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Ductless vs. Central Air Conditioners: Pros and Cons

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What's in the article?

Both the ductless air conditioning system and the central air conditioning system can cool multiple large spaces at a time, and are popular choices for landed properties, commercial offices, or buildings. These units are suitable for a variety of spaces, but have their own pros and cons that you may want to consider before purchasing your cooling system:

What is a Central Air Conditioning System?

Central air conditioning systems work with the existing ductwork in the space to provide cool air throughout multiple zones from a single point. They require professional installation and maintenance, but provide efficient heating and cooling throughout the home. Central air conditioners are some of the most efficient types of AC units in the market.


Energy Efficiency

While central air conditioning systems seem like energy-guzzling units, inverter technology and smart capabilities have created models that optimize energy usage. The result is a central air system that is efficient, cost-effective, and energy-saving. Traditional central air systems and conventional units, however, may incur high operating costs.

Cooling Power

Central air conditioning units are known for their powerful cooling capacities. A central air system averages 50,000 BTU, which is enough to cool 1,500 square feet of space. Larger, more powerful compressors can bring the BTU rating up to 120,000 to 150,000 BTU, which is enough to adequately cool 4,500 square feet of space.



A central air conditioner can set you back between $4,000 to $8,000 for the unit alone, and the costs increase with installations, maintenance, and repair costs that can bring the price up to $10,000 or more. Central air conditioning is not a budget-friendly type of cooling system.


Central air conditioning systems are not easy to maintain, and you will most likely require the services of professional HVAC technicians to clean, diagnose, and repair your system at any given time during its usage. Unlike ductless systems, central air conditioning is connected to the ductwork, which makes cleaning the air filters challenging to do DIY.

Space Requirements

While central air conditioning is discreet, they have prerequisites needed to properly install them into a space. A central air conditioner will need existing ductwork in the home to function, which makes these systems not suitable for every type of home, office, or building.

What is a Ductless Air Conditioner?

Ductless air conditioners, also known as ductless mini split systems, or a mini split system, feature an outdoor unit with one or multiple indoor units that can cool large spaces with just one cooling system. Ductless systems come in a variety of models, some with smart wi-fi connectivity, and mobile device compatibility for straightforward operations.


Energy Efficiency

Because of modern and advanced models, the ductless system has become one of the most energy efficient types of air conditioners in the market. Ductless systems often come in inverter models, which optimize energy use, and reduce its operation costs using a variable speed compressor that slows operations when the desired temperature has been reached.

Cooling Power

While inverter units save up on electricity, ductless systems don't compromise cooling power. A ductless mini split system can feature up to 50,000 BTU, and even energy-saving compressors can adequately cool down the space like central air conditioners can.

Space Requirements

The ductless system requires little wall space, and moderate outdoor space to place the indoor and outdoor units, respectively. Because they are wall-mounted, the ductless mini split system is out of the way, convenient, and discreet.


The ductless system is fairly simple to maintain. Wash the accessible filter once every two weeks, and clean the coils with a vacuum cleaner to maintain the unit. Professional services can prolong the lifespan of your unit, so it is suggested to have your unit checked and maintained twice a year for the best care.



The ductless mini split system is pricey - set at around $500 to $5,000 per unit excluding installation costs, operating costs, and repair fees when the unit malfunctions. Like central air systems, ductless units can cool multiple spaces at a time, but unlike central air units, you will need multiple ductless units to properly cool various zones.

Ductless vs. Central Air Conditioning: What's the Difference?

Factors Ductless Air Conditioner Central Air Conditioner
Budget Relatively expensive compared to other air conditioner types. 3.5 out of 5 rating Very expensive - central ACs are some of the most costly units. 1.5 out of 5 rating
Energy Consumption Inverter units and smart AC technology can optimize energy consumption for cost-saving efficiency. 4.5 out of 5 rating Inverter models may optimize energy consumption to lower operating costs. 3.5 out of 5 rating
Space Requirements Requires minimal space; Does not require existing ductwork. 4 out of 5 rating Requires existing ductwork. 2 out of 5 rating
Cooling Power Very efficient. 4.5 out of 5 rating Very efficient. 5 out of 5 rating
Maintenance Easy DIY maintenance and cleaning. 4 out of 5 rating Difficult to maintain. 3 out of 5 rating

The Verdict

To decide between a ductless unit or a central air unit, first check your ductwork. Does your space have existing ductwork, or will you need to shell out additional budget to have ducts installed? Central air conditioners are great, durable choices for spaces with already-existing ductwork, but for spaces that don't, the ductless unit will give you the same cooling effect.

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Staff Writer

This article is written by our passionate staff writers who seek to share our knowledge from our business

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