Central vs. Ductless Air Conditioning


Both central and ductless air conditioning systems can achieve home comfort. Homeowners often face a decision of which option to choose when replacing their HVAC system. From cost to maintenance to the appearance of each, there are a few considerations. Below, we’ll look at how these different AC systems compare to help decide what’s right for your home.

Central Air Conditioning

In a central AC system, air is conditioned at a centralized location and distributed to and from rooms via ductwork. Cooled air is delivered via supply ducts and registers. As it circulates, it gradually warms up, and then enters return ducts. A central air conditioning system is designed to cool or heat your entire home. However, it has significant maintenance requirements, from changing filters to tune-ups, to air duct cleaning.

Ductless Air Conditioning

Ductless systems are similar to central ACs in that there’s an outdoor compressor. However, it is linked by conduits to indoor air handlers serving individual rooms. Coolant circulates between the outdoor and indoor units to transport heat. This setup is often used in older buildings and is highly efficient. In addition to cooling, a ductless system can be reversed to absorb heat from outside and distribute it indoors.

Factors to Consider

Both are effective means of air conditioning. The most suitable choice generally comes down to what is right for your home. Now we’ll look at individual factors that can determine which is best, including:

  • Installation: A central air conditioning system, on average, takes about a week to install. It can be even longer if you need new ductwork, which requires breaking apart sections of walls and ceilings, then repairing them. Ducts can take up basement, attic, or closet space. 

But if you don’t have ductwork, a mini-split can be easier and more affordable to install. The conduit requires drilling a 3-inch hole in the wall; the refrigerant line, condensate drain, suction tubing, and power cable all run through here. Installing all major components takes just a day or two.

  • Costs: Ductless systems cost more to install compared to central units, but mini-splits are generally more efficient and less expensive to operate. They also typically require fewer expenditures for maintenance and repair. But if you’re looking for lower installation costs, a central AC is the way to go.
  • Aesthetics: A central AC is practically invisible from inside your home. There aren’t any components that take up wall space. On the other hand, a ductless system requires installing air handlers in each room. These are typically slim but don’t always fit depending on the size and configuration of the space. However, there are options such as more stylish units, depending on the manufacturer, and units that fit above ceilings that vent into the room.
  • Size of Your Home: If you have a larger home (2,500 square feet or more), chances are you have room for ductwork, and a central AC system will do. Ductless systems often aren’t powerful enough for large homes. However, if your home is less than 2,000 square feet, a ductless system may be the right choice.
  • Energy Efficiency: The efficiency of a central AC system is dependent on the quality, condition, and installation of ductwork. Poorly designed ductwork or improper sealing can reduce efficiency and comfort. Also, consider the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). Central systems peak at about 21 SEER while ductless systems go up to 27 SEER. Plus, they save on having to warm/cool rooms you don’t use.
  • Zoning: Not everyone needs zoning control. But both central and ductless mini-split systems are capable of zoning. With a central AC system, you can achieve zoning by upgrading ductwork and installing dampers. Ductless systems are inherently designed to ensure each individual room is the temperature you want it to be.
  • Noise Factor: Central AC systems generate a little noise as air passes through ducts and blows into rooms. You may hear major components running as well. Ductless air conditioning is generally quieter although this depends on the type and brand you install.
  • Maintenance: Central air conditioning systems require more maintenance, although they often come with longer warranties and comprehensive service plans. But with a mini-split, you don’t have to test for ductwork problems or deal with cleaning, sealing, or insulating ducts.
  • Longevity: The average lifespan of a central AC is 12 to 15 years. Mini-splits, while more expensive upfront, can last up to 20 years and are more efficient, making long-term savings possible.

Contact Fetch-A-Tech

We specialize in installing ductless mini-split air conditioners. While we can provide a traditional central AC system, our certified technicians can help you further understand the benefits of ductless air conditioning, including price, efficiency, and control. Customers throughout Las Vegas depend on us to install, repair, and maintain their HVAC systems. To get started, schedule service online, book an appointment on the web, or call 702-710-6466 today!

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