If you’re stuck choosing between a central air conditioner or a ductless AC, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll walk you through some recommendations to help guide your purchase.
The truth is, both systems work well for Texas homes. But for most homeowners, the question comes down to cost.
In terms of lowest upfront cost, here are our recommendations:
- If your home already has ductwork, stick with a central air conditioner.
- If your home does not have ductwork, go with a ductless system.
However, we know upfront cost is only one factor. In this blog, we’ll look at how central and ductless ACs compare with each other in terms of:
- Upfront cost
- Cooling capacity
- Operational cost
Want an AC recommendation from a reliable Texas HVAC technician?
Ductless vs central AC: The upfront cost
As we mentioned above, if your home already has ductwork, it’s cheaper to go with a central air conditioner.
Here’s why: A central air conditioner costs anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000+—just for the system itself.
But, if you don’t have ductwork, you have to factor in the cost to add ducts to your home, which adds $5,000–$10,000 to the total cost.
When you add ductwork installation to the cost of the system, you’re looking at $8,000 to $18,500 total.
Compared to that high upfront cost, a ductless system would be cheaper. (Ductless systems cost anywhere from $3,900 to $10,000+.)
Ductless vs central AC: Cooling capacity
Central air conditioners are designed to cool an entire home. A ductless AC, however, can cool a single room, several rooms or an entire home.
A ductless (also called mini-split) system consists of 1 indoor unit and 1 outdoor unit at its most basic level. This combination of 1 indoor unit and 1 outdoor unit will cool one room or area in your home.
If you want to cool multiple rooms in your home, you’ll need to add an additional indoor unit for every room you want cooled. (One outdoor unit can service up to 8 indoor units.)
Here’s the bottom line: If you only want to cool one room, or an add-on room like a garage or guest room, go with a ductless system instead of trying to add ductwork. It will be less expensive to go the ductless route.
If you want to cool your entire home, then it depends if your home has ductwork or not (see the section above).
Ductless vs central AC: Operational cost
We already discussed upfront cost, but which system is cheaper to operate?
In theory, a ductless system is cheaper to operate than a central AC with equivalent energy efficiency.
The reason is because central air conditioners lose up to 30% of conditioned air to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. That means for every $100 you spend on cooling your home, as much as $30 of that is wasted.
However, if your ductwork is in perfect condition (which is not the case for most homes), then a central AC should be around the same cost to operate as a ductless system.
If you’re considering a central AC system, you’ll want to have a professional inspect your ducts to find and seal any leaks or holes. This way, you won’t lose as much conditioned air to holes and leaks.
Want an AC recommendation from a Texas pro?
We’re happy to help! We know it’s a big decision that you don’t want to take lightly. You can count on us to give you honest and accurate recommendations to ensure you get the right AC system for your home.
For more information about each type of AC system, visit our ductless installation and central AC installation pages.