Central Air HVAC System vs Ductless Mini-Splits: Pros & Cons

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There are tons of options to choose from when it comes to heating and cooling. Should you go with a traditional ducted system or would a ductless system better suit your needs? In this video we’ll explore the pros and cons of each system.

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Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning proudly serves Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding areas. Our service area includes Bexley, Blacklick, Canal Winchester, Columbus, Delaware, Dublin, Gahanna, Galena, Galloway, Grandview, Grove City, Hilliard, Lewis Center, New Albany, Obetz, Pataskala, Pickerington, Powell, Reynoldsburg, Sunbury, Upper Arlington, Westerville, Whitehall, and Worthington.

Video Transcription

There are tons of options to choose from when it comes to heating and cooling. Should you go with a traditional ducted system or would a ductless system better suit your needs? In this video we’ll explore the pros and cons of each system.

Hi. I’m Luke from Fire & Ice. As a residential sales professional I have sat down with hundreds of customers to discuss their HVAC needs. From time to time we are asked by customers which is better: a traditional A/C and furnace combo, or a new ductless system? The answer is it all depends. In this video we’ll break down the pros and cons of central air and ductless systems.

What is a Central Air HVAC system?

Here in Columbus, Ohio, a typical central air system consists of a gas furnace and air conditioner. In some instances, a heat pump is used in conjunction with an electric furnace. A heat pump can both heat and cool and an electric furnace is used as supplemental heat.

A central air system starts at the thermostat. The thermostat tells the system to turn on. WHen it kicks on, air is sucked into the system via a blower motor inside the furnace. The air is then filtered and either heat or cooled. The conditioned air is then blown redistributed throughout the house via the ductwork and vents.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Central Air System?

Now that we know what a central air system is, let’s look at some of its benefits. For starters, is their lower initial cost than ductless mini-splits. Most homes already have existing ductwork in their home. The cost of upgrading equipment is a lower initial investment compared to a ductless system. 

The next benefit is that central air systems are better equipped at handling large homes. They are made to provide consistent heating and cooling for the entire home.They come in a range of sizes and come with various options to suit the needs of most homeowners. The last major benefit is that they offer better filtration and air purification for the entire home. There are numerous air quality products that can be integrated with the system. If your home suffers with humidity issues, add-ons such as a whole-home humidifier or dehumidifier can be added easily.

However, a central air system isn’t without its problems, such as higher utility bills. A traditional central air system heats and cools the entire home, even when no one is using a room or area. This can result in wasted energy and higher utility bills. It’s not uncommon for homes to experience hot and cold spots between rooms or uneven temperatures between floors. Another downside is your ductwork will need maintenance from time to time. Maintenance can include repairing or modifying ductwork, as well as getting it cleaned. All of which come with additional costs.

How is a ductless system different?

For the most part, central air systems are traditionally used to heat and cool an entire home. A ductless mini-split, on the other hand, is typically used to heat and cool individual rooms or zones. It uses a near identical process that central air does, but without ductwork.

It consists of an indoor “head” and an outdoor condenser unit, which can operate up to eight heads. When the temperature dips above or below the desired temperature, it will kick on. It will take the unconditioned air from the room, heat or cool it, and then redistribute the conditioned air back into the room. The heating and cooling process uses the same technology used by heat pumps. They cool by removing heat from the room and heat by taking heat from the outside and pumping it inside.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Ductless System?

Now let's explore the benefits and disadvantages of a ductless system. The primary benefit is their built-in zoning capability. Ductless mini splits are designed to provide precise heating and cooling for the room or area they are in. They can also help save on energy by sensing whether a room is occupied. This way they condition the space only when it's needed. Additionally, they are hyper efficient, with SEER ratings in the high 20’s and an HSPF rating up to 12. For comparison, high end heat pumps have SEER ratings in the low 20's and HSPF ratings of up to 10. They also require no ductwork. They are self-contained units that result in quicker installation, fewer modifications, and less overall maintenance. The last major benefit is the flexibility you can have by controlling the comfort of specific rooms or zones.

Ductless systems do have their disadvantages. Even though they do come with a filter, they're not filtering the same quantity of air that a central air system can. They are also limited on the amount of filtration and air purification add-ons you can have compared to a conventional system. We should also mention their line set aesthetics. T vhe line set will need to run from the outdoor condenser to each indoor head. Oftentimes this means it will need to run up and across exterior walls. Some might be ugly to some, and some HVAC contractors do little to conceal them. Here are Fire & Ice we use line-hide to help the line sets to blend better with the exterior of the house. Another downside is the need for drainage. The indoor head will produce moisture that will need to be drained. Most of the time gravity will drain the condensate. But in some applications a pump may be needed. Another downside is the maintenance needed. Since they can both heat and cool, they're likely running year-round. This means the filter will need to be changed frequently. Lastly, is their cost. Deciding to go ductless can become pricey when compared to upgrading a conventional central air system, especially if multiple heads are involved. 

What are the next steps?

We understand choosing the right HVAC system for you and your home can be difficult. We hope by now you have a better understanding of which system might be right for you. If you have any questions and would like to sit down with one of our residential sales professionals feel free to schedule an estimate on our website. We’d love to sit down with you and discuss your options. Thank you for watching and we look forward to making your day better.

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