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Central vs. Ductless AC: Which One Should I Get?

Ductless air conditioners, or mini-split ACs, have been the go-to choice for air conditioners around the world for years. However, they’ve only grown in popularity in the United States in recent years. As you search for an AC system for your home, you may be wondering whether you should choose a ductless AC or a more traditional central air conditioner. Let’s go over the pros and cons of each kind of system to help you determine which is best for you.

Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning works by cooling air with a centrally placed AC unit and distributing it throughout the home via air ducts. The vast majority of homes in the U.S. use central air conditioning. Here are some pros and cons of this traditional design.


Central AC units have a lower initial cost, and their size and range allow them to cool a larger space on their own. Because central air systems control the entire home from a central location, they work well with whole-home air quality products. Air purifiers and dehumidifiers can be integrated into the AC system to benefit the whole home all at once.


While ductwork allows a comprehensive air conditioning experience, installing and maintaining them is like maintaining a whole other appliance. Repairs and maintenance can be expensive, and unnoticed problems can cause significant issues with the rest of your AC system. In addition, cooling the entire home at once limits your zone control capabilities, or the ability to cool one area of your home but not another if you don’t spend time there. Central air conditioners also tend to be less efficient than ductless systems.

Ductless Air Conditioning

Just like the term entails, ductless air conditioners cool your home without ductwork. Instead, a wall-mounted AC unit cools a given space directly. Ductless AC comes with several pros and cons.


Because there’s no energy loss in the ductwork, ductless AC systems are generally much more energy-efficient than their central counterparts. They will save you money over time by cutting down your energy bills. Not to mention, you won’t have to deal with the hassle of air duct repair and maintenance. 

Ductless systems also have built-in zoning capabilities because cooling an entire home usually requires a larger mini-split system, which has multiple indoor units connected to one outdoor unit. This allows versatile cooling — one bedroom could be set at 68 degrees while the other is set at 74 degrees.


As with all appliances, you get what you pay for. While ductless systems are much more efficient, they will cost more initially than a central system. Some homeowners dislike ductless systems because they can see the unit, whereas central ACs are hidden. In addition, the line containing the refrigerant and condensate lines may be visible on the outside of your home.

Because each mini-split unit cools its own area, there are very few opportunities for improved air quality in a ductless AC system. This also means that there are multiple air filters that need to be cleaned often to maintain air quality.

Which one is right for me?

Each type of air conditioner has its own pros and cons, so your choice will depend on your specific needs, budget and more. We generally don’t recommend switching from one design to the other because making the changes need to accommodate a new kind of system gets expensive quickly (adding ductwork, rewiring, etc.). However, ductless AC installation is sometimes the perfect solution to meet unique cooling needs. These include:

  • Finished garages
  • Cooling attics and basements
  • Guesthouses
  • Home add-ons
  • Historic homes that can’t accommodate ductwork
  • Supplementing a central AC system

Ultimately, your decision should be based on whether ductless or central air conditioning fits your cooling needs better. For more information about both kinds of AC systems, contact My Guy Heating & Air today.

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