Homeowners looking for alternatives to conventional HVAC equipment might consider installing mini splits. Ductless mini splits can maximize a building’s energy performance while providing many heating and cooling benefits.
These air-source heat pumps rely on an interior air-handling unit to work alongside an exterior compressor. The indoor unit typically hangs at the top of an interior wall. However effective, some homeowners might find exposed mini splits unattractive.
It’s true: manufacturers design these units for heating and cooling performance, not aesthetic appeal. So is it possible to have a hidden ductless mini split? Read on to find out.
Can Mini Splits Be Hidden?
Conventional HVAC equipment cools, heats, and ventilates a building via built-in ducts. This architectural design means that the system responsible for keeping the air comfortable operates out of sight.
Ductless mini splits are not so invisible. The interior components vary in size depending on the model. But they generally measure around three feet wide, one foot tall, and nine inches deep.
The covering of these units is almost always a white casing, the bottom front of which has air vents.
A mini split looks like an appliance, not a work of art. Some people might not notice these units. After all, we don’t notice power lines when walking down the street. But for some homeowners, wall-mounted mini splits are an eyesore.
Good news: yes, you can hide your mini split.
A later section will outline possible ways to hide and disguise mini-split units. But first, consider a few pointers for a successful installation.
Ductless mini splits depend on airflow. Without careful consideration, hiding a mini split could easily disrupt this crucial function.
Also, even if you can control your unit remotely, you will occasionally need to access the mini split for filter cleaning and repairs.
The last thing you want to do is impede function while solving an aesthetic problem. So if your mini split concealment solution could block airflow, you might want to consider a different tactic.
Does The Unit Have to Be on an Outside Wall? (More Options to Hide)
The short answer to this question is no. However, you can install a ductless mini split on an interior or exterior wall.
(Need a quick refresher? An exterior wall is any wall that has one side outdoors. Also called an outside wall, they support the building’s roof and floors. An interior wall divides rooms and is located entirely within the building. Interior walls can be either load-bearing or non-load bearing.)
The mini split does not require venting, eliminating the need to place it on an outside wall.
A mini split functions using an indoor and outdoor component. The indoor unit weighs between 30 to 50 pounds. Interior walls will be able to carry this weight. That said, you’ll still want to select a solid location on the wall for your installation project.
To reiterate: when selecting a wall for a mini split, the most important thing to consider is unobstructed airflow.
How to Hide A Ductless Mini Split: 4-Methods
How you hide, a ductless mini split will depend on several factors. Of course, the machine’s ability to perform needs to be the chief concern, but you can also consider factors such as wall availability, air sealing ability, and the room’s visual design.
This section outlines a few methods for hiding or disguising the mini split’s interior component.
1.) Covering the Unit
The most obvious way to hide the interior component of a mini split is to cover it; however, this method can obstruct crucial airflow if not correctly installed.
Fully removable covers are a good option if you only use your mini split for a small portion of the year. These covers let you hide your unit completely, exposing it only when necessary – maximizing appearance and performance.
Some manufacturers make floor units in addition to wall-mounted units. If you have a floor unit, use the concept of an old-fashioned radiator cover. As long as the cover contains enough slots or holes for airflow, this cover will hide your mini split without significantly lowering the unit’s performance.
You can install a mini split low on a wall, but the unit’s proximity to the floor might interfere with the system’s airflow. If you want to take that risk, mount the wall unit a foot and a half above the floor, then install a console table above the mini split.
Another option is to cover the unit with easily moveable art, such as a tapestry. Using brackets and painted dowel rods, extend the point of installation beyond the mini split unit.
Attach hooks to the fabric and then hang them onto the dowel rod. This tapestry will double as a curtain, allowing you to hide the mini split when you’re not using it.
LG’s Artcool Gallery unit takes this concept a step further. The front of this mini split acts as a picture frame, allowing you to change the displayed art or photo to match your room’s interior design.
2.) Built In Shelves
Many interior designers suggest installing a mini split into a built-in shelving unit. This approach is stylish for DIY experts and homeowners with larger budgets. In addition, it will allow you to install a lattice panel across the section of the shelf containing the mini split – obscuring but not obstructing the unit.
Alternatively, you can get away with using just one shelf. Install the unit high on the interior wall, then add a 12-inch-deep shelf immediately below the unit. Place small, unobtrusive knickknacks on this shelf. This curated clutter will obscure the mini split without blocking airflow.
When using a shelf to minimize a mini split’s appearance, try to align the unit with pre-existing vertical elements on the wall. Matching shelf dimensions to unit dimensions will aid the illusion of intentionality. In addition, the continuation of lines will help blend the unit into the wall’s overall appearance.
3.) Location, Location, Location
Where you locate a mini split impacts its performance, but location can also significantly impact how much you do or do not notice the appliance.
Consider which wall you see first as you walk into the room. Which walls are points of visual focus? Installing the mini split on a wall facing away from the entrance or main seating area will help limit noticeability.
Or, consider hiding the mini split in plain sight. A television will always draw focus, so try hanging a mini split on the wall opposite this screen. (Some people even install mini splits above their entertainment system. However, this creates a risk of condensation leaking on the wires.)
Nooks and soffits are popular places to hang mini splits. In some cases, however, these cut-off areas can limit the unit’s effectiveness.
It is also possible to recess the mini split in a, so long as you maintain several inches of clearance on every side. When done correctly, recessing the unit can minimize the side profile without impacting airflow, but you might find that this cavity might attract more attention than a regularly mounted wall unit.
Some manufacturers such as Mitsubishi now produce mini split cassettes which you can recess into the ceiling. These ceiling mounts will limit the unit’s visibility. However, this installation can introduce air sealing issues, reduce the unit’s performance, and increase the overall project cost.
4.) Embrace a New Aesthetic
If you were looking for an excuse to pivot your interior design aesthetic from mid-century modern to urban brutalism, installing a mini split could be the perfect opportunity.
For example, a white unit might look right at home in an all-white, modernist room. Or, if you’re open to experimentation, deliberately juxtapose traditional elements with contemporary fixtures.
These stark stylizations aren’t for everyone. But even if your taste is more traditional, there are ways you can style a room to minimize the visual affront of a mini split.
Think about color. Most indoor mini splits are white. Therefore, placing a white unit on a lightly colored wall will attract less notice than installing the mini split on a dark wall.
Having a white unit doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t paint the room in vibrant colors. Not only can bright white trim make wall colors pop, but it can also make the white wall unit look intentional rather than an ugly scar.
You can find some wall unit models available in matte black. For example, if you have a darkly painted room, a black unit might blend in better than a white mini split. Or take the opportunity to paint a bold, dark accent wall.
All this talk about painting might tempt you to paint the mini split unit itself. Unfortunately, while this might be technically possible, this sort of tampering will most likely void the appliance’s warranty.
Benefits of Concealed Mini Split Systems
Most buildings that rely on mini split HVAC systems will use ductless units. However, you can install mini split technology within a ducted system.
A ducted mini split provides the visual benefit of concealing your building’s heating and cooling system. But using a ducted system can also provide performance benefits.
A ducted system offers increased economy; a single mini split unit can heat, cool, and ventilate multiple rooms. Conversely, a ductless mini split unit will only heat or cool the room in which it is located.
Ducts also help disperse airflow velocity. Wall-hanging units blow air from one vent. This simplistic air disbursement can cause discomfort, blasting nearby occupants with cold or hot air. Ducted units are also much quieter than ductless units.
Ducted mini splits are also better at reducing air pollutants, with filters available at a high MERV rating.
With all of the benefits concealed mini split systems offer, the decision between systems might seem easy.
Budget is the major thing to consider when installing a ducted mini split system. Installing this system will incur more upfront costs than installing a wall-mounted mini split. That said, the ducted system can save you money over the long term.
Tips for Installing a Hidden Ductless Mini Split System
Ready to maximize comfort and minimize undesirable visuals? Before you install and conceal a ductless mini split, remember these final tips:
- Don’t block airflow. Hiding an ugly unit is not worth compromising that unit’s performance.
- Keep filters easily accessible for cleaning.
- Don’t install mini splits above electronics as condensation can occur.
- Placing a mini split above a window could minimize its performance. Windows are a common place where energy is lost. (Locating the mini split above a doorway might cause similar problems, to a lesser extent.)
- If you want to place the mini split unit low on the wall, consider getting a floor unit specifically designed to achieve proper airflow from the ground.
Whether you’re using a mini split for cooling or heating, don’t sweat about hiding it. Chances are, seeing this appliance in your living room will become as normal as seeing a refrigerator in your kitchen.