Ductless or central air conditioning? That is the question facing many homeowners who need to upgrade or replace their cooling system. It isn’t as existential as Hamlet’s question, “To be or not to be?” but at this time of year, to most of us it is just as important.
A ductless (also called a mini split) system, includes one outdoor unit and one indoor unit, connected by refrigerant tubing and electrical wiring. The indoor unit is often wall-mounted, and delivers heated or cooled air directly into the living space. No ductwork is needed.
A central AC system also has an indoor and an outdoor component. But the cool air is sent through the air handler on your furnace into ductwork, where it is carried throughout the rest of the house.
So, to be cool or not to be cool? Well, both types of systems will do the trick. The difference comes down to the following considerations.
If you already have ductwork in your home, its more cost effective to stay with a central air system. If you don’t have ductwork, it will cost less to install a ductless system “from scratch”. Ductless systems are also a good option for a new addition that isn’t connected to the ductwork in the rest of the house.
Visibility of Your Air Conditioner
When you’re indoors, a central AC system is invisible. The inside unit is usually nestled in the attic or tucked into a closet. A ductless system, however, requires a slim unit on the wall. So, if the sight of an AC unit insults your aesthetic sense or detracts from the artwork, a central system may be better for you.
Size of Your Home
Many ductless systems don’t have enough power to cool a large home. And you will need to mount a unit in several rooms to get the same cooling effect as a central air system. So, experts suggest that if your home is larger (2,500 square feet and up), choose a central air system. Larger homes benefit from the greater power of a central air system and will get better efficiency as well.
As a general rule, ductless systems are quieter. But with today’s technology, some central air systems are even quieter than some ductless ones. It’s best to ask your technician for the decibel level for any systems you’re considering.
Cost and Energy Efficiency
The initial cost of a ductless system is higher than a central air system of the same capacity, if you don’t have to add ductwork to a central system. Yet while the energy consumption of both systems varies depending on use, temperature settings, and the unit’s condition, ductless systems typically consume less electricity. That can save you money on utility bills in the long run.
Indoor Air Quality
Both types of systems use air filters to rid conditioned air of pollutants that can cause minor nose and throat irritations or even more serious respiratory diseases. However, in central cooling systems, dust, dust mites, pollen, mold, bacteria, and even pest droppings, can also accumulate inside the ductwork. Obviously, this doesn’t happen in ductless systems. Regardless of the system, air filters need to be changed regularly, to protect your family’s health and the efficiency of the system. And with central air systems, you should also consider cleaning your ductwork every three to five years.
As mentioned above, with ductless systems you won’t have to pay for duct maintenance like sealing leaks or cleaning ductwork. However, central air conditioning systems usually have longer warranties than ductless systems. And no matter which type of system you choose, some routine maintenance is required. At a minimum, you need to check the air filter on ductless and central systems once per month to see if it’s dirty and change it every three months. Make sure leaves, grass clippings, and other debris are kept away from your outdoor unit. And most importantly, have your system inspected and maintained by a professional at least once per year.
Trust Your Comfort to Levco
If it doesn’t cool efficiently, if it leaks, makes noises, looks corroded, or is just plain old, we are here for you. If you want to maximize the energy efficiency of your system and at the same time maximize its quality and reliability as well, then give us a call so we can help you decide how to proceed. Levco works with the top brands in the industry and can provide you a comparison of repair options as well as our best advice for replacement. We’ll help you find a system that matches your home’s needs and your budget.
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