Central vs Ductless Mini-Split: How to Know Which Is Right For You

Having an effective climate control system in your Houston, Texas, home is important all year long. For homeowners currently trying to decide on a system, it can be tricky to figure out what works best for you. This guide can help you figure out which type of system will work best for your home: a central system or ductless mini-split. Both have pros and cons and work best in certain situations. Here’s how to choose which is right for you.

System Comparison

To start, it’s important to understand the difference between central climate control systems and ductless mini-splits. Central systems are the most common. They work off one main unit that uses ductwork to spread heated or cooled air throughout your home. This air is introduced to your home through vents that can be placed on the ceiling, walls, or in the floor.

The main compressor unit for a central system can be indoors or outdoors but is typically large and uses either coils or pumps to change the temperature of the air to meet the temperature set on an indoor thermostat. Typically, only one thermostat is used for the entire system, although zoning technology can be utilized. Central systems can run off electricity or gas.

Conversely, ductless mini-split systems don’t use ductwork to move air throughout your home. Instead, these systems are set up with a compressor outside and one or more air handlers inside that directly feed heated or cooled air into the room where they have been installed. Recent technology improvements have made ductless mini-splits sleeker and subtle, blending in with interiors. Each of the individual air handlers can be programmed to different temperatures, even if there are multiple interior components connected to a single exterior compressor.

Whole Home vs. Additions

Central systems are the most common whole-home climate control system. Thanks to the extensive use of ductwork and vents, it’s one of the easiest ways to provide comfort to the entire home, programmed from one central thermostat. The large central compressor provides both heat and air to the interior and runs off one power source.

Mini-split ductless systems are smaller capacity than central systems and are typically able to cool and heat three or four rooms off one exterior compressor, with an interior air handler installed in each of the corresponding rooms. Due to the lack of ductwork, the air output is limited to locations where the air handlers have been installed; instead of small vents, mini-split ductless systems are larger fans. However, while they do have larger interior portions, ductless systems are great for homes or rooms lacking extensive ductwork or where ductwork cannot be extended, such as new home additions and historic homes.

Historic Home Requirements

Mini-split ductless systems are often the ideal climate control solution when retrofitting is required. Many times, historic homes don’t have the structure required to install a central system with ductwork, or the current ductwork cannot be expanded to include the whole home. This can lead to either expensive renovations where ductwork is built into the home or a need for alternative climate control. Mini-split ductless systems can be added to any room, regardless of the ability to include ductwork.


Energy efficiency depends on the needs of the home, the system purchased, and the size of the home. Both central and mini-split ductless systems are becoming more and more energy-efficient as technology improves. Due to the smaller size and the shorter distance the air has to travel, mini-split ductless systems can be more energy-efficient than their central counterparts. It’s important to weigh the needs of your family, your budget, and what works best in your home when considering which to buy in terms of efficiency. Be sure to consult the SEER rating of any system you purchase to get a better idea of its energy efficiency.

If you’re ready to get a new central system or a mini-split ductless system, the experts at Davis Air Conditioning & Heating can help. Give us a call at 888-710-5530 to set up a consultation today!

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