Looking to Switch to Ductless Air Conditioning? Here Are the Benefits (and Drawbacks)

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated January 3, 2022
spacious living room with ac
Photo: itchySan / Getty Images

Highlights

  • A ductless air conditioning system connects an outdoor unit to the indoor unit.

  • Ductless indoor units are mounted to the wall and provide personalized comfort.

  • They're easy to install and maintain, plus they can lower your energy bill.

  • But ductless systems are not ideal for larger homes or houses located in climates with extreme temperatures.

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Centralized heating and cooling systems do a great job of maintaining a comfortable temperature throughout your home. But they often use ducts that are difficult to maintain, which may cause you to consider the tempting benefits of a ductless system.

But window unit or mini-split, are ductless systems right for your home? This guide breaks down what a ductless system is, how it works, and how to determine whether it's right for your house.

What Is a Ductless Air Conditioning System?

A ductless air conditioning system connects one outdoor unit and one indoor unit with refrigerant tubing and electrical wiring. The indoor air conditioning unit is typically mounted to the wall, and it delivers the heated or cooled air directly into the living space without using the home's ductwork—hence its name.

As a result, these systems are ideal for heating or cooling one specific area rather than the entire home. However, you can combine multiple indoor units with one outdoor unit to provide whole-home heating and cooling.

What Are the Benefits of Ductless Air Conditioning?

 air compressors on side of house
Photo: Studio Harmony / Adobe Stock

Ductless air conditioning comes with various benefits that make the system attractive to many homeowners.

Easy to Install

Since this system doesn't rely on ductwork, all you need to do to install it is make a hole in the wall to connect the outdoor unit to the indoor unit via wiring and refrigerant line. As a result, installation takes less time than putting in a centralized AC system.

Provides Personalized Comfort

Some people like to keep their homes hot, and some people like to keep it cool. With a ductless system, you can keep certain areas of the house at one temperature and other areas at another, rather than force the entire household to adjust to one uniform temperature.

Less Energy Usage

With a ductless system, you can shut off units in rooms that you aren't using to save on energy. This method results in less energy usage and a lower energy bill.

Less Maintenance

Ductless systems typically only require regular cleaning of the filters and cleaning up around the outdoor unit to ensure the airflow is clear. You won't have to clean ductwork or seal leaks like with a centralized AC system.

What Are the Drawbacks of Ductless Air Conditioning?

While ductless systems have many benefits, you should consider its downsides before pulling the trigger on an installation.

Not Ideal for Large Houses

Central air conditioning is a better choice if you have a larger home because installing many individual ductless units throughout the house may not be cost-effective. Ductless systems also won't work as efficiently if they cover a larger area.

Struggles With Extreme Temperatures

If the temperatures plunge way below freezing or get extremely hot, a ductless system may not provide the power to keep your home at your desired temperature. If you live in a climate that experiences intense temperatures, consider installing a centralized AC system instead.

Repair May Be More Difficult

To repair a ductless system, you have to remove it from the wall, which may make it more labor-intensive to repair than a centralized system. Common issues with ductless systems include loss of refrigerant, condensate leaks, and faulty blower fans.

How Do I Know if a Ductless System Is Right for My Home?

If you live in a large home in a location that experiences extreme temperatures, the answer is probably no. In that case, you need a centralized system with the power to cool your large home during humid days and warm it during the freezing winter.

A ductless system may make more sense if you live in a moderate to small-sized home in a mild climate. You aren't likely to face extreme cold or hot weather that will overwhelm a ductless system, and your home is compact enough that you only need a few wall-mounted units to reach the entire house.

Contact an HVAC company near you for a consultation. They can give you advice on which system to choose.

Is Ductless Less Expensive to Install Than Central Air?

One of the benefits of installing a ductless AC system is that it’s less expensive than central air. The cost to install a new central AC system is $3,800 to $7,500, whereas the cost of a mini-split AC system is about $1,500 to $4,000, not including labor and installation costs. The factors that impact the total cost of your ductless mini-split include the size of the system, your home’s location, and labor prices.

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