Central Air Vs. Ductless Mini Split: Which A/C Is Best For You?

ductless mini split air conditioning systme

If you’re in the market for a new air conditioning system, then you’ve got 2 main options: central air or ductless mini-split. Both are better than a typical window unit, but the battle intensifies if you compare them side-by-side. Remember: there is no “right” or “wrong” answers here; it all comes down to your budget, your needs, and your preferences. Both central air and ductless systems have pros and cons.

To help you make the best choice possible, we’ll explain when you should opt for central air, and when you should go with ductless mini split.

Before we dive into the main benefits of each, let’s first define what separates one from the other.

The Difference Between Central Air & Ductless Mini Split Systems

The main difference between the 2 is that central air systems use ducts to cool your home, while mini split systems do not. Instead, mini split systems feed cold air to your home through fixed wall or recessed ceiling units. Other than these key factors, both types of a/c are quite similar. Both consist of a condenser, which sits on the outside of your home, and an evaporator, which sits inside the home.  Both systems pull warm air out while pushing cold air in simultaneously. The difference, again, is how air is fed and released.

Now that you understand what makes central air different from mini split, let’s explain why you might choose one over the other.

Choose Ductless Mini Split If…

  • Your home does not have existing ductwork. Without question, the cost of ductwork will make for a heftier upfront bill. Moreover, ductwork construction can be unwieldy in comparison. Tearing, repairing, and repainting walls are a big part of the process. To install a mini-split system, you just need to make a 3-inch hole in the wall to run the cable through. Since the process is much simpler, it costs less to install a mini-split system than it does to install ductwork.
  • You want individual zoning control. If you know that one area of your home gets much hotter than others, then zoning control may be a good idea. This will allow you to control the temperature of individual rooms or areas. While this can be done with central air, it’s cheaper to do with mini-split. This is because in order to implement it into a central air system, dampers must be installed inside the ducts.
  • You want a cooling system that doubles as a heating system. Again, central air systems have this capability too, but it’s often more expensive than what ductless systems can offer. Mini-split systems that offer heating functionality have a heat pump. This pump can bring warm air in when it gets cold outside. Furthermore, heat pumps are generally more efficient than furnaces, which means your heating bill could be lower as a result.
  • You are sensitive to noise. Ductless systems are the epitome of “as quiet as a mouse.” Even on its highest setting, you’ll barely hear it. This isn’t to say that central air systems can’t be quiet too–because they can–but with quality being equal, mini-split system generally come out as the quiet champ (pun intended).

As great as mini-split systems can be, there are circumstances better suited for central air.

Choose Central Air If…

  • You’ve got a big house. If your home is larger than 2,500 square feet, then get a central air conditioner. Ductless mini-split systems don’t typically produce enough power to cool large homes.
  • You have ductwork already. If you already have a system of ducts, then it makes more sense to go with a central air system.
  • You’d rather not see air conditioners in key rooms. Mini split units look similar to window units, except they are attached to the wall. As we mentioned before, you recessed units are an option (attached to the ceiling), but they are typically more expensive.


Still Can’t Decide? Call Arbor Energy. We’ll Help!

As we said before, one is not necessarily better than the other. It all depends on your needs. We know that this can be a hard decision to make, so feel free to give us a call. Our expert technicians have seen and done it all. We can help you pick the right kind of a/c system for your home. And guess what? We can install it for you too!