Comparing Mini-Split Systems: Ducted vs. Ductless

May 3, 2023

Mini-split systems are some of the most popular options for heating and cooling systems due to their efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and minimal noise production. These heating and cooling systems come in two varieties: ducted and ductless. While both types offer a variety of benefits, there are significant differences between them that require careful consideration. This comprehensive article will help you decide which style suits your home and requirements. Read on for more information on ducted vs. ductless mini-split systems!

What Are Ducted vs. Ductless Mini-Split Systems? heating and air professional at work Apollo Heating and Air

Ducted systems, also known as central air systems, are single units installed outside the home, in the garage, or in unseen areas of the house to provide heating and cooling to multiple rooms. They are connected to a series of ducts that run through the walls and ceilings into each room of your home. This ductwork circulates air throughout the house from a hidden air handler, likely in an attic or crawl space. 

Alternatively, ductless systems are composed of two components: an outdoor compressor and an indoor unit. The outdoor portion is a compressor or condenser connected to the inside through a conduit that passes through a hole in the wall. This conduit houses a power cable, refrigerant tubing, a condensate drain, and suction tubing. It connects to the indoor unit, is usually mounted on the wall or ceiling, and is responsible for air handling. Ductless systems use inverter technology, which allows the system to run constantly. The unit continuously adjusts capacity to meet the set temperature. 

What Are the Benefits of Ducted Systems? 

There are several significant benefits of retrofitting your home with a ducted system or installing one from scratch!

1. Ideal for Homes with Existing Ductwork

A ducted mini-split heat pump is ideal for homes with existing ductwork. Previously installed ductwork is very common in homes in colder climates or houses that need to transition from older units to something more modern. In these cases, using the ductwork for your new ducted mini-split system is simple. It requires minimal installation efforts as only a few connections must be made. This lowers installation time, labor costs, and maintenance costs in the future.

2. Highly Efficient with Minimized Energy Use

Ducted systems are highly efficient because they do not require as much energy to heat and cool houses with multiple rooms. The indoor air handler can deliver conditioned air to various rooms and distribute it evenly throughout large spaces, using less energy than traditional HVAC systems.

3. Hidden Visibility to Increase Aesthetics

All heating and cooling components are hidden when you have a ducted system. Whether in the walls, the floors, ceilings, attics, or crawl spaces – it doesn’t matter! They are out of sight, out of mind! This helps declutter your home and remove eyesores, like window units or other heating and cooling systems, to keep that streamlined look.

4. Decreased Noise & Home Disruption:

Turning the volume up and down on the TV to compensate for an HVAC system is annoying. Therefore, one of the top benefits of a ductless mini-split system is that the air compressor is outside the home. As this is the noisiest part of the machine, ducted air systems are far quieter than conventional HVAC systems.

5. Easy & Reduced Cost Maintenance

Ducted systems are relatively easy to maintain due to their uncomplicated nature. They require few parts, which eliminates the potential for complicated issues. Any replacement part is easy to procure and simple to install and repair, helping your system get up and running quickly. 

What Are the Drawbacks of Ducted Systems? benefits of mini-split systems by Apollo Heating and Air

Ducted mini-splits can be easy to maintain, hidden from view, and efficient. However, you should consider the drawbacks of these air treatment units before purchasing them.

1. No Zoned Heating and Cooling

If you install and use a ducted system, you have a central control system that sets the temperature for the entire space. This means that whatever temperature you select, the system will attempt to get the whole house to that degree. It pushes the same temperature air throughout the house. However, that only sometimes means that each room is at the desired temperature. Often there are discrepancies between the upper and lower floors and even room-to-room.

2. You Can Heat Only One Structure

A ducted system can only serve one structure – it cannot connect to others. If you have a pool, guest house, mother-in-law suite, or any other building on your property, you will have to install a separate heating and cooling system.

3. Debris, Dust, and Allergen Accumulation

The ductwork that runs through your walls, floors, and ceilings is an ideal highway for treated air. However, your ductwork is also a place for debris, dust, pollen, and other allergens to get stuck. These loose materials can coat your tubes and vents and have you breathing in these harmful allergens and dust for months after the hay fever season. You must ensure you purchase quality air filters and clean them regularly to help prevent this. Additionally, you must have your ductwork cleaned periodically to help flush any harmful debris out of your system.

What Are the Advantages of Ductless Systems?

If you’re now considering a ducted mini-split, wait a minute! You may change your mind after hearing about the alternative – a duct-free system! There are several advantages of installing a ductless mini-split.

1. Requires Minimal Installation

Ductless systems are easy to install. You don’t have to purchase and put in yards of ductwork through your walls, ceilings, or floors. You have an outdoor compressor, an indoor component, and a conduit that connects the two. This removes the hassle, time spent, and further home repairs and replacements around the installation. Additionally, this makes your installation process and repairs cheaper.

2. Ideal Without Existing Ductwork

Mini-split heat pumps are ideal solutions for homes without existing ductwork. They require minimal installation, making them excellent for new constructions and retrofitting additions or replacements to older heating systems such as hydronic heaters, radiant panels, and space heaters. Ductless systems are also an excellent choice for room additions where you cannot extend existing ductwork into the space.

3. Individualized Climate Control

You can put a ductless heating and cooling unit in each room or area of your house. This allows you to keep different rooms at different temperatures. For example, if you are heading to bed, you can shut off all the other heating in your house and only run the heat pump in the bedroom. This also allows different members of the family to keep their room at their temperature preference. Additionally, ductless systems can help compensate for rising hot air by keeping the upper levels of your home cooler than ducted systems.

4. Increased Temperature and Energy Efficiency

Ductless units are highly efficient because they do not attempt to cool or heat the entire house simultaneously. They swiftly change the temperature of a room when you turn them on because their full power is blasting only into one space. You spend less time waiting and have more immediate control over the temperature in an area with a ductless unit. 

What are the Disadvantages of Ductless Systems? heating and air professional at work from Apollo Heating and Air

Despite their many advantages, ductless systems do have a few drawbacks!

1. Purchasing Multiple Units

You must purchase multiple ductless units if you have a large home or separated spaces. You will need a unit in each space you want to heat or cool, which can increase the initial investment significantly.

2. Higher Cost To Run

Ductless systems cost more to install than a ducted unit with existing ductwork. They also cost significantly more to run, as they use much more electricity when running 24/7 than ducted systems.

3. Problematic for Apartments and Condos

Ductless systems require outdoor components which need their electricity source. Often, apartment landlords or condo home owner’s associations forbid exterior modifications to buildings. If you want to install a ductless system, this can be a problem, so check with your landlord or HOA before committing to a purchase!

4. Take Up Space

Ductless units require more space than traditional HVAC or ducted mini-splits. They must be mounted near the ceiling, windows, or wall. This takes up space and can be a massive eyesore in your aesthetic. Additionally, the outdoor compressors take up plenty of space, which could be better for a small yard.

How Do I Decide Between Ducted and Ductless Mini-Splits?

When deciding between a ducted and ductless mini-split system, it is essential to consider multiple factors:

  1. Think about the size and layout of your home. If you have multiple stories, extensions, additions, or an odd design, a ductless system will help control the temperature in separate areas.
  2. Consider the climate conditions of your area. Do you need to run central heating and cooling all the time, or would heating and cooling just a few rooms at a time work?
  3. You must consult the almighty budget. Installing a ducted system from scratch is costly compared to installing a few ductless units. 

Each system offers its advantages and has its drawbacks. It is essential to consider your options and determine which is best for you and your space. If you need clarification or have questions, contact a local heating and cooling company like Apollo Heating and Air Conditioning. Experienced professionals will be able to assess your needs and guide you in the right direction. 

How Apollo Heating and Air Conditioning Can HelpApollo Heating & Air service van

Are you considering installing a mini-split system in the Tri-Cities, Washington, area? Apollo Heating and Air Conditioning can help! Our dedicated heating and air professionals team can solve any repair and install every type of system. We consult with you and consider your space, aesthetics, existing systems, present and future needs, and budget to determine your home’s perfect heating and cooling system. Visit our website to check out our product and service offerings, or schedule a consultation with Apollo Heating and Air Conditioning for personalized mini-split recommendations. We look forward to hearing from you and starting your journey toward your perfect heating and cooling system!