A friend of mine is approaching retirement. He has just a few years left and he is already making plans. One of these plans of his was to purchase a small cottage in the Ozarks. For those of you who aren’t from Kansas City, the Ozarks are a few hours south of here and are very similar to Appalachia. There are lots of forests, rivers, and hunting to be had. The place he purchased came with over thirty acres to play around with. The home though was rather small at only around twelve-hundred square feet. The home was also very old and did not have a central air conditioning system. There was an old window unit in the living room that did a mediocre job of cooling the home but it didn’t help for the winter months, it didn’t reach the bedrooms, and it needed to be replaced anyways.
He brought this up a few weeks ago when we were having a few and I told him to look into getting a ductless system. You see a ductless system can give you significantly more power then a standard window or mobile air conditioner. Along with the additional power it is much less of an eye sore. I didn’t see the old window unit that he had at his home but I can only imagine what it looked like. You’ve all seen them. Those old rusted looking units that look like they could fall at any moment. A ductless system mounts to your interior wall and to the outside of your home. You don’t lose a window. You don’t have to cut a huge hole in your wall to fit the wall unit. All you need is a three to four inch hole to fit the refrigerant lines through and you are good to go!
Personally, I am a big fan of ductless systems. Obviously, I am going to go with a central unit first if it’s possible, but if it’s not then I am going for the ductless. Yes they are more expensive but you are getting a better product too. In this article we are going to take an in-depth look at one of these ductless systems, MRCool Do-It-Yourself Smart Air Conditioner and Heater.
Please note that this will be a comprehensive review. I will try and cover everything including sizing requirements, installation, product features, the pros, and the cons. You can expect a lot of reading on your part but at the end you will definitely know what you are getting into and if this is the right product for you and your family.
Before You Buy
Ok folks so before we get into the features and the pros/cons of these air conditioners from MRCOOL I want to cover a few topics: Sizing and Installation. These sections are key for when you are shopping for a ductless system. The sizing allows you to accurately predict exactly what size air conditioner that you need and the install section will give you an idea of what to expect when the air conditioner arrives at your home.
Before you buy we need to understand how sizing in air conditioning system works. It is not as simple as just picking the biggest and baddest model on the market. If you purchase a unit that is rated to cool one-thousand square feet and you put it in your one-hundred and fifty square feet office your air conditioner is going to have difficulty extracting the humidity from the air as well as evenly distributing the cooler air. The end result will be hot and cool spots throughout the room. That isn’t even mentioning the increased monthly cost to run a much larger machine then you needed in the first place. This will leave you feeling frustrated due to the hot and cool spots as well as paying more money per month then you should be.
Now, if we do the inverse of this scenario and buy a smaller air conditioner for a much larger area your unit will be running constantly all day and night just trying to keep up by cooling the larger square footage. This will result in the room not being as cold as it should be as well as significantly increasing the energy bills for running your AC non-stop. Remember folks, air conditioners are supposed to hit a desired temperature, turn off, and then turn back on when the temperature begins to rise. If they are running constantly that means higher bills as well as quicker parts failure on the unit.
To understand air conditioner sizing you need to understand British Thermal Units, or BTUs. If you have already been looking online or in stores you have probably noticed that window air conditioners always have a BTU number in their description. BTUs are the traditional measurement unit of heat. In the air conditioning world BTUs are a measurement of the cooling capacity of your window air conditioner. The bigger the number of BTUs the more powerful and the higher cooling capacity of your A/C unit. As a standard measurement an air conditioner needs around thirty BTUs for each square foot of living space that you wish to cool. Using that standard measurement let’s do some match based off of the 24,000 BTU rating example we pulled from earlier.
24,000 / 30 = 800 square feet
To ensure that you are buying the right sized air conditioner for your room it is best to measure it. To get the square footage of your room measure the width and depth of your room and then multiply the numbers together to get your square footage. As an example if you have a ten foot by eleven foot room you have one-hundred and ten square foot.
There are also other considerations when looking at your room. Yes, the size of the room definitely matters but these other scenarios could have a play into what kind of air conditioner you should purchase such as is the room sunny all day? How many people will be in the room at a time? How tall is the ceiling? Is the room in the kitchen or other hot appliance? All of these are signs that you need to increase the BTUs for your air conditioner.
The MRCOOL Ductless Systems come in a variety of sizes. To give you a better idea of what square footage they all fall under we’ve broken it down for you below. Just keep in mind folks that if you have some of the exceptions we mentioned above that you will need to increase the BTUs required.
This product is marketed as a do-it-yourself project. While that is great and doing it yourself can save you a bundle when it comes to hiring a professional HVAC technician, you should know exactly what you are getting into before you purchase. Doing it yourself doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and if you guess your way through it then you not only risk voiding your warranty but you could also end up harming yourself or others when it comes to the electrical work. If you do wish to install the unit yourself then please continue reading on exactly what will need to be done.
First, the good news is that everything is included in the kit including a detailed installation manual. This manual can also be found at the bottom of this article under our ‘Important Link’s section if you wish to view an online copy. It should be noted that this kit does NOT come with exterior mounting brackets and superficial coverings. If you wish to go this route you will have to purchase these extra. The right brackets and coverings though can easily be found on Amazon by clicking here for the brackets and here for the coverings. The coverings are more aesthetic then anything, but they can provide an extra bit of protection to your lines. It is up to you if you want the extra expense or not.
Now, for the install there are four main sections that will have to be done. The first two are the easiest. When you order this product you will receive an indoor section and an outdoor section. The outside section can either be mounted against your home using support brackets or it can be installed at ground level as long as you create a completely level floor pad. Most folks opt for the floor pad option as it is overall easier to install this way and if you have to do maintenance on the unit down the road you will have much easier access. Creating the floor pad can be done with bricks, cinder blocks, or even your own concrete pad.
The inside unit will need to be mounted up against an exterior wall. Some folks have done interior walls, and while yes it is possible… I would not recommend it. Remember, that once the interior section is mounted you will need to connect the refrigerant pipes and the condensation line to the outside unit. This is why it makes sense to have them on the other side of the wall.
When mounting the interior unit be sure to mount it high up against the wall, close to the ceiling. This is done for two main reasons. The first is that the fan or blower is located at the bottom of the unit. So, the higher the unit is mounted in the room the more easily the air can be distributed. If you have it towards the bottom of the room then all your cold air is blowing up against the floor. The other reason is the condensation line. This is where the water will drain through when excess humidity is removed from your home. This line is gravity fed so if your unit is floor level that water will have nowhere to go.
Alright folks so now we have the easy parts covered. The next point, and a tricky point for a lot of folks, is feeding the refrigerant and condensation lines through your home and connecting them to the exterior section. In order to do this you will need to cut a three and a half inch hole in the wall nearby where you have chosen to mount your interior unit. This is where you will feed the lines. When planning this out you should note that the MRCOOL unit comes with twenty-five feet of refrigerant line. To some this amount of piping is a blessing and to others a cruse. If you only have about ten feet needed then you have to be creative and find a way to ‘hide’ the other fifteen feet.
This unit from MRCOOL comes precharged with refrigerant. What that means is that the system is ready to go and no vacuuming or charging of the system is required. While this is a great pro it can also be a detriment as you have to be extra careful when routing these refrigerant lines through the hole and to the outside unit. Make no mistake, this is the hardest part of the install. You can NOT bend the lines. You can NOT cut or modify the tubing. If any of this occurs and a crack or leak forms in the tubing then all of the refrigerant will leak out and you will have a useless machine. If this does happen then you need to identify the source of the leak, patch it, and then charge your system again with refrigerant. You will most likely need a HVAC professional’s help in this scenario. But, hopefully it doesn’t come to this and you are very careful with the piping.
Once the tubing has been routed through the hole and both sections have been mounted you are now ready to seal the three and a half inch hole we made earlier. A lot of folks used weather proof insulation. I like the spray foam that expands. Either way, you need to seal this hole up to prevent drafts, water, and anything else from getting in there.
Alright folks, the last section of the install is the electrical portion. The twelve-thousand BTU unit requires a one-hundred and ten connection whereas the larger sizes require a two-hundred and twenty volt connection. Please note that regardless of what size of ductless system you choose it will have to be hardwired to your circuit box either through a one-hundred and ten or a two-hundred and twenty volt connection. Now, I’ll be completely honest with you here folks, I do not have much electrical expertise and it would be wrong for me to steer you a certain way for the install. From my research though I have found that you need a fifteen amp breaker for the smaller twelve-thousand unit and a twenty amp breaker for the larger sizes. Now, as to how to install these and connect them I am not knowledgeable enough to guide you. If you are not familiar with how to do this then I would recommend reaching out to an electrician once you have the unit itself setup and ready to go. It is best not to guess with electrical work and if you do it wrong then you risk voiding your warranty… not to mention harming yourself. Electricity is no joke.
Once you have finished the electrical work and everything else is done it is recommended by the manufacturer to run the air conditioner for ten to fifteen minutes and monitor the system for leaks. If the air conditioner passes then run the heater for ten to fifteen minutes as well. Note that the heater may take longer for it to truly start up so it may be best to let it run for a half-hour or so just to ensure everything is working as it should be. For any further questions or concerns when it comes to installation please click here to be taken to the official Mr Cool’s installation instructions. This should answer any questions that you have BEFORE you purchase.
Now that we have the sizing and installation sections covered we can begin to look at exactly what these products from MRCOOL have to offer. The first and most important point here is to recognize the various modes that these units come with. Each mode is important and can help you in making your purchasing decision. These units come with an Auto mode, a Cool mode, a Fan mode, and a Dry mode (Dehumidifier). Let’s take a look at these:
- Cool – This is your air conditioning mode and can cool your home all the way down to sixty-two degrees. Although most folks prefer temperatures between sixty-eight to seventy degrees. This cool mode will work to cool your home even when outside temperatures range from five degrees to one-hundred and twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat – These units from MRCOOL also come with a full heating mode. What is most exciting about this feature though is that the heater’s BTUs are mostly aligned with the air conditioners BTUs. What I mean by this is that in other air conditioners/heater combos you see the air conditioner has a significantly higher BTU number then the heater. This results in a far less powerful heater and requires you to have supplemental heat in your home along with this heater. But, with these units from MRCOOL the heater is very close the air conditioner BTUs. This heater will also work at maximum capacity with temperatures as low as five degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below five degrees then the heater will work but it will see diminished capacity.
- Auto – The auto mode is pretty self explanatory. This is similar to most homes with a central system that have an auto mode. All this does is determine if the heater or air conditioner needs to be on. It will actively monitor the temperature in the room and turn one of these on to reach your desired temperature level. This is more of a hands off approach. I’ve never been a fan of auto myself. I like to have ‘heat’ mode in the winter and ‘cool’ mode in the summer, but that’s just my personal preference.
- Dry Mode – Dry mode is actually just a dehumidifier mode. This allows you to dehumidify your home without cooling your home. I’m not sure how often you would use this as the air conditioner itself is a dehumidifier as well and most of the time if you are trying to dehumidify then you needing to cool as well. This dehumidifier will work between the inside temperature range of fifty to ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Outside temperature range between thirty-two to one-hundred and twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fan – The fan mode is just that. It is a fan without any cooling or heating effects. This is just the blower of the interior running and circulating air. This may be great to have if you have a fire in the fireplace and don’t necessarily want the heater on as well. The fan will help circulate the warm air without kicking that heater on.
Along with your other basic modes that we mentioned above there are some other ancillary features that come with these Mr Cool air conditioners. These aren’t huge features but still good to know. The first is what’s known as the auto-restart. Let’s say for example it’s in the middle of summer and a bad storm rolls through the neighborhood and cuts power from your home. When power is restored at your home then your MRCOOL unit will turn back on and at the same settings it was at before. This is one less thing that you have to worry about resetting when your power comes back on.
Another neat feature is what’s known as ‘louver angle memory.’ What this means is that when your appliance is turned off and then turned back on it will automatically remember the angle of the louvers from when it was last shut off. This is similar to the power loss feature we mentioned above. It ensures consistency when powering on your air conditioner.
This next one will be very important for those of you who elect to install this product yourself. Remember how I said earlier that you had to be very careful with the refrigerant lines and that you were not to bend them? If worse comes to worse and you do get a leak in your system the MRCOOL unit will actually alert you of said leak. If a refrigerant leak is occurring you will get an ‘EC’ error message come up on the inside unit. As to how to find the leak that is a whole other story. I did an article on this topic a few years ago which can be found by clicking here.
This product from MRCOOL comes with a remote and built in WiFi. The WiFi allows you to connect your phone to the appliance through the MRCOOL application. From here you have your own personal remote on your phone that will allow you to adjust temperatures, modes, and any other settings you require. The remote gives you the same functions as the phone app does but is overall easier to operate.
There are two extra features though on the remote though that I want to point out. The first is what is known as the ‘Follow Me’ function. This option will actually have the MRCOOL appliance read the temperature in the room where the remote is. So, if you have the inside unit setup in your living room but the remote is in your kitchen then it will keep running until the desired temperature is reached within the kitchen. This is a handy feature as it will give you a degree of separation between the cold air blowing and the thermostat itself. Otherwise, you will have the thermostat right next to where the cold air is coming out.
The last feature I’ll mention here is what is known as ‘Sleep Mode.’ This sleep mode is only accessible through the remote. When this is turned on the product will slowly adjust the temperature up or down every hour depending on if it’s in cool or heat mode. It will hold these temperature for seven hours and when the time is up it will revert back to it’s previous programmed temperature. This is a great function for you folks who want to save on your energy bills.
A lot of the pros on this product we have already covered in our product feature section, so there may be some repetition here. The biggest pro on these MRCOOL products are the various modes and the capacity of these modes. What I mean by that is you have a fully functioning air conditioner and a fully functioning heater that can work in temperatures as low as five degrees and up to temperatures of one-hundred and twenty-two degrees. This product has you covered. The only exception I would say is that if you live in the far north and experience temperatures way below zero routinely throughout the year. Otherwise, this unit can handle whatever you throw at it.
The other big pro here is the warranty on the unit. These products come with a five year parts replacement warranty. Along with this you also get a seven year replacement warranty on the compressor. This keeps you covered in case of any your parts fail. The extra two years on the compressor is great as well as compressors are some of the most commonly failed parts when it comes to air conditioning. This warranty is much better then the competition. If you look at the Pioneer ductless system you will only find a two year parts warranty. Quite the difference if you ask me.
This warranty is NOT voided if you install this unit yourself. Remember folks, this is a do-it-yourself product. The only caveat here is that if you guess you way through the electrical work then you could void the warranty. If you are unsure on how to do the electrical connection then I would hire a professional to ensure you warranty stays in tact. For more on MRCOOL’s warranty click here to be taken to their official warranty page.
The last pro I want to mention here is the overall volume of the unit. For those of you who have experience with window units you will know just how loud they can get during operation. You will not have this problem with this ductless system. No, these units are extremely quiet. In fact many folks don’t even realize the machine is on. It is that quiet.
We are now ready for the cons of this ductless system. Before I get into this though I first want to state that overall this is a great product and the cons I mention below are similar to what you find with other ductless systems. The big con here, especially on this MRCOOL system, is the expense. These units are very expensive, especially compared to some of the competing lines like the Pioneer model we mentioned in our pros section. The difference though is that with the MRCOOL brand you are getting a fully functioning heater whereas with the Pioneer you don’t get that same function. You also have less heater operating temperature range with the Pioneer unit. So, while this is more expensive you are getting more product and a higher quality product.
The other big con here is the install. Now this can be said with any ductless system. Do not be fooled, these are not an easy install. You have to mount both units. You have to feed the lines through… and you have to create a three and a half inch hole in your exterior wall. On top of all of that you have to connect it directly to your circuit breaker. Do you feel comfortable with all of that? If so, then this won’t be a big deal at all. But, if you are not then you either may want to hire a professional to help with the install or purchase a window or mobile unit that is much easier to just plug-in and go. The problem with the window/mobile units though is that their capacity is much lower and they are an eyesore.
The last few cons I want to mention are somewhat minor but still deserve to be mentioned. Some folks have stated problems with leaking refrigerant. While this can be a huge problem and will cause your unit not to work… it is most likely caused by poor install. They most likely bent the pipes or did something else to cause a fracture in the pipes which caused the refrigerant to leak out. Just be careful during install and follow the directions carefully. If you do this then you shouldn’t have this problem.
Remember the ‘follow me’ function we mentioned earlier? There were a few reviews that stated this wasn’t working properly. I only saw this a few times during my research, but the complaint was that the follow me function would try to reach the desired temperature through heat and cool in a back and forth fashion. In other words, if the temperature was set to seventy-two then cool would kick on to get it down to seventy-two… but then it accidentally goes down to seventy-one, so then the heater kicks on to get it back to seventy-two and then that accidentally goes to seventy-three. And so on and so on. This didn’t seem to be a prevalent complaint though so I don’t know much stock I would put into this.
The last con here is that some of the ductless systems are what’s known as a multi-zone system. This means that you can have one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units to cool your home in different rooms. These MRCOOL systems are NOT multi-zone. You only have one indoor unit and that is all you can have. If you need more then one then you will have to purchase the entire machine again.
Alright folks so we have gone through sizing, installation, features, pros, cons, and everything else there is to possibly know about this product. Bottom line is that this is a great product and will definitely do its job of cooling your home, garage, loft, workshop, or whatever other area you are looking at this for. But, don’t just take my word for it. If we look at Amazon.com we can see that this MRCOOL product has over two-hundred reviews on it all with an average rating of four and a half stars. That is the equivalent of a ninety percent approval rating. It is a solid product. If you’d like to purchase this unit please click here to be taken to our Amazon partner.
One last point of note here is that we here at RefrigerantHQ are not responsible for the install of this unit. If you purchase this product the installation process will be solely on you or a hired professional. If you are unsure on what to do rather it be through routing the refrigerant lines or doing electrical work then it is always best practice to contact a professional. You know what they say, it is always better to be safe then sorry.
Thanks for reading and I hope this review was helpful,