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Mini-Split vs. Central Air: What’s the Best Air Conditioner?

Outdoor central air unit sitting outside of Cayman Islands home.

Is your current air conditioner not keeping your family as cool as it should be? Are you renovating your home and looking for extra AC options? Perhaps, you’re just simply ready to upgrade? Whatever the case may be, choosing the best air conditioner for your home is no easy feat — especially when you don’t know much about mini-splits vs. central air conditioning systems

The vast majority of homeowners in the Cayman Islands prefer central air for its powerful performance that keeps homes cool all year long. However, mini-splits do have some unique advantages. 

In this blog, we’ll cover the pros and cons of mini-splits vs. central air and help you decide which system is most suitable for your home!

Mini-Split vs. Central Air: How Do They Work?

Before we debate which type of air conditioner is best for your home, let’s start with the basics. How do mini-splits and central air conditioners operate? What are the similarities and differences between the two? 

Overall, both central air and mini-split units perform the same function: they collect heat from your home and release it outdoors. The resulting cooled air is circulated back indoors for you and your family to enjoy. 

The main difference is that central air conditioners are ducted systems — meaning they rely on ductwork to facilitate airflow — while mini-splits are ductless systems. Let’s break this down even further. 

Central air uses an air handler and ductwork to draw warm air out of your house. This warm air makes its way to the compressor, which is located in the outdoor unit, and goes through the cooling process. The now cool air is circulated back throughout the house via air ducts. As you can see, the cooling process takes place in a central location, and ductwork is essential for air distribution. 

Ductless mini-split systems, on the other hand, have individual units installed in each room or “zone.” Every unit is connected to the outdoor compressor. Therefore, there is no need for air ducts as with central air units. 

Now that you know how each system works, let’s go over the pros and cons of mini-splits vs. central air and discover which air conditioner is best for you!

Homeowner checking if central air vent is open.

Pros and Cons of Central Air Units

Pros 

Lower Installation and Maintenance Costs

Ideal for Homes of Every Size

Consistent Temperatures

Aesthetic Appeal

Cons

Ductwork Is Required

High Operating Costs

 

 

For a majority of homeowners, there is no debate when it comes to choosing between mini-splits vs. central air

Central air conditioning systems are perfect for any home, big or small. A knowledgeable comfort consultant will determine the perfect size unit for your AC installation based on your home’s square footage and your family’s comfort needs. This ensures your air conditioner delivers consistent temperatures and remains as energy-efficient as possible. 

One of the biggest advantages of owning a central AC system is that it has lower installation and maintenance costs. And if you keep up with tune-ups as recommended, you don’t have to worry about high operating costs unless the unit is approaching the end of its lifespan.

The only downside is that ductwork is required. If your home doesn’t have ductwork, this might not be the best air conditioner for you. 

Couple sitting in the living room turning mini-split unit on with remote control.

Pros and Cons of Ductless Mini-Split AC Units

Pros 

Energy-Efficient

Temperature Zoning

No Ductwork Needed

Design Options

Minimal Noise Production

Cons

Higher Upfront Costs

Not Suitable for Large Areas

Aesthetic Appeal

 

 

We have to give credit where credit’s due. When it comes to mini-splits vs. central air, there is a clear winner in terms of energy efficiency — and it all comes down to ductwork. Leaky air ducts are responsible for up to 30% of energy loss, which forces central air conditioning systems to work a little bit harder than necessary to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. 

Mini-splits don’t utilize ductwork since multiple indoor units can deliver air directly to their respective zones. This increases energy efficiency and allows homeowners to save on electricity costs.

Speaking of zones, this is another reason why some consider mini-splits to be the best air conditioner. Temperature zoning gives homeowners complete control over their indoor climate. Each zone has its own thermostat and can be set to a different temperature. For example, the living room, where family members often hang out, can be set to a cool 70°F, whereas the guest bedroom, which is rarely used, can be set to 78°F to conserve energy.

The energy savings offered by a mini-split system are a great way to offset its higher upfront cost, which is one of its main disadvantages. Depending on the square footage of your house and the number of indoor units you need, mini-splits can cost up to 30% more than a central air conditioner. You may even need to install multiple units in one zone if it is a large area. 

Last but not least, the wall-mounted indoor units may not be aesthetically pleasing to everyone. Luckily, there are tons of design options available to choose from, some of which can be concealed. 

Turn to Polar Bear for a Professional Opinion When Choosing Between Mini-Splits vs. Central Air

Ready to choose the best air conditioner for your home? Our team can help! Polar Bear comfort consultants can determine whether a mini-split or central air is the most suitable option for your home. 

In fact, you can turn to us for all your comfort needs. We have mini-splits, central air conditioners, thermostats, and air handlers for sale. Call us today to learn more. 

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