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Central Air System vs Ductless Mini-Split System

Air conditioners lining a colorful mural

If you’re on the hunt for a new HVAC solution, the first hurdle you’ll have to jump is what system you want to go with. There are quite a few options. Two of the most popular systems are the central air system and the single space system. Let’s dive into what makes these two options distinct and discuss which might be the best option for you. 

Central Air System 

Central Air System External Cabinets

You’ve likely encountered this type of cooling system before. They work by transporting air to an entire house or building through ducts and registers. Once that air heats up again, it will cycle through the air conditioner to cool down and, eventually, get distributed again. Most central air systems even dehumidify the air before sending it throughout your home for an even more optimal climate. 

There are two types of central air systems: a packaged unit or a split-system unit.

A packaged unit central air system is usually found on your roof or beside your home on a concrete slab. The unit itself is referred to as a cabinet. Just as the name suggests, the cabinet contains the evaporator, compressor, and condenser in one neat package. They also include both cooling elements and a heating component such as a natural gas furnace or electric heating coils. Homes with this type of central air system don’t need a furnace inside.

A split-system unit is comprised of two cabinets. One cabinet is indoors and the other is outside. The exterior cabinet houses the condenser and compressor while the interior cabinet contains the evaporator. Many indoor cabinets also feature a furnace and heat pump. But if your home already has a furnace, there are options that don’t include the heating components. 

Both central air systems offer their own unique advantages. The more compact packaged unit is easier to install and takes up far less space. On the other hand, the split-system option takes up more room but offers more efficiency and lower maintenance. 

Ductless Mini-Split System

A mini ductless system in an unfinished room

The ductless mini-split system is sometimes referred to as a single space system. This no-frills air conditioning system doesn’t rely on ducts to transport air throughout a home. It’s comprised of just two key elements: an external compressor and an indoor unit. 

The external is mounted outside; contains a condenser. The indoor unit contains a blower and an evaporator. These two elements meet in the middle via a conduit. This is where you’ll find power cords, refrigerant lines, and a drain.

The ductless mini-split system works in a similar fashion to the central air system. It draws in heat from a room and pushes it outside. The key distinction is that the cool air is returned directly back into the room it came from. Every unit in a given home or building works independently so you can set them at different temperatures. 

Which Air Conditioning System Is Best For Me

Both the central air system and the ductless mini-split system are great options depending on your situation. Before anything else, evaluate your existing infrastructure. Are you starting from scratch? Do you have a furnace? What is your budget? All these elements will factor into which option fits your needs best. 

Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

Consider a packaged unit central air system if…

  • You don’t have space for an internal cabinet 
  • You have existing packaged unit equipment 
  • You’re looking for a more efficient alternative to the split-system 
  • You want a less noisy option 

Consider a split-system unit central air system if… 

  • You have the space for an interior cabinet (i.e. a basement or crawl space)
  • You have existing split-system equipment 
  • You don’t want to worry about possible leaks from the packaged unit condenser 
  • You want a longer life span 

Consider a ductless mini-split system if… 

  • You want a lower maintenance option
  • You only have select rooms you want to cool 
  • You want a cheaper option 
  • You want a lower energy bill 
  • You want a less noisy option 
  • You want an easier installation

Get Help From the Professionals 

Are you ready to install a new HVAC system? Give our team of experts a call! WM Buffington is proud to provide Central Pennsylvania with top tier HVAC services for an affordable price. 

Get in touch for your no-risk estimation today!

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