Central Air Vs. Mini Split: 7 Things To Consider

Central Air Vs. Mini Split: 7 Things To Consider

Anthony Barnes

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It’s a debate as old as time…well, nearly. 

When it comes to air conditioning, a lot of homeowners are torn between two different systems: central air or mini split.

Each one has its advantages and its drawbacks, but it can be tricky choosing between the two. 

So, to help you out, here are both systems compared against each other.

We are going to cover seven important factors you should consider when choosing if a mini split or central air system is best for your home.

Check out those factors underneath so you can choose between central air and a mini split system with confidence! 

What Are Central Air And Mini Split Systems?

First up, let’s make sure we are all on the same page about the differences between these two air conditioning and heating systems. 

Central air conditioners use fans and ducts to transport air around your home. There are two different types of central air conditioners.

The first is packaged air conditioners which keeps the cooling components outside your home in a single cabinet. 

The second type is called split-system (not the same as mini split) which splits the cooling components into two and keeps one half indoors and the other half outdoors into two separate cabinets. 

Mini split air conditions work a little differently.

Although these systems also have an outdoor unit, they use an indoor ‘ductless’ wall-mounted unit that disperses cool air through your home.

These units are sometimes called ‘evaporators’ and do not connect through a series of ducts like central air conditioners do.

So, now that you know the basic differences between these two different systems, let’s take a look at the seven most important factors you should keep in mind when choosing between the two. 

Cost

Air conditioning is a vital part of any American home, but they can be expensive to install.

Central air units can cost between nearly $4,000 and $7,500 to install.

This is mainly down due to having to install so many connected ducts and factories, which drives up the cost due to the amount of extra work that’s required to properly install a central air system. 

On the other hand, mini splits can cost between $2,000 and $15,000.

That’s a huge range between the most affordable price and most expensive, but that range is because you may need to add more and more evaporators due to the size of your home. 

While a compressor and single evaporator will not cost you as much as installing a huge central air system, the more evaporators you add to your mini split system, the more the cost will rise. 

However, if your home already has the ductwork necessary for a central air system, then it might be the more affordable option for you.

If not, then it’s work looking into how much a mini-split system will cost for your home as its installation is a lot easier and thus, more affordable. 

Energy Consumption

With the cost of energy rising, it’s also important to be conscious of how much energy each air conditioning system uses.

Opting for a low energy consuming system could save you a lot in terms of energy costs, which makes it the more affordable option in the long run. 

Central units use around 3,000 to 3,500 watts per hour at peak cooling, while mini split systems use around 2,000 watts per hour.

This means that mini split systems generally are more affordable to run and consume far less energy than central air systems.  

Noise

The last thing you need when running your air conditioning system is for the noise to be loud and distracting.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for a lot of homes across the US – especially in those that have central air conditioning systems. 

Central air conditioners are known for being very loud and that noise will echo through the house due to all the connected ducts and fans.

This is because the outdoor unit is the main source of this noise and due to its connections to the ducts, it’s easy for the noise to travel inside from the outdoor cabinet. 

Mini-split systems are a little different.

Although it’s not silent either, it can be placed further away from your home and without the connecting ducts, it’s more difficult for the noise to travel and carry like it does with a central air system. 

So, for a quieter home, you may want to opt for the mini split system. 

Heating

Central Air Vs. Mini Split: 7 Things To Consider

Some air conditioning systems also offer heating so you can warm up your home and keep it cool all using the same system. 

Luckily, both systems offer this option but to different effects.

Mini split systems have heat pumps that generally work great, while central air conditioners are known for having heat pumps better suited for more moderate climates.

So, if you don’t need to rely on a heating system that is robust and heat up your home every winter without fail, then a central air system would be recommended. 

However, if you would rather your air conditioning system to also adequately heat your home, then a mini split system should do the trick. 

Size And Capacity

Some homes need to have a more capable air conditioning system than other homes.

Homes in warmer climates will generally need a higher capacity and be larger to help avoid airflow issues and low performance. 

So, in this case, central air conditioners are the better choice before they have a greater capacity than mini split systems.

Mini split systems usually do not do well in warmer climates because there needs to be at least one (or sometimes several) evaporator in each room and this can drive up their cost. 

Room By Room Cooling

The reason why a lot of homeowners want to choose the mini split air conditioning system is because of its ability to cool each room in your home individually.

This means that one room in the house could be using the air conditioning, while all the others are not – which can really drive down costs and help everyone adjust the temperature to their own tastes. 

However, this feature is not possible with central air conditioners.

You either cool the whole house or not – so if one person is too hot, or if you know you are restricted to one room for the day and don’t need to use the air conditioning in every single room of your house, then you are stuck. 

So, room by room cooling is a great feature that mini split systems boast which makes it a very attractive choice. 

Appearance

And finally, we come to appearance.

This is one of the biggest factors to consider because the last thing you want is for a big, ugly unit to be in every room of your house. 

This is the unfortunate reality of mini split systems.

Each room will have an evaporator attached to your walls, and you will have to come up with different camouflaging techniques to try and stop it from spoiling the aesthetic of the room.

This is generally the biggest turn off for a lot of people when it comes to mini split systems.

Central air conditioning systems do not have this problem which does make them a more attractive option – but can you say that you can afford the cost by opting for a central air system instead? 

Conclusion

So, there you have it – the seven most important things to consider when choosing between a central air system or a mini split system .

Each one has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to take each one into consideration.

Think about the cost of each system plus its aesthetics and the extra additional features it has so you can pick the right system that will be most advantageous to you and your home.

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age