Central vs. Ductless AC: Which is Right For You?

If you’re in the market for an air conditioning system, you’ve likely heard quite a bit about ductless and central air conditioners. Whether you need heating and cooling for new construction or are looking to replace your current HVAC system, you may be wondering which kind of system is right for you. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each.

Central Air Conditioners

Central ACs are the most common kind of cooling system, and you’re likely pretty familiar with how they work. A central AC unit in your home cools the air and blows it through the ductwork, distributing it evenly throughout every room of your house.

Pros

Central AC units are popular because they have a lower initial cost and their design and size range allow them to cool large areas. The centralized design also means that these AC systems work well with whole-home air quality products — you can control everything from one place.

Cons

While ductwork provides a centralized, comprehensive air conditioning experience, installing and maintaining air ducts is like having a whole other appliance on your hands. It can be expensive to repair and maintain them, and problems that go unnoticed can significantly affect the performance of the entire system. In addition, centralized cooling means your AC settings become “one size fits all,” limiting your zoning capabilities. This means that you have to cool your entire home the same way at all times, preventing you from not cooling an area of the home that’s not in use and causing inefficiencies.

Ductless Air Conditioners

Ductless air conditioning systems work just like the name implies — without ductwork. Instead, these smaller wall-mounted units directly cool the space they are in using the same process as central air conditioners. This alternative design comes with a variety of pros and cons.

Pros

The absence of ductwork means your ductless system will never lose energy through air ducts, making ductless ACs highly efficient. They’ll even save you money over time by cutting down your bills with their energy efficiency. Plus, they’re cheaper and easier to maintain and last years longer than central systems!

Ductless systems also have built-in zoning capabilities because it takes multiple units to cool a home. Mini-split systems, which connect multiple indoor units to one outdoor unit, make cooling even a large home possible. Zoning allows versatile and more efficient cooling — one room can be set at 70 degrees while another can be set to 78 degrees.

Cons

As with all appliances, you get what you pay for with ductless systems. Installing a ductless mini-split system in your home will cost more upfront than a central system, so you’ll have to invest more to reap the benefits. In addition, some homeowners don’t like that they can see their AC units in every room, especially if they’re used to the discreet vents of a central system.

Because each ductless unit is responsible for its own area of the house, there’s little to no opportunity for whole-home air quality systems. There will also be more air filters that need to be changed/cleaned every couple of months.

Which one is right for you?

Both kinds of AC systems come with their own advantages and disadvantages, but the choice between which one is “better” ultimately depends on your budget and needs. We generally don’t recommend switching between the two if you’re replacing your system because making the necessary changes to accommodate a new design — installing ductwork, rewiring and more — gets expensive quickly.

However, ductless AC installation is often the perfect solution for situations where unique cooling needs come into play. These include:

  • Finished garages
  • Cooling attics and basements
  • Home add-ons
  • Guesthouses
  • Historic homes that can’t accommodate ductwork
  • Supplementing a central AC system

Ultimately, your decision comes down to which system design better fits your specific cooling needs. If you’re still unsure of whether central or ductless AC is right for you, the experts at Champion AC are here to help. 

Contact us today for more information about both kinds of systems!