Our residential air conditioning customers often ask, “Is central air or ductless AC best for my home?” Our answer is usually, “It depends.” That may not sound like a straightforward answer, but choosing between central air and ductless AC really does depend on different factors. So if you’re wondering whether central air or ductless AC is best for your home, here are some of the factors we consider before making a recommendation.

The Difference Between Central Air & Ductless AC

Central air conditioner components include a unit placed outside of the home that contains the compressor, condenser, and fan. Additional components are installed inside the house, typically on or near the heating system, including an evaporator coil and air handler, which work in conjunction with the outdoor unit to cool the home using its air ducts and vents, the same ducts and vents used for the home’s heating system.

Ductless systems are also known as mini-split systems. They function the same way as central air units when it comes to how they produce cold air. The main difference is that instead of pushing the cold air through your home using its ducts, they push the cold air directly into each room where a unit is installed. The system consists of an indoor head unit with a blower and evaporator placed inside the room. Unlike a central air conditioner, mini-split units must be installed in every room that needs cooling. Unlike traditional window units, most mini-split air conditioners also function as heaters in the colder months. 

What Factors Need to Be Considered?

To determine which type of AC system is best for you, these are the factors to consider:

Your Budget and Current AC System

Whether central air or ductless AC is best for your home depends on your budget and what type of system you currently have installed. For example, if you already have a central air system with ductwork that is in good condition, then installing a central air conditioner to replace the existing one can be the more cost-effective option. While ductless systems are often easier to install, the upfront costs of converting from a central air system to a mini-duct system can be higher than replacing a central air system if ductless units need to be installed in multiple rooms. 

However, converting from ductless mini-split systems to central air conditioning systems will require the additional cost of ductwork in homes that don’t have any. Your current AC system can significantly determine whether central air or ductless AC is best for your home and your budget.

Your Sense of Aesthetics 

Ductless AC systems may stand out more in a home than in a commercial setting. Some homeowners may find that having the sizeable wall-mounted head unit of a ductless system on their interior walls clashes with the aesthetic of their rooms. If that’s the case, they can consider different styles of duct systems, like concealed ductless systems, where the unit is installed on the ceiling and only the grille or air vent is visible. If they prefer not to have a vent on their ceiling, a central air unit would be better for residential air conditioning. 

The condensate lines running to the outdoor unit of a ductless system also need to be considered. These lines will need to run to any installed units along the outside of the house. The lines can often be encased to match the home exterior, but some homeowners may not like that option.

Your Need for Energy Efficiency

One aspect of a ductless system that gives it an advantage over central air is that it can be more energy efficient. Central air units will cool your entire house, even rooms that are not being used. Closing vents to avoid cooling those rooms makes your AC system work harder to push cold air through the ducts, which can reduce the lifespan of your AC unit. With a ductless system, you can cool rooms individually, which means less energy is wasted. 

Your Household’s Temperature Preferences

When considering an AC system for your home, you must also consider how many people in the house need to be kept happy. Ductless systems are ideal for homes where family members are most comfortable at different temperatures. The ability to control the cooling system on a room-by-room basis accommodates those who like it cool and those who want it colder. 

Your Operating Costs

The operating costs for different air conditioners depend on the size of the home, the energy-efficiency ratings of the air conditioners, the climate in your area, and the cost of electricity. Generally, however, mini split ductless systems are designed to be more energy-efficient than central air conditioners, which means they can cost less to run in the long term. Because they are not cooling or heating an entire house, they can also offer utility bill savings over central air units.

We Can Help Make Your Choice Easier

Purchasing HVAC systems for residential air conditioning can be intimidating when faced with all the decisions between different types of units, their features and capabilities, and their prices. Deciding whether central air or ductless AC is best for your home can be challenging, but Cool Willy’s can help guide you through the process. We provide AC installation in Tuscon, AZ, and our technicians can help you weigh the pros and cons of each type of air condition unit specific to your home and cooling needs. Call us today if you’re looking for central air conditioner service or mini-split air installation in Tuscon, AZ!

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