Ductless Air Conditioner vs. Central Air Conditioner

Ductless Air Conditioner vs. Central Air Conditioner

05 August 2021 |  Articles

Today, most consumers rely on central air conditioners for cooling their homes. Central air conditioners have been common for over half a century, and they have the advantage of using the same ducts that are already being used by your home's heating system. However, many homeowners are also starting to increasingly consider ductless systems that provide targeted cooling without requiring any existing ducts. As a result, if you are looking to improve your home's cooling system, you need to understand what type of air conditioner is most advantageous in your situation.

What Are Ductless Air Conditioners

If you are one of the millions of consumers who have never heard of a ductless air conditioner, you should know that you are not alone. Ductless air conditioners have been popular in developing nations, but U.S. property developers have only recently started to use them.

Ductless air conditioners are usually installed on the inside of an exterior-facing wall or ceiling of a building. Generally, properties that rely on ductless air conditioners have a separate air conditioner in every room. The air conditioning unit installed on the interior wall has a strong fan that blows out cold air from a compressor unit that is attached to the exterior wall.

It is important to keep in mind that ductless air conditioners require both an indoor and outdoor unit to function properly. Many consumers are led to believe that ductless air conditioners can cool a room without even being attached to a wall. In reality, cold air can only be generated by using energy that creates heat. As a result, the compressor has to be placed outside to let out hot air that is generated in the process of creating cool air.

Advantages of Ductless Air Conditioners

The main advantages of ductless air conditioners are relatively easy installation and lower overall costs. Some old homes have no existing duct system, and installing a network of ducts in an existing home can be expensive. After all, ducts can only be installed by laboriously ripping away walls and ceilings to make room for new ductwork.

In general, consumers usually save a fortune on air conditioning costs when they rely on ductless air conditioners. Unlike with central air conditioners, you cannot leave a ductless air conditioner on indefinitely. After a couple of days, you have to give ductless air conditioners a rest for a couple of hours. Therefore, most people keep ductless air conditioners off unless they are actually using them.

Additionally, each ductless air conditioner in a home has to be turned on manually. As a result, most consumers only turn on ductless air conditioners in rooms they are currently using. In other rooms, air conditioners can be left off to save money.

Furthermore, consumers have a much greater tendency to turn off ductless air conditioners before they leave for the day. Ductless air conditioners come with convenient remotes that enable you to turn them off with the touch of a button. As a result, consumers can save more money by running their air conditioners only when they need them.

Rapid installation is another major advantage of ductless air conditioners. Normally, consumers have to wait weeks for large teams of contractors to finish installing new ductwork. Some consumers are understandably uncomfortable with the concept of letting unsupervised contractors work in their homes, so they often end up taking time off from work when duct installation projects are being completed. Other consumers have to forego having air conditioning installed because they are unable to take time off.

In contrast, ductless systems can usually be installed by a professional team in only a single day. The installation process is also less complex, so less time is required and fewer errors are made during installation.

Ductless systems can be installed almost anywhere in your home. Most people prefer to use wall-mounted systems that are situated near the ceiling in a room. There are also products available that can be installed on floors, ceilings, and even windows.

Disadvantages of Ductless Air Conditioners

One of the major downsides of ductless air conditioners is that they do not have ventilation systems. To circulate air, you will have to install a separate ventilation system that can be quite expensive. In many cases, properties that use ductless air conditioners simply go without ventilation.

As mentioned earlier, it is usually necessary to install a separate ductless air conditioner in each room in your home. Turning on all of your air conditioners can start to seem like a tedious chore. Ductless air conditioners also require a lot more daily interaction than with central air conditioners. Some ductless systems rely on a centralized control system, but these electronic systems can increase the overall cost of your project.

Additionally, it is rare that homeowners would ever want to turn on all of their ductless air conditioners at the same time. Cooling rooms that are never used wastes a lot of energy. Even if energy costs are insignificant to you, consuming a lot of energy could harm the environment. In reality, most consumers have a few rooms that require cooling. When you get home, you will usually have to manually turn on the air conditioners in each room that requires cooling.

Ductless air conditioners also require more maintenance than central air conditioners. HVAC professionals will have to clean and fine-tune your air conditioner every six months to keep it working properly. If you neglect to maintain your air conditioner on a regular basis, it can start to malfunction and reduce the air quality in your home. Unmaintained ductless air conditioners can also start to drip water in a way that can be problematic if you have carpeted floors. Water leaks are almost never a problem if you keep your system maintained, but consumers who insist on the "leave it and forget it" approach to maintenance often have a negative experience overall.

Factors to Consider

As you decide whether a ductless air conditioner is right in your home, you should consider several key factors that usually determine what type of cooling system is the right fit. Four major factors to consider are explained in detail below.

1. Size of Your Home
Most ductless air conditioners are only powerful enough to cool a single room. You can sometimes leave doors open to get some residual cooling in other rooms, but this is not ideal or efficient. If you have a home larger than 2,000 square feet and insist on cooling every square foot, you might be better off by getting a central air conditioner.

2. Energy Efficiency
If you want to minimize your power bills or simply want to help the environment, you need to consider how much energy your system will use over its lifetime. As mentioned earlier, a major downside of central air conditioners is that they have to cool your entire home at the same time. Additionally, ductless air conditioners use a more energy-efficient air delivery mechanism that significantly reduces energy consumption. Therefore, if your goal is to minimize energy bills, ductless systems are the way to go.

3. Do You Like to Fine-Tune Temperature Settings?
When you have a ductless air conditioner, you are in full control of the exact temperature in each room. Most ductless systems have a remote that can easily increase or decrease temperatures with the press of a button. With central air conditioners, on the other hand, temperatures in individual rooms can usually only be changed by getting on your hands and knees to fiddle with dampers in your basement.

4. Appearance
Ductless air conditioners require the use of a relatively large air conditioning unit inside your home. This unit cannot be covered up because it has to be able to blow out cold air. Many ductless air conditioners are designed to look great inside your home, but central air conditioners are the best option when an air conditioning unit could ruin the look of your interior design.

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