Central Air Conditioner vs. Ductless Mini Split

In Texas, homes need cooling. It’s a simple fact. If your home needs a new cooling system, you have a few choices to make. Central air is something you probably know about, but it isn’t always the best choice. Ductless mini-splits are a fierce competitor, and knowing the advantages each system has to offer can help you make the best decision. Keep reading for an in-depth comparison of central air conditioning vs a ductless mini-split system.

Central Air Conditioners

Central air conditioning systems are common and well known. They involve a compressor unit and a single fan. The compressor cools the air, and the fan blows the air. Central air can have a furnace or other heater as part of the system. Using the same fan and thermostat, a central air system can function as a heater when it is cold.

Overall, central air is the most common way to cool houses in Texas. Because it is so common, there are many options available for central air systems, and that can help you find a system that works for your home while being affordable.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about central air is that it requires a duct system. Ducting throughout the house carries the air, and sometimes, ductwork is the most expensive part of installing central air.

Central Air Pros

  • Central air conditioners have a relatively low startup cost. As long as you don’t need major ductwork, central air tends to be affordable, and that makes it the go-to choice for many homes.
  • Central air conditioners can handle more air volume each minute than mini-splits. This makes central air better for large homes.
  • Central air conditioners are much better at filtering dust and allergens than other cooling systems.
  • The wide range of central air options makes it easier to find a system that fits your wants and budget.

Central Air Cons

  • Lower efficiency. The duct system used by central air leaks a lot of heat, and that makes the air conditioner work a lot harder to keep the house cool. 
  • Most air conditioners are single-speed, meaning they can only be on or off. This further lowers efficiency.
  • Since a single unit does all of the work, you can’t have different temperature settings in different rooms of the house. Even when you use modern systems with multiple temperature sensors, the system is either running for the whole house or none of the house. 
  • Central air relies on ducts, and ductwork can be expensive. If your home does not have ducts or has failing ducts, central air becomes much more expensive than ductless alternatives.

Ductless Mini-Split Systems

The ductless mini-split system still functions on a similar premise to central air. You have a compressor that cools the air, and fans distribute the cool air to the house. Likewise, the fans for the mini-split system can deliver hot air during cold weather.

There are two ways that mini-splits are very different from central air, and the first is ducts. As the name suggests, ductless mini-splits do not use internal ducts. Instead, they have air lines that run along the outside of the house and connect to mini-split heads — bringing us to the second major difference. Mini-splits can have up to five heads (for most systems) in different rooms in a house. This generates some competitive pros and cons.

Pros of Mini-Splits

  • Mini-splits are more efficient than central air. For the same amount of cooling, they can lower your electricity usage by 20% or more. Most of this stems from the fact that mini-splits use DC inverters (which are more efficient) and variable speed fans. Mini-splits can produce more cold air using less electricity.
  • Mini-splits are designed for temperature zoning. Each head can run on its own thermostat. That means you can have air cooling in one room while it is off (or even heating) another room. That makes the system even more efficient, and it makes for a more comfortable home.
  • Mini-splits don’t use ducts. That can save tens of thousands of dollars when you want a cooling system installed in a home or building that does not already have ducts.

Cons of Mini-Splits

  • Ductless mini-split systems use outdoor lines to move air, and those lines can ruin the aesthetic of a home.
  • Mini-split systems typically cost more than central air systems. For any home with adequate ducting, central air is much cheaper to install.
  • The nature of the mini-split design makes it harder to handle condensation, since it can occur at multiple points in the system. That can add costs and maintenance to the overall system that you won’t find with central air.

The Bottom Line

Both of these systems are modern and effective. If you don’t have ducting, mini-splits are an obvious choice. If you have a home or building too large for a mini-split, central air is the obvious choice. If you sit in between, then it’s a matter of weighing startup costs versus operating costs and which system you like more. Of course, you can always do a hybrid system that gets the best of both worlds.

Whatever your choice, when you’re ready to move forward, contact Metro Express Service in Carrollton. We’ll be happy to install your cooling system.