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Ductless AC vs. Central AC

What's the difference between a ductless air conditioner and a central air conditioner, and which of the two popular cooling technologies would work better for your home? To help you answer these two questions, we must first answer another related question: What does ductless mean? Once we understand that concept, it will be easier to present the advantages and disadvantages that can inform your decision on whether ductless AC or central AC should be your cooling method of choice.

A ductless AC system is a cooling system that doesn't require a conventional air duct system to operate. Instead, it connects an outdoor compressor/condenser unit with an indoor evaporator/air handler. A conduit connects everything the system needs to cool and deliver the conditioned air to the home before returning the warmed air back to the outdoor unit for re-cooling and recirculation.

Ductless Advantages and Disadvantages

As for its part in the ductless or central air battle, a ductless AC system offers a number of advantages and a few challenges.

Ductless AC Advantages

The most obvious advantage of a ductless system is that it saves homeowners the trouble, expense and major renovations that would be required to install new HVAC air ducts in homes that don't already contain them. Ductless mini-split heat pumps and ductless mini-split air conditioners can deliver either zoned or room-by-room cooling without the need for ductwork. Because each outdoor unit can power up to eight indoor air handlers, a ductless AC system is flexible enough to meet a variety of cooling needs.

Ductless AC can also be used to supplement a central air system if a specific room or zone of your home, such as a room addition, is inadequately cooled by your main AC system. Ductless systems are highly efficient, preventing many of the cooling losses that often occur with central systems. They also allow each zone's temperature to be individually controlled and offer indoor units that blend well with most home décor.

Ductless AC Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of a ductless system is higher initial cost for purchase and installation. Because these systems are highly efficient and use state-of-the-art technology, costs are higher on the front end but lower during operation.

It may also be a bit tricky to correctly size a ductless system and select the optimal location for placement to ensure maximum operational efficiency. However, if you choose one of our factory-trained Mitsubishi Electric ductless distributors to size and place your system, you'll enjoy the benefit of working with technicians who have been thoroughly trained in the principles of ductless systems.

Central Air Conditioner Advantages and Disadvantages

When choosing central air or a ductless system, central AC offers several pluses and minuses

Central AC Advantages

Central air conditioners are designed to cool your entire home, while dehumidifying its air. When used in climates that aren't overly humid and when these systems aren't too large for the spaces they must cool, they do their job well, bringing you convenient whole-house cooling. The key is to make sure the system is properly sized and is used in a climate that will support its optimal functioning.

With central air, you won't have to worry about where to locate the unit, since your system will be placed in a central location and its ductwork will usually already be in place for delivering cooling to every part of your home.

Central AC Disadvantages

One disadvantage of central AC is that a great deal of the cooling potential of the air circulating through the ductwork is lost as it travels through the system, lowering system efficiency and potentially raising utility costs. According to, more than 30% of a home's energy consumption for central air conditioning can be attributed to losses via the system's ductwork — a percentage that represents a considerable portion of the cost of cooling a home. When ductwork passes through an unconditioned space such as an attic, which can absorb a great deal of heat during the summer months, these losses can be even greater.

Leaky ductwork can also cause cooling and energy-efficiency problems in a forced-air central AC system. The problem of leaky ducts occurs when ducts are poorly connected or sealed or when they are damaged, kinked or otherwise disturbed. Leaky ducts can be a significant source of energy loss in a central air system.

Central air conditioning also requires ductwork maintenance to keep the system running efficiently. Ducts must be professionally cleaned every three to seven years to maintain efficiency. They should also be inspected for leaks and damage periodically and sealed or repaired as needed.

Where to Buy Ductless Air Conditioners

If you're interested in a ductless cooling system and aren't sure where to buy ductless air conditioners, please feel free to use our site to find a local Mitsubishi Electric ductless distributor. The distributors on our list can answer your questions about how ductless cooling works. They can also help you select the best system for your needs and provide expert installation of your new ductless system.

How Much Does Ductless Air Conditioning Cost?

Ductless air conditioner prices vary depending on model and locale, and overall cost will depend on the number of units required to adequately cool your home. For more information about how much ductless air conditioning costs, please speak with your local contractor.