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The Difference Between Ductless and Traditional AC

June 9, 2022 | Blog

Not sure whether to install a traditional or ductless AC unit? Want to know if you can use both? Certain living situations might make one more ideal than the other. Foulks Southern Air provides customers with all necessary information to answer both of the above questions. Continue reading to learn more about ductless, mini-split air conditioning units!

Ductless VS Traditional AC Units

Also called mini-split AC systems, ductless ACs include an outside condenser and an indoor evaporator. Passed between the two units, coolant carries heat from the inside unit to the outside unit where it is released, effectively cooling the house. Since ductless air conditioning systems have a slim cable connecting the two units, ducts and vents are unneeded.

Like a mini-split air conditioning system, traditional systems include an outside condenser and an indoor evaporator. Instead of coolant, cool air is sent through the evaporator on your furnace into your ductwork. From there, it is carried into the rest of your house.

Choosing The Correct Unit For Your Home


The main decision-maker when choosing an AC unit is if your house has ductwork. If it does, choosing a central system makes more sense. If it doesn’t, ductless systems cost less and are less difficult to install, requiring only a 3-inch hole in the wall for the cable.


Indoors, a central AC is invisible. As ductless air conditioning requires a vent in the ceiling or a slim unit on the wall, it is visible indoors. If décor is important to you, a central AC system might be the better choice.


The size of your house is relatively important when choosing an AC unit. For homes 2,500 feet or larger, central air conditioning is best as ductless systems aren’t powerful enough to cool homes that are this size. Houses of 2,000-2,500 square feet allow more of a central AC’s power to be paid off, making them more efficient than ductless systems. If your house is 2,000 square feet or less, consider ductless systems.


If you don’t like noise, ductless systems might be the right way to go. However, some mini-split AC systems are louder and some central systems are quieter.

When considering an AC system, ask a technician for the noise level, in decibels, if such a thing is important to you.


Mini-split AC systems start at around a couple of thousand dollars for one indoor unit. If you desire multiple units or high energy efficiency, however, the price can increase.

Central air systems are typically more expensive. However, some top-of-the-line ductless systems cost more than low-efficiency central systems.

Energy Efficiency

Installation and ductwork quality are important factors in ensuring full efficiency for central systems. That being said, if the ductwork has unnecessary twists and turns, or is improperly sealed and leaking air, efficiency will decrease.

To maintain energy efficiency, have technicians ensure the correct refrigerant level, that the outdoor unit is leveled and that the system matches its air
handler. The best ductless systems have higher potential energy efficiency, 27 SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio than the best central systems, 21 SEER.

Zoning Control

Though zone control is available with both systems, ductless is cheaper as zone controlling central air requires upgraded ductwork with internal dampers.

Supplemental Heating

Some ductless systems are also heat pumps: when the temperature drops outside, they reverse direction and bring warm air in. If you want to use your furnace less, consider ductless.

Using Both Units Together

Room Addition Or Repurpose

Adding new rooms to a house with central AC comes with the issue of how to heat and cool them. As the AC and heater installed were not sized to take on extra living space, adding ductwork from the current ventilation isn’t easy. Additionally, extending ducts drops the ventilation system’s air pressure. You could install a new AC and furnace, however, installing a ductless mini-split for the new room would be a less expensive option.

Converting a garage or attic into a living space is an easy way of expanding a home without a full addition. However, neither room is attached to the HVAC system. Installing a mini-split AC system makes it easy for these rooms to have heating and cooling without affecting the rest of the ventilation.

Low Airflow Spots

One room not receiving the same level of comfort as the rest of the house is relatively common. To fix this situation, a ductless AC can apply the necessary heating and cooling power. A single ductless system can have up to four wall units, allowing you to improve several different spots with one installation.

Install A New AC Unit Today!

Know which AC unit is right for you? Contact the professionals at Foulks Southern Air and schedule an appointment to discuss ideas and air conditioning installation. We also offer professional air conditioning maintenance and AC repairs!

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