Ducts versus Ductless: Which Air Conditioner is the Best Buy for You?

Ductless Air Conditioning

For this month’s blog series, we have been focused on helping you get ready for spring and the warmer temperatures still to come.

In this post, we explore the various benefits of traditional central or “ducted” air conditioners and their newer, lightweight ductless cousins. This will help you decide which type of air conditioning system will be the best fit to keep your home cool, for the most economical price.

Traditional Air Conditioning Systems: Defined

The traditional HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system is also often referred to as a “central” A/C unit.

These systems, which typically include both cooling and heating, operate through one central system of air ducts.

To make it simple, the air ducts’ job is essentially to circulate the fresh heated or cooled air throughout your home according to your temperature preferences while flushing the stale air out.

Because the air ducts are there to conduct the heated and cooled air, the air conditioning unit itself is typically installed outside your home.

Ductless Air Conditioning Systems: Defined

In contrast, a ductless air conditioning system requires no inbuilt air duct system to cool (or heat) your home.

Rather, ductless air conditioners (often called “ductless mini-splits”) use a series of zones with a remote control unit to regulate temperature.

The “mini-split” part of its name refers to how the unit is installed—one part of the unit remains outside while the other part is installed inside your home. Both parts can be installed in a number of ways—wall mounts, floor mounts, and even ceiling mounts are possible, so you can work with any space limitations you may have.

Pros: Traditional Central HVAC System

If your home already has a system of air ducts installed, then choosing a traditional central HVAC system makes sense.

The only reason you might not want to do so is if you use only a smaller portion of the whole house (for example, some people may choose to live only on the ground floor of a multi-level home). In this case, you may find with a central HVAC system that you are over-paying to cool/heat just the portion of the home you actually use.

Otherwise, a ductwork system is still the most efficient way to ensure temperature-controlled indoor air gets evenly distributed to each room in your home. As well, since these units can be installed outdoors, you won’t have to cope with a visible HVAC unit in any room of your home.

Finally, with the emergence of “smart,” programmable thermostat systems, you still have the ability to tightly control your energy use costs during times you are not home and during periods each day when you can afford to keep the air a little warmer or cooler than you might like (such as at night).

Pros: Ductless Air Conditioning System

With a ductless air conditioning system, your main pro is that you can have modern, efficient air conditioning and heating (if desired, as a heat pump can be paired with a ductless A/C unit) even if the space you live in has no existing air duct system. And if the space does have an air duct system, you can also configure a ductless unit to work with existing air ducts.

Ductless air conditioners also offer a very cost-efficient way to cool and heat smaller spaces, including add-on rooms or floors that are not attached to any existing main duct system. Today’s ductless air conditioners can temperature control up to 30 different zones, so even larger homes can benefit from these systems.

And ductless air conditioning systems are very quiet and self-contained, so you won’t have to worry about any of the risks of the older window units.

One of the main benefits of these mini ductless A/C units is that they are incredibly compact, so if you are space-limited either outside or inside your home, their presence won’t cause any major disruption. And you won’t have to worry about cleaning and maintaining the entire air duct system along with the A/C unit and heat pump system itself.

Considerations Before You Choose

Whether you are starting from scratch and purchasing a new air conditioning unit for a new home or you are replacing an existing unit that is no longer working to full capacity, your considerations will basically boil down to space and money.

  • Space. Consider how each type of unit will impact your available outside and interior space. Also, consider how well each will function if you have “outliers” (spaces that are not hooked up to your existing duct system).
  • Cost. Ask yourself which type will be more cost-efficient in cooling and heating the size and layout of your home.

Pair Both Types for the Best Results

Today, more homeowners are opting to use a central HVAC system if they have an existing air duct system, but then adding ductless HVAC systems for outlying rooms or exterior spaces such as garages, basements, or workshops.

This can give you the best of both worlds while helping you to most closely control what you spend on energy use.

Contact Shipton’s Heating & Cooling for a free consultation on the many benefits of both types of HVAC systems. We are on call to provide for all of your new installation, repair, maintenance, emergency, and consultation needs through the Hamilton and greater surrounding area.

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