What’s the Difference Between a Mini-Split and Window AC Unit?

Mizuki Hisaka
Written by Mizuki Hisaka
Updated May 15, 2023
Family enjoying take out food in front of tv in living room
Photo: Edwin Tan / E+ / Getty Images


  • Ductless mini-split installation costs between $2,000 and $14,500.

  • Window units cost $100 to $500.

  • Ductless mini-split enhances temperature control.

  • Window units cool individual rooms.

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Summer is great for family barbeques and beautiful sunsets, but if your home can’t accommodate a central air system, the seasonal heat may feel more like a scorcher than a welcomed warmer. Luckily, you have two other air conditioner options: mini-split and window units. 

Mini-split systems are a modern way of cooling your home, while window units have been a traditional source of cooling solutions. Which is better for your home? Our guide provides a complete breakdown of mini-split vs. window units.

What Is a Ductless Mini-Split AC?

A woman enjoying her afternoon tea at living room
Photo: Edwin Tan / E+ / Getty Images

Ductless heating and cooling units—or mini-split units—don’t need ductwork like central air systems. They consist of one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units mounted to walls inside your home.

When you turn on the system, hot or cold air blows directly into the room rather than through ducts, making it a great option if you want more control over your heating and cooling solutions.

Also, you might be wondering what the differences are between a mini-split vs heat pump. A mini-split actually uses a heat pump to warm your home, while a traditional heat pump system is usually ducted.

Window AC units don’t need air ducts either. You’ll see them in most apartments across the US because of their convenience and versatility. If you’ve got ample window space to secure one of these units, you’re good to go.

Pros and Cons of Mini-Splits

If you’re thinking about installing a mini-split, make sure to weigh both the pros and cons. You should note that these units don’t work well for every climate.


There are various benefits of having a ductless AC system, such as:

  • Quieter operation

  • Temperature control in multiple rooms

  • Increased energy efficiency

  • Installation flexibility


However, these benefits also come with some unfortunate some drawbacks. For mini-split systems, those are:

  • High installation costs

  • Frequent filter changes

  • Unsuitable for extreme temperatures

What Is a Window AC Unit?

Window AC units are ductless and can be installed easily in most windows. These units are 6,000 to 25,000 BTU and can cool single rooms. You can get simple units with basic settings, or opt for smart units that you can control with your smartphone.

This might be the best option if you’re working on a budget or need a temporary solution.

Pros and Cons of a Window AC Unit

Here are the pros and cons of using a window AC unit. And before running out to buy one, make sure that your window type is compatible with a window AC.


  • Budget-friendly

  • Easy and quick installation

  • Low-maintenance

  • Works well in small spaces


  • Doesn’t work in sliding or casement windows

  • Not as efficient as mini-split or ducted AC systems

  • Hard to cool entire homes with window units

  • Windows have to stay open

Comparison of mini-split and window units, with a window unit being more affordable but has a shorter lifespan

Deciding Between a Ductless Mini-Split vs. Window AC

Air conditioner in house window
Photo: Kevin Brine / Adobe Stock

Choosing between ductless mini-split systems and window units might be a no-brainer for some. But if you’re having trouble deciding, here are a few things to consider before choosing a cooling solution for your home.

Temperature Control

Window units are best for cooling one room in your home, and it's usually the room you frequent the most. If you wanted to cool multiple rooms, you would need to buy various window units and install them yourself.

On the other hand, because of how a mini-split heat pump works, you can easily set your system to different temperatures throughout the home. Let’s say you were in the living room for a few hours. You could keep the temperature in that room at a certain number while changing the temperature elsewhere to match your desired comfort level. So when you leave the living room, there won’t be any temperature surprises as you walk into the next area.

Better temperature control: Mini-split


You can never beat a wallet-friendly solution, and it’s part of the reason why some individuals prefer window units to mini-split systems. Window units cost anywhere between $100 to $500, and that’s without any labor costs involved.

The cost to install a ductless mini-split AC system is between $2,000 and $14,500. Factors that influence the cost include:

  • Your budget

  • Size of the system needed

  • Your location

  • Contractor labor

Cost: Window unit


The problem with window AC units is their intrusiveness, meaning the big box-like units don’t exactly blend in with your decor.

However, you could say the same for mini-split systems. Although they aren’t stationed in a window, they get placed on your walls which can be just as intrusive. There won’t be much of a problem if you don't mind their interference.

More visually appealing: Tie

Energy Efficiency

Window ACs aren’t as energy-efficient as mini-splits. So while window ACs may cost less up-front, if you plan on running the AC over a long period, you may be better off putting your investment into a mini-split.

You can increase the energy efficiency of your window unit by properly insulating your window and buying an ENERGY STAR certified AC.

More energy-efficient: Mini-split

Ease of Installation

Window units are a simple DIY project—all you have to do is measure the window space accordingly and enlist the help of a strong friend to help you place it in the window to avoid any injuries. 

Installing a mini-split system is not as simple as window unit installation. We highly recommend hiring a local air conditioner installer for this job, as it requires a bit more prep and the safe handling of refrigerants.

Easier installation: Window unit


When looking into a cooling solution, you want to get the most bang for your buck. Most window units have an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years. On the other hand, mini-split systems have an average lifespan of about 15 to 20 years.

Longer lifespan: Mini-split


Maintaining your window unit is an easy Saturday morning project. You’ll have to clean the grill with soap and water to remove debris buildup. Then remove the filter and either clean or replace it. Also, clean your evaporator and condenser coils with a soft brush or vacuum to remove dirt.

You can follow the same protocols for cleaning your ductless mini-split. But since there are more working parts than a window unit, you’ll have to schedule regular HVAC maintenance to keep your system working efficiently.

Required maintenance: Tie

Resale Value

Different types of air conditioners have different resale values. And when it comes to the value of window units, it depends significantly on the type and age of your unit. After a certain period, your AC may be better off as scraps.

Ductless mini-split systems have a higher resale value when considering how they can change an entire home. Some homes may not be able to accommodate air ducts or central air, leaving room for the mini-split shine. If you plan on selling your home soon or just want to enjoy it differently, installing this system is the addition you need.

Higher resale value: Mini-split

Conroy Baltimore contributed to this piece.

Frequently Asked Questions

Window ACs use 500 to 1,400 watts per hour of electricity while mini-splits use 500 to 700 watts per hour. However, if you need to cool multiple zones in your house, your mini-split can use as much as 2,000 watts per hour.

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