Man inspecting his air conditioning unit, with the words, central air vs. ductless mini-split.

Last year, approximately 5.4 million air conditioning units were sold and shipped in the U.S., which means that a lot of people made a decision that’s going to affect their comfort and their budget for years to come. If you’re looking to make a similar decision this year, you may wonder what your options are.

The first decision you’ll need to make is whether to get a central air conditioner or a ductless mini-split. By comparing their initial costs, costs over time, ease of installation, and other factors, you’ll ultimately be able to make the right decision for your home. Here is a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of a central air conditioner and a ductless mini-split unit:

1. Initial Cost and Cost over Time

If you’re like most people, cost is a huge factor when it comes to making decisions about large purchases. Of the two types of A/C units, a central air unit has the lowest initial cost. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it costs up to 30 percent less to install a central air system than it does a ductless one. However, ductless mini-splits tend to cost less to operate long-term. What’s more, they often require less maintenance and repair.

2. Ease of Installation

When it comes to installation, central air systems and ductless mini-splits are vastly different. If you don’t have air ducts in your home already, installing a central air system will be much more work than installing a ductless mini-split. This is especially true when working in old structures that weren’t built to accommodate ductwork.

Ductless mini-splits, on the other hand, are very simple to install. Wall units are simply hung in strategic locations and connected to an outdoor compressor via small refrigerant lines. These lines can be snaked through the walls of almost any home fairly easily. You will, however, need any existing air ducts you may have to be removed.

3. Design Elements

How much do design and decor mean to you? If it means a lot, you may be particularly interested in the design factors of the A/C unit you choose. Central air conditioners are by far the least visible; they will not change the look of your home. The outdoor compressor can be easily camouflaged with landscaping, and you won’t notice the addition of an indoor vent or two. You may not even have to add any new air vents if you already have enough.

Ductless mini-split air conditioners are extremely visible because they rely on wall units to distribute cool air throughout your home. To keep your entire home cool, you will likely need several wall units, which can take up a lot of wall space. What’s more, the units may detract from your decor. However, in an effort to make wall units more aesthetically pleasing, some companies are selling units that look like works of art.

4. Temperature Controls

Central air conditioners and ductless mini-splits differ greatly when it comes to temperature controls. Central units are controlled by one centrally-located thermostat, which means your entire home will be set to one temperature. Ductless mini-splits offer zoned temperature controls, meaning that you can set each zone to a different temperature. This allows you to keep rooms that you’re not using warmer, which could save you money. It also means you can keep each room at a comfortable temperature for the occupant.

5. Long-Term Efficiency

Central A/C units are good for 12 to 15 years, whereas ductless mini-splits last for up to 20 years. Mini-splits also offer greater efficiency and cost savings in the long term. While they may have a greater upfront cost, mini-splits tend to be the more efficient and cost-effective option long term.

If you’re ready to purchase a new A/C unit, or if you would like more information regarding your options, contact Cote’s Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have and get to work installing your new air conditioner.