Central AC versus Ductless Split AC: Which one is right for me?

Mr. Slim Dmitrieva Mini Split Vancouver

It might now be time for you to look at choosing a new AC system or replacing an existing one. Settling on the right cooling solution for your home can be a confusing endeavor, particularly when it comes to central air conditioning systems versus ductless split air conditioning systems. The system you choose can impact on your bills and the environment, so which one do you go with? Here’s our take on the main differences and benefits of both.

Central air conditioning systems

With a central air conditioning system, an external condenser unit sits outside your home and an evaporator/air handler sits inside the home (generally above your furnace) and cools the air within your home. Coolant passes between the two units, carrying the heat from indoors to the outdoor unit where it is released. With a central air system, the cool air is sent through the air handler on your furnace into the ductwork using a fan, where it is then carried into the rest of the house.

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One of the most common ways to cool a home, a central air conditioner is integrated with your furnace system where it can make the most of the furnace filter and any additional air purifying equipment to help clean the air throughout your home.

Ductless split air conditioning systems

A ductless split air conditioning system is similar to a central air conditioner system and also consists of a condenser that sits outside the home and an evaporator/air handler that is placed inside the home. However, the ductless system uses a small conduit (slim cables) between the condenser and a box or unit on your wall, while no ductwork is involved and vents are not needed on the floor.

ductless ac

Ductless systems can also have more than one indoor unit, which are mounted on the wall, floor or even on the ceiling. Each unit cools the room in which it is installed, so you can set individual room temperatures using the separate unit controllers and they can be an effective way of cooling your home.

With two varied air conditioning systems, how will you know which one is right for you? There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to both.

So, what’s the verdict?

The main benefits of central AC include the fact that cooling can be provided to all rooms in a property, not just the select room that has the indoor unit present in it. If you have a large home, then the greater power and spread of a central AC system will pay off and provide better efficiency than a ductless system. If your home is smaller than 2,000 square feet or so, then ductless may be the right solution.

Central AC can also be a more cost effective solution than ductless AC – if you already have ductwork in your home, then it makes sense to stay with a central AC system, rather than switch to ductless. If you have no ductwork present in your home, then it will cost you less to install a ductless system, as the construction will be much less (you basically run cables through a hole in the wall).

A lot will also depend on how much you want to actually “see” your air conditioning system running through the house. When inside your home, a central AC system is basically invisible, as it uses the ductwork running under the floors and in the ceilings. A ductless system is more visible because you’ll either see a vent in the ceiling or a unit on the wall, even though they are generally slim and stylish units.

Another consideration is noise. Ductless systems tend to be quieter than central AC, which may make slightly more noise through the existing ductwork in your house. That said, much also depends on the particular system you buy, as some ductless systems are louder and some central systems can be quiet.

Other considerations include whether you want to be able to control temperatures in individual rooms (in which case, ductless rules supreme) and how much of a concern is energy efficiency (ductless systems are more energy efficient on balance, however, central AC can also run quite efficiently if the ductwork and installation of the system are of high quality, with good ductwork design and no air leakages).

The final thing to consider, and arguably the most important, is your budget. A good ductless AC can start at a couple of thousand dollars for a single unit and will go higher if you need multiple units around your home. A central AC system can be more expensive for a similar model, while lower efficiency versions will obviously end up being cheaper.

Whichever AC option you think you might prefer, it’s always good to talk to a local heating and cooling professional who can give you expert, fact-based advice, and provide recommendations on a system that will suit your particular home and needs. To get your new home AC system professionally installed today, talk to us at Ashton Service Group.

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