What is the Difference Between Ductless vs. Ducted Air Conditioning Systems?
If you are building or remodeling a home, or simply want to add a cooling system to an existing home, you may be wondering about the various options and which one is best for your situation. Most people are familiar with central air conditioning (also called ducted air conditioning), but you may be less familiar with ductless air conditioning (also called a ductless mini-split system).
Here’s an overview of both types.
Ducted air conditioning unit (or central air conditioning)
As the name implies, a ducted air conditioning unit uses air ducts and vents to distribute the cooled air throughout the home and return air to the system. Typically the ducts are used for both cooling and heating your home. The main unit of the air conditioner is installed outside (although sometimes it is mounted on the roof or in the attic) so it doesn’t take up living space. It sits on a concrete pad and connects to the ducts and the HVAC system.
Ductless air conditioning unit (or ductless mini-split system)
Ductless systems use an air handler unit that is mounted on the wall or ceiling, rather than air ducts, to deliver cooled air. They are energy efficient because air is not lost traveling through ducts to each room. However, depending on the size of your home, you may need to install more than one. In this way, they can also be used to cool specific areas or even to supplement central air systems.
Which Type of Air Conditioner Is Right for Your Home?
When a ducted air conditioning unit may be the best option:
A ducted air conditioning unit may be preferable if you already have ducts in your home for a forced air heating system. In that case, installation is just a matter of hooking up the new air conditioner unit to the existing ducts, making it an affordable option that can be installed quickly.
Ducted systems are preferable if airflow is a concern, as they are designed to circulate air. Ducted systems are virtually invisible because the ducts are hidden behind walls and the unit is outside, so they are a good choice if aesthetics are a concern.
Ducted systems may be simpler and less expensive to maintain because there is only one unit.
When a ductless air conditioning unit may be the best option:
Ductless air conditioning units are much easier and less expensive to install in homes that don’t already have ducts since the units go right in the wall or ceiling. Ductwork is expensive and complicated to install because it involves running the ducts from room to room and cutting holes in walls, floors and ceilings. In some cases, there may not even be enough room to install ducts. A ductless unit may also be preferable if you are removing the ducts during a renovation, or if you are building an addition and don’t want to add ducts and upgrade your current HVAC system.
Rooms can be independently controlled with separate air handlers, saving energy and arguments over temperature control.
Start with a qualified installer
Whichever system you choose, proper design and installation is the key to having an air conditioner that functions properly, efficiently and lasts a long time. Hire a trained HVAC professional to design and install your system.