Mini Split vs Central Air Conditioning System: A Comprehensive Comparison

Mini Split vs Central Air Conditioning System


Two popular options for cooling your home efficiently and effectively are mini split and central air conditioning systems. Both systems have their own advantages and disadvantages, making it crucial to understand their similarities and differences before making a decision. In this article, we will delve into the pros and cons of mini splits and central air, compare their capacity and coverage, discuss the difficulty of installation, and evaluate whether the cost of installing a mini split is worth it compared to central air.

Similarities And Differences Between Mini Split And Central Air:


  • Cooling Mechanism: Both mini splits and central air conditioning systems work based on the same refrigeration principle, extracting heat from indoor air and releasing it outside to create a cooling effect.
  • Temperature Control: Both systems allow precise temperature control, ensuring your home remains comfortable during hot weather.
  • Energy Efficiency: When properly sized and maintained, both systems can be energy-efficient, helping to reduce energy bills.


  • System Type: The primary difference lies in the system type. Mini-splits are ductless, while central air conditioning systems use ducts to distribute cool air.
  • Installation: Mini splits are easier to install compared to central air systems. They require minimal ductwork, making the installation less invasive and time-consuming.
  • Zoning: Mini splits offer individual zoning capabilities for different rooms, allowing you to control the temperature in each area separately. Central air systems typically have single-zone controls for the entire house.
  • Cost: Mini split systems can be more cost-effective for smaller spaces and homes without ductwork. Central air systems can be more expensive due to the need for duct installation and modification.

Pros And Cons Of Mini Splits:


  • Zoning: Mini splits offer zoning flexibility, allowing you to cool specific areas only when needed, which can result in energy savings.
  • Installation: The installation process is relatively simple, requiring minimal ductwork. This makes it suitable for older homes or spaces where traditional duct installation is challenging.
  • Efficiency: Mini splits are highly efficient because they eliminate the energy losses associated with ducts.
  • Design Flexibility: These systems come in various designs and sizes, allowing you to choose a unit that complements your interior.


  • Aesthetics: The indoor units of mini splits can be visible on walls or ceilings, potentially impacting the aesthetics of your space.
  • Multiple Units: Larger homes might require multiple indoor units, which can increase the upfront cost.
  • Maintenance: Regular cleaning and maintenance of filters and coils are essential for optimal performance.
  • Initial Cost: While often cheaper than central air systems, the initial cost can still be significant, especially when multiple indoor units are required.

Positive And Negative Aspects Of Central Air Conditioning:

Positive Aspects:

  • Whole-House Cooling: Central air systems can efficiently cool an entire house, ensuring consistent comfort.
  • Aesthetics: Central air systems are typically hidden, with only vents visible in rooms. This preserves interior aesthetics.
  • Single System: Maintenance and repairs are concentrated on a single system, simplifying upkeep.
  • Home Value: Central air conditioning can increase the resale value of your home, as it is a sought-after feature for many buyers.

Negative Aspects

  • Duct Losses: The ductwork in central air systems can lead to energy losses, reducing overall efficiency.
  • Installation Complexity: Installing or modifying ducts can be invasive and time-consuming, particularly in older homes.
  • Energy Consumption: Central air systems can increase energy consumption and bills if not properly sized or maintained.
  • Initial Cost: The upfront installation cost can be substantial, especially in homes without existing ductwork.

AC Capacity And Coverage of Mini Split and Central Air:

Aspect Mini Split Central Air
Cooling Capacity Typically suited for smaller spaces or individual rooms. Suitable for cooling entire houses or larger areas.
Coverage Area Limited by individual unit capacity. Can cover a larger square footage due to centralized distribution.
Zoning Capabilities Can provide individualized temperature control for different areas. Usually offers single-zone temperature control for the entire house.
Flexibility Can be installed in spaces where traditional ductwork is challenging. Requires duct installation, limiting installation options.

The Difficulty Of Installing Mini Split Vs Central Air:

Mini Split Installation: Mini splits are relatively easier to install than central air systems. They include an outdoor condenser unit and one or more indoor air handlers. Installation involves mounting the indoor units on walls or ceilings and connecting them to the outdoor unit. Minimal ductwork is required, making it a popular choice for retrofitting older homes or spaces where traditional duct installation is impractical.

Central Air Installation: Installing central air conditioning systems can be more complex. It involves installing ducts throughout the house, often requiring modifications to ceilings, walls, and floors. The outdoor condenser unit is connected to the indoor evaporator coil, usually placed in the furnace or air handler. This process can be invasive and time-consuming, especially in homes without ductwork.

Is Installing A Mini Split Over Central Air Worth The Cost?

The decision between installing a mini split or central air system depends on various factors:

Mini Split Worth:

  • If you have a smaller home or only need to cool specific rooms.
  • If you’re concerned about energy efficiency and want to avoid duct losses.
  • If you value individualized temperature control and zoning capabilities.
  • If your space lacks existing ductwork, making central air installation impractical.

Central Air Worth:

  • If you need to cool a larger area or an entire house.
  • If you prioritize aesthetics and want a system with hidden ducts.
  • If you plan to sell your home and increase its resale value.
  • If you have an existing duct system, reduce the complexity of installation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Which System Is More Energy-Efficient?

Both systems can be energy-efficient when properly sized and maintained. Mini-splits have an edge due to reduced duct losses.

Can I Install A Mini-Split Myself?

While it’s possible for DIY enthusiasts, professional installation is recommended to ensure proper performance and warranty coverage.

Do Mini Splits Provide Heating As Well?

Many mini-split systems offer cooling and heating through a reversible heat pump mechanism.

Are Central Air Systems Noisy?

Central air systems can be quieter due to the centralized location of the outdoor unit, while mini splits might produce some noise from individual indoor units.


In conclusion, choosing between a mini split and a central air conditioning system depends on your needs, budget, and space requirements. Mini-splits offer zoning capabilities, energy efficiency, and installation flexibility but may not be suitable for larger homes. Central air systems provide whole-house cooling, aesthetics, and potentially higher home value, but their installation can be more complex and costly.

The decision between a mini split and a central air conditioning system ultimately hinges on various factors, including the size of your home, your energy efficiency goals, and your preferences for temperature control and aesthetics. Mini splits present an attractive option for those seeking zoning capabilities, energy efficiency gains, and relatively straightforward installations, particularly in older homes or spaces lacking ductwork. However, their suitability may be limited for larger residences. On the other hand, central air systems offer the convenience of whole-house cooling, aesthetic appeal with hidden ducts, and potential value addition to your property. Yet, their installation complexity and higher upfront costs, especially in homes without existing ductwork, should be carefully considered. Ultimately, weighing these factors against your specific needs and budget will guide you towards the most suitable cooling solution for your home.

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

About the author


I am Ben , a seasoned HVAC specialist with over 6 of experience in the HVAC industry. I holds HVAC Certification and has a proven track record in providing expert advice on HVAC systems.