If you’re shopping to replace your existing air conditioner, you’ve probably come across the term “ductless” or “mini-split.” How does this type of AC stack up against traditional central air conditioning?
Before you buy a new air conditioner, compare the ductless vs. central air details and decide which one is better for your Ottawa home.
How Does Central Air Conditioning Work?
A central air conditioning system comprises 2 units:
- the air handler evaporator coil, not an air handler indoors (typically attached to your forced-air furnace or air handler) ANDthe
- condenser outdoors (a large boxy structure in your yard)
These work to alternately evaporate and compress a fluid called refrigerant or coolant—as the refrigerant moves between the evaporator and the condenser, it transfers heat from inside your home and releases it outside.
Central AC circulates the cooled air throughout your home using the same ductwork and registers as your furnace does for heat.
GOOD TO KNOW: Insulating ductwork will make your central heating and cooling more energy-efficient.
The correct size air conditioner is important for optimal performance, energy efficiency, and home comfort. Don’t rely on guesswork; have an HVAC pro perform an accurate load calculation based on numerous factors, including the square footage of your house, sun exposure, number of windows and doors, amount of insulation, and your family’s cooling needs.
How Does Ductless Work?
You may be surprised to hear that ductless air conditioners work pretty similarly to central air, evaporating and condensing refrigerant to cool your home. However, it’s packaged a bit differently. Ductless AC is nicknamed “mini-split” because it consists of 2 small units — one to be mounted inside in the room you’d like to cool, and the second to be placed on an exterior wall — connected by a narrow cable.
Once again, a professional load calculation is critical to ensure that you buy the correct size.
Things To Consider:
Ductless air conditioning usually comes with a higher initial cost. However, ductless is less expensive than central air conditioning to run, resulting in lower monthly electricity bills.
2. Energy Efficiency
One advantage of ductless air conditioning is its energy efficiency, rated in terms of Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratios (SEER), for 2 reasons. First, it requires a much smaller amount of electricity since its inverter technology converts high-voltage electricity to direct current. Second, the cooled air has a shorter distance to travel than central air conditioning, which can leak up to 30 percent of cooled air as it makes its way to your registers.
Central air requires more maintenance, mainly due to the necessary ductwork. Ducts should be inspected regularly for any damage, as well as accumulation of dirt, dust, mould, and animal or insect droppings. (Yuck!) Duct cleaning will improve your indoor air quality, as well as AC efficiency. For either type of system, change or clean the air filter every 30-90 days, clean the outside unit as needed, and schedule professional tune-up annually.
Central air conditioning has a better range, making it best for consistently cooling a large home. On the other hand, ductless systems with variable speed fans run on a longer cooling cycle, which allows for better dehumidification. Removing moisture from the air will help you feel less hot and sticky. In addition, ductless units are equipped with reversible heat pumps, so they can also be used to warm your house in winter efficiently (as long as the outdoor temperature is -7° C or above).
Ductless air conditioners are more straightforward and faster to install. Installation involves mounting the indoor and outdoor units and drilling a small 76-mm hole to run the connecting cable through. The process is especially convenient if you have to retrofit AC into a house built without ductwork or put it into a new home addition.
6. Design Of Home
Conventional ducted air conditioning is unobtrusive and will interfere less with the interior design of your home. Then there are ductless units, but they are quite visible. However, these days, you will find various options for ductless placement — wall mounted (the most common and cheapest to install, but the most “in your face”), floor-mounted, or discreetly ceiling recessed.
7. Zoned Cooling
Zoned cooling is an excellent way to fine-tune your HVAC, to suit every family member’s preferences. Although both air conditioning types can be zoned, central air will require an upgrade of your ductwork to add dampers that will control cool airflow. Zoning mini-split AC is simpler and less pricey. You can have multi-head indoor units — each set at a different temperature — connected to a single outdoor unit.
Both the indoor and outdoor components of ductless air conditioning tend to be quieter than central, which is good news for your family and your neighbours. However, different systems have different decibel levels, so if you are especially sensitive to air conditioner noise, ask an HVAC professional to recommend the quietest options on the market.
Get The Best AC For Your Home
Whichever type of air conditioning you prefer, make sure you get the best system for your home. Rely on the experienced team at Ottawa Home services for accurate air conditioner sizing and expert, hassle-free installation.
Contact us for a pressure-free, no-obligation quote.