Mini Split vs Central Air

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Updated September 23, 2022

If you are a newbie in the world of indoor cooling, you may look to compare a mini-split vs a central air conditioner. Some of the best air conditioners, after all, ship with one of these two popular designs. So what are the differences here and which is right for you? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Central air conditioning systems require ducts and mini-splits do not, relying on one or more connected indoor units instead.
  • Ductless mini-split systems are more efficient and require less maintenance during the lifespan of the indoor unit, though a higher upfront cost.
  • If you have a large home, go with a standard central AC with an outdoor unit, as a mini-split may struggle to adequately cool the space.

Differences Between Central AC Units and Mini-Split Systems

Both of these air conditioners handle cooling a whole house at the same time, which is not true when comparing a central air conditioner vs a wall unit. However, traditional central AC units require ductwork and mini-split systems do not, a distinction that also comes into play when comparing a packaged terminal air conditioner vs a mini-split.

Insider Tip

No matter which style you choose, make sure to clean or replace the air filters as indicated for increased efficiency.

This initial difference branches out into use case scenarios, effectiveness, cost, efficiency, and more, as described below. Take these contrasts into account even when comparing a Daikin vs a Mitsubishi AC.

Ductwork

As previously mentioned, central AC systems require useable ductwork and vents to transfer air throughout the home. Mini-split systems use a different mode of operation that eschews ducts in favor of dedicated airlines. Many older homes, including slab-style homes, boast no ductwork whatsoever, requiring an expensive and time-intensive installation. Get around this by going with a mini-split over a standard central system.

Maintenance and Repairs

Though both systems are susceptible to a number of repair issues over time, maintaining a mini-split is easier than a central unit. Ducts attract grease, dust, pollen, and more, and can be a hassle to clean and maintain. Mini-splits lack ducts and, therefore, require fewer regular maintenance tasks beyond cleaning and replacing the air filters.

Built-In Zoning and Efficiency

A hot trend in the HVAC world is to install various zones throughout the home, to keep some areas cooler than others. This saves on monthly energy bills and increases the overall comfort level. Central systems take a lot of work to allow for multiple zones, but mini-splits can do this easily. Just place your indoor units and adjust the settings for each one accordingly.

Cooling Power

While modern mini-split air conditioners can cool an entire home at once, it is less effective at this than central systems. In other words, mini-splits can cool a small or medium-sized space without struggle but will run into issues with larger-than-average houses. Central is the way to go here.

STAT: Ductless mini-split systems consist of two parts: an outdoor compressor/condenser and one or more indoor air-handling units. (source)

Central Vs Mini-Split FAQs

Which is right for me?

The type of air conditioning you choose depends on your personal needs. Ductless systems, also known as mini-split units, are great for older homes but central air systems are a good choice for newer larger homes.

Would noise be an issue for you?

The outdoor unit of a central air conditioning system makes a lot more noise than the indoor unit of a ductless mini-split system, which is something to consider when choosing between ductless systems and central air systems.

How to make mini-split and central air conditioners smart?

You can add smart tech accessories to central air systems and mini-split units. These increase energy efficiency and allow for easier programming options with a ductless air conditioner, ductless systems, and central air conditioning units.
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