Ductless AC Pros and Cons

Ductless AC technology has hit the American market in a big way. Still, many homeowners don't realize the benefits these flexible systems can deliver. Could you use a ductless AC system in your home? Or are you better off sticking with a conventional central HVAC unit?

What Do We Mean By "Ductless AC"?

In this case, we're talking about ductless mini-split system air conditioners or heat pumps. These systems utilize an interior air handler and an outside condenser. They are connected through only a narrow hole in the wall, and can deliver high quality cooling without air ducts. Though they have long been popular overseas, ductless mini-splits remain mysterious to many Americans.

The Pros of Ductless AC

The key feature that makes a ductless AC system so worthwhile is its versatility. Both the condenser and the air handler are lightweight and easy to handle. Since they require only a very narrow hole to connect, there is virtually nowhere in a modern home that a ductless unit can't reach. This allows them to deliver zone-specific comfort.

And since they don't need air ducts, ductless AC can be installed quickly. All you need is the system itself. That simplicity means the average HVAC technician can finish ductless AC installation in a single visit. Which is something that can rarely be said about conventional central heating and air conditioning units!

Ductless AC vs. Window Air Conditioner

Window air conditioners are certainly cheaper than mini-splits, but they're also very inefficient. Ductless AC units are much more energy efficient than window units. Which means that what you spend up front you make up over the long term.

Not to mention that mini-splits are also much, much quieter than window air conditioning. The compressor is the part that makes all the noise in air conditioning. When it comes to a window unit, the only place for the compressor to be is basically in the room with you. But with ductless AC, the compressor is in the condenser outside.

The Cons of Ductless AC

Ductless mini-splits aren't magic, so there must be some downsides, right?

Of course! We're big fans of ductless mini splits, but nothing is perfect for every application. As much as we would like, there is no single HVAC technology that will fit all needs all the time.

Multi-zone ductless AC does allow for the ability to heat and cool a complex structure. However, if you're going to go that route, you should consider conventional central heating and air. That is, of course, what central HVAC is designed to do, and it does it very well. A properly sized and installed central HVAC system is going to be as effective and efficient as any multi-zone ductless system, and probably more so.

Now, that being said, there are certain instances in which a ductless AC multi-zone would be ideal. Many historic homes were built before air conditioning was invented. Those buildings often lack the space, above or below, to effectively accommodate central HVAC. A multi-zone ductless mini split is ideal in that case.

And, of course, there is price. There is no denying that portable and window air conditioning is cheaper than most ductless mini-splits. Folks who are looking for the absolute cheapest solution will find one elsewhere. It is also true that energy inefficient systems (like window and portable units) don't make sense long term, but that doesn't matter to all buyers.


For many different heating and cooling problems, ductless AC can be a great solution. We highly recommend them to discerning homeowners.

Want to Know More About Ductless AC?

Do you have more questions or comments about ductless AC mini split systems? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

4 comments (view/add)
  • Bob
    Posted on 9/2/2019

    How well do they heat and how far down can the outside temperature go and they still work

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 9/3/2019

    There are many ductless mini-splits that can heat very effectively. The minimum outside temperature in which they can operate may vary from model to model.

  • Deb Duncan
    Deb Duncan
    Posted on 9/25/2019

    Our house is kind of divided into separate bldgs. They are connected with a breezeway. The old bldg has ductwork hooked up to a woodburner. The newer bldg has no ductwork. It is heated with elec heaters and cooled with a window air conditioner. I am interested in the ductless heating and cooling units. Are they very expensive to buy and install? And pretty simple to install?

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 9/26/2019

    There are a lot of different models and brands of ductless mini-splits, so prices can range considerably. The MRCOOL DIY is, of course, the easiest mini-split to install, since it's made for that sort of thing. Conventional mini-splits are much easier to put in than central heating and air. They do require specialized tools and equipment though.

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