re looking to really drastically reduce your utility bills and gain more savings in the long term, then choosing ductless units for zoned cooling and heating is a no-brainer decision.
    • Versatile Applications: 
      The lack of requirement for ductwork as well as the compact and unobtrusive design of mini split systems only make zoned cooling and heating the best option for your unique applications.

    Single-zone or Multi-zone: Which One is the Best Choice for Your Home?

    Choosing between single-zone and multi-zone is not a matter of finding which one is better. The truth is, everything is going to boil down to your specific needs, requirements, and situation.

    To be able to really determine the best choice for your home, you will have to consider a few factors, like the size of your room, the feasibility of installation, the cost, and many others. You also need to determine if any of your choice fits to the specific situations where single-zone or multi-zone heating might work best just as outlined in the previous sections.

    If you’re still finding it difficult to decide and you want to make sure that you’ll be able to make the right choice, it would not hurt if you seek the help of an HVAC professional. You can visit to have a look or select some of your best single-zone and multi-zone mini split options.

    Many of our systems are designed to be energy efficient, which may qualify many of them for rebates in your area. Our easy Rebate Finder will help you find rebates in your area and which products specifically qualify for those rebates.   

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