A Quick Guide to Mini-Split Air Handlers

A Quick Guide to Mini-Split Air Handlers

If you’re shopping for a ductless mini-split, you already know these small-but-mighty HVAC systems provide a comfort solution for many home applications–a room addition, a climate-controlled workshop or other flex space, or a bedroom that is always too hot or too cold. Once you have determined the size (capacity) of the mini-split system you need (check out our Ductless Mini-Split System Selector or reach out to one of our HVAC experts for help), it’s time to think about what type of air handler(s) will best suit your needs.

The Top 5 Air Handler Types

When it comes to air handlers (the indoor portion of the mini-split system), there are five main types to choose from. Your choice of air handler will impact performance, aesthetics, and budget. 

1 The Wall Mount

The standard wall-mounted air handler is the most common type and most popular option for our customers. It is typically the easiest to install, the most efficient, and generally the most economical choice. 

wall-mounted air handler mounted in room

These units are designed to be mounted about six feet above the floor and at least six inches below the ceiling. They are most commonly (and most easily) installed on an exterior wall but can also be mounted on an interior wall. Wall-mounted air handlers have a sleek profile and modern look. These units draw air in through vents at the top and release conditioned air directly into your space through louvers at the bottom.

2 The Ceiling Cassette

The ceiling cassette has proved to be our second most popular type of air handler, despite its higher upfront cost. Its popularity is likely due to its discreet appearance, which resembles a traditional ducted vent cover or grille. 

ceiling cassette style air handler

For those who either don’t have the wall space to accommodate a wall-mounted unit or want the body of the air handler to be hidden from view, the ceiling cassette provides an ideal solution. Install one of these units in a drop ceiling or nestle it in-between the ceiling joists. 

Ceiling cassettes are high-efficiency units on par with wall mounts. If installed in the center of a room, a ceiling cassette can better mix the air due to air disbursement in four directions.

3 The Low Wall

Low wall air handlers mount on the wall at or just above floor level. They have a low profile (slimmer than some wall mount styles), and some customers prefer the look of low wall units over the standard wall mount.

low wall air handler mounted near floor level

The image above shows how airflow in a low wall unit reverses direction in heating and cooling modes. In heating mode, warm air enters the room from the bottom of the unit for better heat distribution. In cooling mode, conditioned air blows from the top.

Low wall air handlers make a great choice when a higher wall placement is not an option, for example, when the ceiling height is lower than 7½ feet. A low wall unit may be the best option for an A-frame house, a finished attic, or a living area above the garage.

4 The Wall/Ceiling or Floor/Ceiling

Floor/ceiling (also called wall/ceiling) air handlers are similar to the low wall style in that they can be mounted to the wall at or near floor level. This makes them another good option for short wall applications. However, wall/ceiling units are more versatile because they can be alternately suspended from the ceiling in a horizontal position.

wall/ceiling style air handler mounted two ways

Floor/ceiling units are a good choice for those wanting to free up floor space or those with no wall space to spare. Note that, unlike the ceiling cassette, the body of the wall/ceiling air handler will hang down approximately 9 inches from the ceiling, making it visible in the space. When aesthetics is not a primary concern, the tradeoff is a lower price on these units compared to the ceiling cassette.  

5 The Concealed Duct

The last type of air handler for your ductless mini-split system is the concealed duct. But wait a minute–a ducted ductless mini-split? You heard us right. The concealed or hidden duct mini-split is an overlooked style that offers several advantages. But first, let’s take a look at how these units work.

concealed duct air handler installed above ceiling

Concealed duct air handlers can be installed above the ceiling, in an attic; below the floor, in a basement or crawl space; or behind a soffit. As such, they provide maximum flexibility for challenging applications. Attach flexible ducting, and the unit can heat and cool multiple rooms and provide a more even distribution of air within the home. 

Those with more than one space to heat or cool can save money with a concealed duct system. Because it utilizes just one air handler, it will cost less than a multi-zone system with two or three air handlers. 

Lastly, a concealed duct system is the most hidden of all air handler types; you will not see it at all in your space. The only visible part of the system is the air vent covers, which are the typical size and type found in traditional ducted HVAC systems.

Have Questions? We Can Help!

We hope this article has clarified the options available to you when choosing an air handler for your mini-split system. For more information or questions about your project, help is at your fingertips. Call, email, or LiveChat with an HVAC expert at Alpine today!

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