There are two main options for cooling your whole home: a ductless system or central air conditioning. The main difference between these two options is that central air conditioners rely on ducts to carry cool air through your home, while ductless systems use air handling units to provide cool air to each zone in your home.
Trying to decide which of these options is right for you? Here’s a look at how ductless and central air conditioning compare in a variety of categories.
In most cases, ductless air conditioners cost more than central air conditioners with the same capacity. However, if you have to retrofit ductwork into an old home or if you need to make expensive repairs to existing ductwork, that drives up the cost of central air conditioning. In these situations, a ductless system tends to be less expensive than central air.
Additionally, when you make the switch to ductless air conditioner, you may qualify for a variety of rebates, and that helps to bring the cost down.
When investing in an HVAC system for your home, don’t just focus on the upfront cost of the system. Also take some time to think about long-term maintenance and operating costs. Often, central ACs come with a longer warranty than ductless systems, and that can help to save you money if the system breaks down in the warranty period.
However, ductless systems are usually the most efficient option, saving you money on your electric bills in the long run. Additionally, with a ductless system, you never have to worry about paying for duct maintenance, which also helps to keep long term costs low.
Both ducted and ductless air conditioners require routine maintenance such as changing filters and cleaning off the outdoor unit, and with both types of systems, you should have an HVAC technician come into your home to service your equipment once a year.
However, ducted systems can also require duct maintenance such as sealing leaks, cleaning the ductwork, or adding insulation. With ductless ACs, you don’t have to worry about doing or paying for these tasks.
Generally, installing central air conditioning takes about a week. However, the exact time can vary depending on whether you have ducts, you’re building a new home, or you need to retrofit ductwork into an existing property. In contrast, ductless air conditioners can usually be installed in a day or two. To minimize disruptions to your home, you may want to opt for a ductless system.
Heating and Cooling Capabilities
With a central air conditioner, you need a separate furnace or another type of equipment to heat your home. In contrast, a ductless air conditioner also works as a heater. Both heating and cooling rely on a heat pump which moves heat from the inside of your house to the outside during the summer and moves heat in the opposite direction during the winter. Remember to take this fact into account when you’re comparing the cost of these two systems.
Indoor Air Quality
The air that comes out of your air conditioner directly affects the quality of the air you breathe. Both central and ductless air conditioners have filters which help to keep the air as clean as possible. However, ducts tend to collect a lot of dust, debris, and allergens. As a result, when the air passes through the ducts, it picks up many of these elements and blows them into your home.
With a ductless system, the cool air doesn’t pass through ducts. Instead, these systems blow air out of an indoor air handling unit outfitted with its own filter. This means that ductless systems tend to be better for the quality of air in your home.
Central air conditioning systems are notoriously noisy. When the system cycles on, you hear the air conditioner’s fan as well as air moving through the ducts. Ductless systems are designed for quiet operation. With many models, the outdoor unit makes about as much noise as quiet background conversation at a restaurant, and the indoor units generate less noise than the average human whisper.
Both central and ductless air conditioners feature an outdoor compressor, and aesthetically, these units have about the same impact on your property. However, the indoor units associated with these cooling systems have slightly different effects from an aesthetic perspective.
With a central AC, you can choose from a variety of vent covers, and there are all kinds of registers and grilles to complement the decor of your home. In contrast, ductless systems have indoor air handling units that are a bit more noticeable than vent covers. Luckily, you can install your indoor air handling units in a variety of locations (in the wall, along the floor, or over doorways) so that they complement rather than distract from your decor.
If you already have central AC but you want to bring cooling to another part of your home, a ductless AC may be the best option. You can easily put a ductless AC into attics, basements, garages, or home additions, and in most cases, that option is cheaper than extending the ductwork to these areas.
Ductless air conditioners offer homeowners a lot of advantages over central air conditioning, but in some cases, central cooling may still be the best option. To learn what’s right for your home contact us today.