Air Conditioning Guides

Central AC vs. Mini-Split

Choosing The Right System

When it comes to cooling your home, selecting the right air conditioning system is crucial for both comfort and efficiency.

If you want the short answer to the question “Central AC vs Mini Split”, the simplified answer is that if you have duct work in your home, central AC is typically the easiest route to add whole house cooling. If you have no ductwork in your home, are looking to condition a specific area or move away from a boiler/radiant system, mini splits are likely the best choice for your home.

We will briefly look at the most important facts about Central air conditioning systems and mini split (or ductless) systems below.

central AC vs ductless

Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning systems are the most common type of cooling system found in homes with existing ductwork. These systems work by circulating cool air through a network of ducts to distribute it evenly throughout the house. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of central AC systems.

Central AC Advantages

  • Whole Home Cooling Central air conditioning provides consistent cooling throughout your entire home wherever ducts are present, ensuring a comfortable environment in every room.
  • Air Filtration Central systems include air filtration, helping to improve indoor air quality by removing allergens and pollutants.
  • Aesthetics Central air conditioning systems are less visible than mini-splits, with only vents and a thermostat visible inside the home.
  • Default Option for Air Conditioning Central air conditioning systems are the go-to cooling solution by builders and have been a staple of most American homes for decadess.

Central AC Disadvantages

  • Ductwork Requirement Central air conditioning systems require ductwork systems in place; if your home doesn't have ductwork, it limits the prospects of adding a central air conditioning system. However, adding a new ductwork system to a house is possible, and we've completed many of these projects at UniColorado.
  • Less Energy Efficient Central air conditioning systems can be less energy-efficient than ductless systems due to potential energy loss through the ductwork.
  • Air Returns If your existing ductwork lacks multiple air returns inside the house, central air conditioning may struggle to keep up. This is especially true for two and three-story houses in Colorado. Often, the top floors of homes built before the 2010s do not have enough air returns, which makes the top floor hotter than the rest of the house.

Best For

  • Houses with Ductwork If you have an existing ductwork system, a forced-air system, a furnace, or vents in your house, central air conditioning is likely the best path for you.
  • Whole-House Cooling Central systems will cool wherever the ductwork system is present.

Installation and Maintenance

  • Installation Installing a central air conditioning system typically involves connecting the outdoor unit to the indoor evaporator coil and the existing ductwork. This process usually takes a few days and requires professional installation.
  • Maintenance Regular maintenance for central AC systems includes cleaning or replacing air filters, checking refrigerant levels, and inspecting the system for any leaks or damage. Annual professional maintenance is recommended to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Ductless (Mini-Split) Systems

Mini-split or ductless systems offer a flexible and energy-efficient alternative to central air conditioning. These systems consist of an outdoor unit connected to one or more indoor units, allowing for targeted cooling in specific areas of the home. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of mini-split systems.

Mini-Split Advantages

  • No Ductwork Required Mini-split systems are often installed in a ductless configuration, although ducted mini-split systems are also available.
  • Zoned Cooling Mini-split systems allow for zoned cooling, providing individualized temperature control for different areas of your home.
  • Energy Efficiency Ductless systems are generally more energy-efficient than central air conditioning systems, as they do not rely on ductwork, which can result in energy loss.
  • Flexibility Mini-split systems offer flexibility in installation, as the indoor units can be mounted on walls, ceilings, or floors, and the outdoor unit can be placed up to 50 feet away.

Mini-Split Disadvantages

  • Aesthetics Some homeowners may find the indoor units of ductless systems to be less visually appealing than the vents and thermostat of a central air conditioning system.
  • Limited Whole-Home Cooling While mini-split systems can cool large, open areas, they are typically installed for specific zones inside the home. Multi-zone systems typically come in a 2-5 zone capacity, which can remediate this negative.
  • Higher Initial Cost The initial cost of installing a mini-split system can be higher than a central AC system, especially if multiple indoor units are required.

Best For

  • Houses with No Ductwork Mini-split and ductless systems are best for houses that have no existing ductwork.
  • Specific Area Cooling You can use mini-split systems to cool or heat specific areas, such as a workshop or master bedroom, for additional comfort.
  • Energy Efficiency If energy efficiency is a top priority, mini-split systems are an excellent choice due to their high SEER ratings and lack of ductwork energy loss.

Installation and Maintenance

  • Installation Installing a mini-split system involves mounting the indoor unit(s) on the wall or ceiling, running refrigerant lines and electrical wiring to the outdoor unit, and connecting the outdoor unit to a power source. Professional installation is needed to ensure proper sizing, placement, and setup.
  • Maintenance Mini-split systems require regular cleaning of the air filters, coils, and outdoor unit. Professional maintenance every 1-2 years is recommended to check refrigerant levels, electrical connections, and overall system performance.

UniColorado Heating & Cooling: Your Denver Air Conditioning Experts

If you’re deciding on central AC vs Mini-Split, UniColorado Heating & Cooling is the best choice in the Denver area for expert installation and maintenance. Our skilled technicians are experienced in working with both types of systems, ensuring that your home remains comfortable and energy-efficient.

Painless and Fast Process

At UniColorado Heating & Cooling, we understand the importance of a smooth and efficient installation process. Our team works diligently to provide a stress free and fast experience, minimizing disruption to your home and daily routine.

Unmatched Expertise

Our technicians undergo extensive training and stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in air conditioning technology. When you choose UniColorado Heating & Cooling, you can trust that you are working with the most knowledgeable and skilled professionals in the industry.


Both central air conditioning and ductless mini-split systems have their pros and cons. The best choice for your home depends on factors such as your cooling needs, existing infrastructure, and personal preferences. UniColorado Heating & Cooling is your go-to expert for both types of systems in the Denver area, offering unmatched expertise and a painless, fast installation process.

Contact us today to discuss your air conditioning options and find the perfect solution for your home.

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