Ductless vs. Central Air Conditioners for Homes

Ductless vs. Central Air Conditioners for Homes

Ductless air conditioners and central air conditioners are both popular types of AC units. Some homeowners prefer the zoning control and easy installation of ductless air conditioners, while others prefer the quality air filtration and inconspicuousness of a central AC unit. There are many things to consider when deciding to upgrade your HVAC system

Understanding both types of AC units is important to finding something right for you and your home, especially since they differ in many ways. Read on to learn an overview of ductless air conditioners and central air conditioners, and how they differ, to help you make the right choice for your home.

What is a Ductless Air Conditioning System?

To know who wins the ductless AC versus central AC debate in your home, you need to first understand their key differences. A ductless air conditioning system is fairly simple: it has no ductwork. Many older homes were built without ductwork and use a ductless air conditioning system to cool the air, but that doesn’t mean ductless air conditioners are outdated.

Whether your home is old, you’re adding on a new room to your home that needs AC, or you’re renovating an existing space and want to add custom climate control, ductless AC units may be the perfect fit for you.

The most basic ductless air conditioning system is a ductless mini split system. It includes an indoor and outdoor unit that are connected with refrigerant tubing and electrical wiring. Usually the indoor unit is wall mounted, designed to provide heating or cooling to a specific area or room of a home. Otherwise, they use the same process for cooling and heating as a central air conditioning system.

What is Central Air Conditioning?

A central air conditioning system is one where the air is cooled at a central location, then it is distributed throughout your home using ductwork and fans. Central air conditioning systems utilize refrigerant to get the air in your home cool, and the unit operates using three main parts: a condenser, compressor, and evaporator coils.

The condenser and compressor are both located on the outdoor section of the central air conditioning unit, and they work in a loop with the evaporator coils to pull hot air in, run it by the refrigerant, and then send the cold air through your ductwork and vents.

How Do Ductless and Central AC Differ?

The main difference between ductless and central AC systems is the former is able to operate without any ductwork, and the latter needs ductwork to operate. But that’s not the only difference to consider. Here are more differences to keep in mind for central air versus ductless AC units. 


Ductless systems win in the area of easy installation. Due to their compact size and ability to run without ductwork, ductless air conditioners are easier to install than central air conditioning systems—especially if your home doesn’t already have ductwork installed.

Size of Home

H do ductless and central AC compare when considering the size of your home? If you have a smaller home with only a few rooms, a ductless air conditioning system will work effectively and efficiently, but if you have a large home, a central AC system is best. Ductless air conditioners aren’t efficient for larger homes.

Noise Level

Ductless air conditioners are quieter than central air conditioners for many reasons. The condenser unit is smaller and located away from the home to help minimize the noise inside the house. In central air conditioners, the ducts often echo which amplifies the sounds.


Because of the differences between ductless AC versus central AC, you can assume there are cost differences. The cost can vary widely depending on the size of your home and the type of unit you choose.

The average cost of a central air conditioner for a 1,800 sq. ft. home is typically $3,000 to $4,000, a price that doesn’t include the cost of installation—which tends to be around $2,000. This doesn’t including the ducts, which are usually $10 per linear foot.

Ductless air conditioners average $1,800 per unit, though for an 1,800 sq. ft. home, you’ll need one that can handle up to four zones. It may be as much as $4,000. Talk with your HVAC professional to determine the cost for your AC installation.

Energy Efficiency

It’s important to consider energy efficiency differences when comparing central and ductless air. For central air conditioners, you can lose a lot of the cooled air through imperfections in the ductwork. Ductless systems are significantly more efficient than central air conditioners because their tubing doesn’t allow for any air leakage. 

Resale Value

Adding air conditioning to a home that previously didn’t have any can add value to your home and make it far easier to sell. Additionally, a brand new AC unit can increase the value of your home. While ductless air conditioning systems are growing in popularity, home buyers often prefer to see a central air conditioning system. Talk with your HVAC professional to get a better idea of how your AC unit may increase the value of your home.


If you want an air conditioning unit that isn’t easily visible, a central air conditioner will suit you better because they are usually inconspicuous. Ductless air conditioners tend to be wall mounted, meaning they are fully visible in a room, unlike central units which tend to be in a closet or basement.

Air Filtration

Air filtration is an important topic when comparing ductless air conditioning versus central air. Central air conditioners do a much better job of recirculating and filtering your air than ductless air conditioners do, so if air filtration is your priority, you should consider a central air condition system.

Zoning Control

Since ductless mini-split systems are typically wall-mounted in different rooms of your home, they offer an impressive feature: zoning control. Central air systems regulate the air in your home to be the same temperature, so if having different temperatures in different rooms is important to you, you may want to go with a ductless system.

Which is Right For You?

Always choose carefully when selecting an AC unit for your home, even with two good options like ductless and central air conditioners. While central air systems may be harder to install, they offer better air filtration, are out of the way, and do better with larger homes. 

On the other hand, ductless AC systems offer energy efficiency for smaller homes, low noise levels, and amazing zoning control.

John C. Flood can help you figure out the best AC system for your home and handle the installation process. Schedule a service with us online to get your AC installation underway.

The post Ductless vs. Central Air Conditioners for Homes appeared first on John C. Flood.

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