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Ductless AC vs Traditional AC Unit

February 22, 2021 | Blog

Ductless Mini-Split AC vs Traditional HVAC Systems

Homeowners in the South know the majority of the year is warm, hot or boiling, so having an efficient AC system in your home is a priority. Making sure your AC system is in tip top shape seems to be the only way to make it through each summer. Although traditional AC units are most common, the newer ductless AC systems offer some different perks. Let’s dive in and compare both AC systems to find the right fit for you!

Ductless vs Traditional AC: How do they work?

Establishing the base of both systems is important to understanding where they differ. Both systems are made up of two units – an outdoor and indoor unit.

The outdoor unit on the ductless system, called a compressor, contains a condenser coil and electrical components. The indoor unit is called an air handler or evaporator and hangs on your wall. The two units are connected by copper pipes that transport the coolant in and the heat from your home outside to be released. In winter, the process is reversed to provide your home with heat.

The outdoor unit on the traditional, central AC system, called a condenser, contains refrigeration elements, electrical components and a fan. The indoor unit contains an evaporator coil inside an air handler or connected to the furnace. The two units are connected by a refrigeration line.

The biggest difference in function between the two systems is the presence of ductwork. Traditional AC systems distribute air throughout your house using ducts and air vents. The cool air circulates, becomes warmer and returns through ducts to be filtered and treated again. A central control regulates the amount of air circulating in the home.

As the name implies, ductless AC systems do not use ducts. Multiple air handlers – slim box units on the wall – are connected to one compressor but can be controlled independently. Air handlers can be installed in specific sizes for smaller or larger rooms, allowing for customizable fit.

Ductless vs Traditional: Which is best for you?

There are three main points to take into consideration when comparing these two systems – cost, efficiency and aesthetic/noise. Although there are many factors that can affect your decision, these three sections show the biggest differences between the systems.


If your home already has air ducts, then the cost of installing a traditional system can range from $5,000 to $15,000, on average. If ducts need to be installed, expect another couple thousand dollars on the bill. A single ductless system runs between $3,000 and $8,000, but the price goes up if you want more indoor units.

As far as initial costs go, ductless systems are more cost effective – but they also only treat a single room. Central AC units will cool or heat an entire home.


Ductless systems provide the user with customizable usage, meaning only those rooms in use need to be cooled or heated. This allows the system to work only as needed and not waste energy. However, if your home has an open floor plan or large spaces, more wall units are required to regulate that space.

Traditional systems have to work harder, especially in the summer, because they are cooling the entire house. For large spaces, this is the optimal choice – but for homes with lots of rooms and small spaces it may not be as efficient. Also, the amount of air leakage that can occur in ductwork accounts for a decrease in efficiency.


For the most part, traditional systems reside in the attic and walls, leaving your home undisturbed. Some older homes have limitations to their internal structure and require ductwork be installed on their ceilings, a potential design negative. Traditional systems have also been known to make slightly more noise because of the echo of the air being pushed through the ducts all across the home.

Ductless systems require box units installed on the walls of your home, which requires space and flexibility in home design. Several colors and designs are offered, but they will still be visible. These systems are quieter when running because they have no ducts.

Both AC systems have their pros and cons, but we’ll help find the right fit for you. If you are looking for a ductless AC install company or need more information about traditional AC systems, don’t hesitate to contact Absolute Comfort Air. We’re here to ensure your absolute comfort in your indoor air environment!

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