Ductless or Central AC? Which Is Better?

Ductless or Central AC?

When it comes to effectively and efficiently cooling your home, one of the key considerations is whether there are existing air ducts installed. Even when there are air ducts, there are situations where you may be better off installing a ductless mini-split system.

Both systems offer unique benefits and can be the perfect solution under different circumstances. Central has put together a guide to help you understand the key differences and determine which system might be the best fit for your cooling needs.

Key Differences Between Ductless and Central AC Systems

Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning systems are designed to cool multiple rooms or the entire house using a single centralized unit that pushes air through a series of ducts. This system includes an outdoor compressor, indoor coil, and a blower. When the house was designed and build the air duct system and central heating and cooling components were designed to work as a system based on the air volume that needed to be heated and cooled.



  • Requires ductwork, which can be more costly and complex to install
  • Air ducts take up space in walls, ceilings, or floor
  • All ductwork leads to some energy loss, especially if there are significant holes or gaps that are not well-insulated

Ductless Mini-Split Systems

Ductless mini-splits consist of an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handling units, connected by a conduit. Each indoor unit can be controlled independently.


  • Because they do not require ductwork, installation is less complex and invasive
  • Most ductless systems are capable of cooling and heating
  • Allows for zoning to enable different temperatures in each room
  • Typically uses less power due to the absence of ducts and larger blowers


  • Indoor units are often visible and may not blend well with every interior
  • The cost can increase when multiple indoor units are needed
  • Each unit requires individual maintenance

When Is a Ductless Mini-Split a Better Option?

There are certain situations where a ductless mini-splits offer significant advantages over central heating and cooling, including:

1. Home Additions or Renovations

If you’re adding a new room to your home, a ductless system can be a great option since it does not require extending existing ductwork. This makes it ideal for renovations or additions where the existing system cannot handle the additional load.

2. Homes Without Existing Ductwork

For older homes or those built without duct systems, installing a ductless mini-split system is often less disruptive and more cost-effective than installing an entire ducted system.

Garages and detached building such as workshops are also commonly heating and cooled using ductless systems.

3. Zoning & Desire for Individual Room Control

If you prefer different temperature settings for different rooms or have areas in your home that are not used frequently, a ductless system provides the flexibility to cool only the spaces that are in use.

4. Improving Energy Efficiency

Ductless systems offer improved energy efficiency over traditional central air systems because they avoid energy loss associated with ductwork. This is particularly beneficial in situations where air conditioning is used heavily.

5. ADUs, Condos, and Small Homes

In smaller living spaces, where extensive cooling might not be necessary, ductless systems provide an efficient and space-saving option that also allows for easy control over the cooling in different areas.

Choosing between a ductless or central AC system depends largely on your specific needs, the layout of your home, and your budget. While central air conditioning is ideal for comprehensive and invisible cooling, ductless mini-splits offer flexibility and efficiency for more targeted cooling or homes without existing ductwork.

For more advice on choosing the right air conditioning system for your home, or to schedule a consultation in Kalispell, MT, contact Central Heating Cooling Plumbing Electrical today.

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