According to the US Department of Energy, the typical family spends nearly $2,000 per year on home energy bills. Much of that money, however, is wasted on inefficient heating and cooling systems. When the time comes to replace yours, there are two paths to consider: central air or a ductless mini-split system. Of course the initial cost of each solution will be a major factor, but it pays to consider long-term costs as well.
A traditional central air conditioning system typically has two units. The indoor unit is usually attached to a furnace, whose blower forces cooled air through ducts that stretch around the home. The outdoor unit houses a compressor and condenser.
Ductless mini-split systems, on the other hand, are more versatile. They still consist of two units (an outdoor condenser and indoor fan unit) but both can be mounted in a variety of areas. Typically, the indoor unit mounts to a ceiling or wall and is connected to the outdoor condenser via refrigerant lines.
So which one is right for you? Depends on your budget and your needs.
Central air units work great if you have ductwork already installed in the home. Because the unit is outdoors, it’s also invisible whereas a ductless system requires a vent in the ceiling or a slim unit hanging on a wall inside the home.
Ductless systems, on the other hand, are generally much quieter when in use. They’re engineered to reduce noise; they’re smaller than central air units and use both sound-dampening technology and vibration-dampening technology to minimize ambient noise.
If you find yourself with issues in the house (one room or section isn’t cooling properly), a mixed central air/ductless system offers the best of both worlds. In fact, a dual system creates the most comfortable experience possible—the ductless system handles problem areas while the central air system takes care of the entire home.
Don’t be misled by the costs associated with the two options. When compared to central units, the upfront costs of a ductless mini-split system may be slightly higher but that estimate won’t tell the whole story. Ductless systems are much more efficient than central air conditioners, which means you’re going to spend less money over time keeping your home more comfortable. If you want to take care of one or two problem rooms, ductless could be less expensive with prices as low as a few thousand dollars.