Central Cooling Systems vs Ductless Air Conditioning: Pros and Cons

various air conditioners from Bryant

Looking to upgrade your home’s cooling system? When it comes to keeping your home cool, homeowners have two common cooling system options to decide between: central cooling systems vs ductless air conditioning. 

A central cooling system treats air from a central location before distributing the cool air throughout your home through a series of ducts. As you might imagine by the name, ductless air conditioning systems don’t use any ductwork at all. Instead, they consist of an outdoor compressor which provides treated air to a connected indoor distributor which supplies cool air to the room in which it is located.

While knowing how each system works is great and all, when it comes time to invest in a new system the real answer homeowners want is “which one is right for me?” Determining which cooling system is right for you can be a confusing process with many different factors to consider. 

One of the best ways to figure out whether a central cooling systems vs ductless air conditioning is right for you is by understanding where their strengths and weaknesses lie before making the decision. Understanding the pros and cons of the two cooling systems will help you make the best, most informed decision, keeping you and your family cool with a system that works for you, your home, and your budget.    

Central Cooling System Benefits

Lower initial cost

While there are a range of different central cooling options available, on average a central cooling system is going to have a lower upfront investment. Central cooling systems require less equipment since air is treated and distributed from a single source instead of one system per room. Ductless mini-splits require a system in every room. Less equipment and less time and labor to install equals a typically lower upfront cost.

This is, of course, under the condition that your home has existing ductwork. If you are starting from scratch and need to install or redo your home’s ductwork as well, that is a whole different story. 

Takes up less space

Because central air doesn’t require a unit in each room, a central air system will require you to devout less space to your home’s cooling. Your system can live conveniently in your basement or in a storage closet all of its own and out of the way of your day-to-day life.  

Easily integrates with other systems

If you are one of the many families who want to maintain their home’s air purification against airborne allergens, irritants, and even illnesses, through filters, humidifiers, and/or dehumidifiers, many of these air purification systems can be integrated right into your central air system to treat your entire home. 

Central Cooling System Downsides

Higher operating costs

With central cooling systems, having ducts as your method of air distribution means you are going to have to maintain and care for them regularly. It is important to have your air ducts professionally cleaned every couple of years, alongside regular seasonal maintenance, to help limit the buildup of dust, dirt, and other debris that can impact your home’s air quality and cause issues with your system over time.

Basically, what it boils down to is that while the initial investment may be lower than a ductless cooling system, your maintenance and operating costs are going to be higher on average in the long term.

Less control

While central cooling systems are ideal for whole-home coverage and cooling, you do have significantly less control over the individual temperatures of each room. Duct issues like leaks and clogs or the lack of an adequate number of air return vents can cause inconsistencies in the comfort between rooms, causing some rooms to be hotter or colder than others.

Ductless Air Conditioning Benefits

Great efficiency

While there are many great, high-efficiency central cooling options available (some up to 50% more efficient than they were 40 years ago), on average ductless mini-splits typically run at a higher efficiency while cooling. Operating stronger without working harder and requiring extra power means you’ll likely save on cooling costs when you get your monthly energy bill.

Better room-to-room control

Because ductless cooling systems have a unit in every room, this cooling solution provides you the highest level of control to raise or lower the individual temperature of each and every room. This makes ductless systems ideal for a home with residents who have drastically different temperature preferences or with rooms that have a habit of getting too hot or too cold no matter what the thermostat is set to. 

Great for new home expansions

Ductless systems don’t require the installation or use of any existing ductwork (no duh). Because of that, ductless mini splits are often used as a cooling solution for folks who have recently done a new addition or expansion on their home. Installing ductwork can be a lengthy and expensive undertaking, and a ductless air conditioning system can help you avoid the investment during or after a remodel.    

Ductless Air Conditioning Downsides

Higher installation cost

While ductless air conditioning systems have lower operating costs due to their efficiency, the trade-off often comes in the upfront cost. Obviously, costs will vary regardless of whether it is a ductless system or a central cooling system depending on the quality or brand. However, on average, the installation cost of ductless systems is going to be higher.

A bit of an eye sore

If you are interested in maintaining a certain “look” in a room or are a little short on space, ductless air conditioners might throw you for a loop. Although they have a sleek design, they are far bulkier and take up more space than a simple vent cover, which can be a turn off for some homeowners.

Central Cooling Systems vs Ductless Air Conditioning: The Verdict

There are going to be certain advantages and trade-offs with every cooling system, so it is impossible to say one is better than the other when it comes to central cooling systems vs ductless air conditioning. The truth is, there isn’t really a “best solution,” instead you need to determine “the best solution for you.”

If you are ready to upgrade your cooling system to keep you and your family comfortable this summer but aren’t sure which solution is right for you, Hoosier Indoor Air can help! Let one of our trained technicians take a look at your current cooling system and arrangement and walk you through your options so you can make the best decision for your home, family, and budget.

Call 317-466-7437 today to schedule your appointment or learn more about central cooling systems vs ductless air conditioning and our financing options on new air conditioning systems here.

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