Deciding Between Ductless Air Conditioning and Central Air

There are many factors that contribute to how much you can expect to spend on cooling with ductless versus central air conditioning system. But in general, you can expect central air to be a bigger investment.

But a bigger investment can also mean a bigger payoff. So the question that many homeowners will likely come across in their search for an air conditioning replacement is relative to a variety of factors — geography, home location and layout, budget and climate.

Whether you’re looking to add air conditioning to a residence or rental, or it’s time to repair or replace an existing system, getting to know the options — and the important differences — for home air conditioning can help you make the best decision for your home and your HVAC needs.

Ductless vs. Central Air: Understanding Air Conditioning Options

Central air conditioning is often what most of us think of when considering air conditioning — the large outdoor compressor with condenser that facilitates the flow of cool air through existing vents (if your home has them, of course).

From inside your home, central air conditioning is virtually invisible, as it uses the existing HVAC infrastructure to deliver cool air around the home. This also means wherever there’s a vent, there’s cool air.  There is also a component attached to the furnace, but unless you spend a lot of time looking at your furnace, you likely won’t notice it. 

By comparison, ductless air conditioning, also known as mini-split systems, work by adding a cooling system panel inside the home. These are generally wall-mounted and can range in size depending on the area of the home they’re cooling.

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Cost of Ductless AC vs. Central Air

There are a lot of factors that contribute to how much you can expect to spend on cooling with either system, but in general you can expect central air to be a bigger investment than a ductless or mini split system.  On average, you can find ductless systems starting from a few thousand dollars, while central air is typically closer to seven or eight thousand dollars. If you would need to have ducts and venting installed in your home, however, that can increase the price of central air.

Features of your home like square footage, age, existing HVAC structure, and your personal cooling needs will all contribute to differences in cost for each type of system. For example, if you have a vent system in your home and won’t need to install, that may make a central air system comparable in price to ductless systems (again, depending on the home size and number of rooms that require cooling). On the other hand, if you’re looking to cool a moderately-sized addition without venting of its own, a ductless system would likely be a cost-effective choice.

Pros and Cons of a Ductless Air Conditioner


Often the most appealing feature of ductless air conditioning is  — you guessed it — the flexibility to cool without ducts. You can use these types of systems just about anywhere: in older homes that may not have existing venting, or any other type of dwelling, room, or addition.


There’s generally no ‘hiding’ a mini split or ductless system as they’re mounted to interior walls. Depending on the make and model, they can be pretty obtrusive at worst, and noticeable at best.

Pros and Cons of a Central Air Conditioner


Keep your walls clutter free without unsightly additions to your walls since central air uses existing vents. Over time, you may also find that central air is more efficient to run, thereby saving you money.


Central air can be a large investment, especially if you don’t already have ducting in your home.

If you want to find out what is the best air conditioning replacement option for your home, give us a call at Same Day Heating & Air. We offer offer fast, reliable air conditioning repair and installation service in the North Bay Area at a price you can afford.

Our promise to you is always that if we do not fix your system the SAME DAY we arrive…or you don’t pay the service fee. Our home service experts are licensed and insured with more than 100 years of leadership experience. Additionally, we back all of our installation and replacement services with a 24-month, 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Are There Efficiency Differences Between Ductless AC Units And Central Air?

Ductless units are small and extremely efficient at heating a space or a room. For an entire home, depending on the size of your home, efficiency may be more optimal with a central air unit, depending on your room/home preferences.

Ductless mini splits are suited for optimal control of a room rather than an entire home. However, you can save money by using a ductless AC unit in one room while keeping the rest of the air in your home warmer — this will lead to less energy being used throughout the house and show up as such on your energy bill.

Ductless Mini Split Filters

Ductless mini split filters cost in a range of $25 to $100 and are typically re-usable, just like a window AC unit. You simply need to adjust your cleaning schedule based on usage, open up the filter unit and run it under your sink or in your tub, let it dry, and re-insert it back into the unit.

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