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Ductless vs Central Air Conditioning: The Pros and Cons of Each

If you’re thinking of replacing or installing an AC system, you might be wondering if you should choose between central and ductless air conditioning systems. Before making this big investment in your home, we want you to know as much as you can about your options. Let us explain the similarities and differences between the systems so you can decide which is the right fit for your home!

How are they different?

Mini-split systems are similar to central air systems in their general build. Both have outdoor units housing condensers and indoor units called air handlers. The biggest difference is in the ducts. Mini-split systems do not use ducts– that’s why they’re called ductless systems. Multiple air handlers in the home take the place of the network of ducts used in central systems to disperse air to different rooms.

Mini-split systems are becoming more popular because of their easy installation and small size– a huge benefit to some homeowners. However, central HVAC systems are still the best option for some homes. These are the factors you should consider when comparing the two systems. 


One of the biggest deciding factors in choosing an AC system is the ductwork in the home.

Many homes in Texas are built with ductwork already installed. If this is the case for your home, then half the battle for a central HVAC system is already won. To work around the ductwork or remove it entirely would cost extra and potentially be a hassle you don’t need. 

If your home does not already have ductwork in place – a common trend in older homes – then a ductless system could be just the thing for you. Purchasing a home without ductwork installed is the perfect opportunity to save some money on AC installation with a mini-split. Plus, it will be easier to maintain your indoor air quality without duct filters accumulating dust and other air contaminants. There’s no need to clean, inspect or change filters, so there’s no need to worry!

An HVAC technician is required to install both systems, but laying out ductwork and then installing the AC unit may take time for central systems – especially with larger homes that require more ducts. Depending on the number of air handlers being installed, technicians will usually take far less time to simply mount and connect a ductless system – sometimes as little as two hours!  


Another factor to consider is your budget – we know choosing the most cost-effective system is important.  

If we just look at initial costs, a mini-split system is more expensive than central air at the beginning. However, time and again ductless systems are lowering energy bills and consistently saving customers money in the long term.  

Ductless systems are proven to be highly energy-efficient, surpassing their central system counterparts easily. In fact, a SEER rating of about 15 is generally regarded as an efficient AC system. Central systems are capped at 21 SEER. The top mini-split systems don’t cap out until 27 SEER. 


The initial cost isn’t always the only cost concern. How will these systems hold up over time?

For the most part, ductless systems have fewer maintenance requirements. Central systems have the potential for duct leaks and the resulting cost of parts to fix them. Modern central air systems are becoming more durable and easier to fix than they have been in the past, but the simplicity of the mini-split system is hard to beat. 

Cooling Zones

So, why are ductless systems so much more energy efficient?

Central air systems push cool and warm air all over your home. For most homes this process causes waste because your system is working to regulate all rooms in your home – even rooms you do not use often. For homes with large living spaces or few uninhabited rooms, central air works best. 

If your home is smaller in size or has multiple rooms that often go unused – like guest rooms and bathrooms – a ductless system works best for you. These systems have zone cooling, a function that allows you to pinpoint specific temperatures for different areas of your home. By using this technology, you can focus on high-traffic areas of your home or specific rooms instead of the entire house. This system could be the white flag in your family’s war on control of the thermostat. 


Ductless air handlers must be mounted on the wall of your home. While their appearance is sleek and often can be customized to match the color and style of the wall, they are still visible. Plus, you should consider how many air handlers you will need to cover the areas you want to be cooled or heated in your home – you will most likely need more than one.

If you dislike anything interrupting the design of your home, then a traditional system might work better for you. Central air system ductwork is hidden in your attic and walls with only small duct openings. 

Both AC systems have positives and negatives – it all depends on your home! If you decide on a mini-split installation, Champion AC & Plumbing is here to help. We know ductless AC, Austin, and we’re here for you! Contact us today.