Mini-Splits vs. Central Air: Which is Best for Your Property?


When it comes to heating or cooling your home, you want to feel confident in the system you choose. 

Two popular heating and cooling systems today are ductless mini-splits and central air conditioning systems. Both of these systems are designed to maintain your desired indoor temperatures, though the systems use fairly distinct methods to achieve their respective heating or cooling effects. 

Additionally, mini-splits and central air can differ in a variety of other ways, including energy efficiency, installation costs, visual aesthetics, and maintenance requirements.

In this article, we take you through everything you need to know about ductless mini-splits and central air conditioning to help you decide which system is best for your home.

Keep reading to learn all about the pros and cons of both of these heating and cooling systems!

What is a Mini-Split?

Mini-splits — also known as ductless mini splits — are a heating and cooling system that enables you to control the temperature in a single room without the need for ductwork. 

A mini-split system is made up of two main components:

  • An Outdoor Compressor Unit: The outdoor component of a mini-split system includes a compressor, a condenser, and an expansion valve, as well as components for heating and cooling the refrigerant in the mini-split system. As the name suggests, the outdoor unit is installed outside, either on the side of a building or on the ground. To connect to the indoor unit, the outdoor unit relies on a few key components, including refrigerant lines and electrical wiring.
  • An Indoor Air-Handling Unit: The indoor component of a mini-split system includes all of the components necessary for distributing conditioned air into a room. In this component, you can find a fan, an evaporator coil, and a control panel. An indoor unit is typically mounted on the wall of the room it is heating or cooling, though it can also be installed on the floor or ceiling. Some models of mini-splits enable each indoor unit to be controlled individually, allowing you to set different temperature controls for each room equipped with an indoor mini-split unit. 

Mini-splits have become increasingly popular heating and cooling systems thanks to several key advantages, such as greater energy efficiency and installation flexibility. 

Let’s now take a look at the advantages and disadvantages a mini-split system has to offer. 

The Pros & Cons of Mini-Splits

A mini-split system can be advantageous for a variety of reasons. However, this system is not without its drawbacks as well. Understanding both the advantages and disadvantages of mini-splits is crucial to making the right decision for your home’s heating and cooling system.

Here are 4 pros and 3 cons of mini-splits: 

Pros of Mini-Split Systems:

  • Installation Flexibility: Thanks to having both an indoor and an outdoor component, mini-splits can offer tremendous flexibility when it comes to installation. The temperature zoning controls of mini-splits make them a good option for both residential and commercial settings. Additionally, no ductwork is required to install a mini-split system, as each indoor unit is independently controlled and responsible only for the room it is installed in. This makes mini-splits a great option for scenarios in which installing ductwork for a heating or cooling system is impractical, such as in older, historic homes or in new room additions to your home. 
  • Energy Efficiency: One of the major reasons why mini-splits have gained popularity so quickly is the immense energy efficiency they have to offer. The lack of ductwork involved in a mini-split system allows the system to achieve a higher energy efficiency rating. Additionally, the temperature zoning controls of mini-splits enable you to heat and cool only the rooms in use, saving energy that would otherwise be spent on heating or cooling an entire building. This ultimately helps to achieve greater cost efficiency, as you can significantly reduce your overall energy consumption and utility costs with a mini-split system. 
  • Improved Air Quality: Air ducts are often notorious for spreading build-ups of debris, such as dust and other allergens, around your home when the heating or cooling system is in use. Since mini-splits do not use ductwork to operate, you can achieve much cleaner air quality in your indoor spaces. Mini-splits can also be equipped with filters that help to purify the air and filter out any debris, allergens, or contaminants that may pass through the system. This can be particularly crucial for anyone with moderate to severe allergies, respiratory issues, or other health conditions related to breathing and air quality. 
  • Simple Maintenance: What makes mini-splits truly great is that they are easy to maintain. Mini-splits use filters that need to be cleaned roughly every two weeks and replaced once per year. The absence of ductwork significantly reduces the overall maintenance and cleaning needed to keep your heating and cooling system in great working order. As a result, many homeowners have grown to prefer mini-splits for their simple and highly manageable maintenance needs. 

Cons of Mini-Split Systems:

  • Upfront Costs: The upfront cost of purchasing and installing a mini-split system can be high, especially if you have pre-existing ductwork in your home that you are choosing to forego in favor of mini-splits. A separate indoor unit must be purchased and installed in each room that requires heating or cooling, which can quickly drive up costs depending on the size of your home. Luckily, one outdoor unit can generally serve between two to six indoor units, so you can save some upfront costs when it comes to installing an outdoor unit. 
  • Appearance: Let’s face it — mini-splits are not the most appealing appliances in the world. The nature of a mini-split requires an indoor component to be positioned in each room of your home that needs heating and cooling, meaning each room will have a somewhat bulky indoor component added to one of its walls. While mini-splits are slowly becoming more sleek and sophisticated in their design, this can be an important consideration in terms of interior design. 
  • Limited Range: As stated, mini-splits are designed for temperature zoning control, affecting the temperature only in the room where an indoor unit is positioned. Though mini-splits can be highly energy efficient inherently, this energy efficiency can quickly deplete the larger your house is and the more rooms that need indoor units installed. This makes it vital to consider how many indoor units you will realistically need to effectively heat and cool your home, especially if you live in a region with extreme temperatures in the summers and winters. 

What is Central Air?

Central air — also called central air conditioning systems — is the traditional form of a heating and cooling system that relies on ductwork and a central unit to distribute air around a home. Most structures, including both residential and commercial buildings, feature central air systems. 

In terms of the main components involved in central air, there are two main types of central air systems:

  1. Split-System Central Air: Split-system central air uses both outdoor and indoor components to operate. The outdoor component contains a heat exchanger, a fan, and a compressor, while the indoor component includes a furnace or an indoor heat exchanger and heat pump. Split-system central air can be the easier of the two types to install, especially in cases where a home has a furnace already installed but no air conditioning unit. 
  2. Packaged Central Air: Packaged central air features one outdoor component that contains the heat exchanger, compressor, blower, and fan. This type of central air system is generally installed on a roof or next to a building’s foundation. These central air systems use either electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace. Package central air can be used in both residential and commercial settings, and is often seen as part of the heating and cooling system in multi-residential buildings, such as apartments or condominiums. 

Like with mini-split systems, central air has both benefits and drawbacks to offer to homeowners. 

The Pros & Cons of Central Air

Deciding whether or not central air is right for your home takes careful consideration of the respective advantages and disadvantages outlined below.

Here are 4 pros and 3 cons of central air: 


  • Uniform Temperature Control: While a mini-split system can only impact the room with an indoor unit installed in it, a central air system can achieve a uniform temperature across an entire household or indoor space. This can be especially important when heating or cooling a large home or building, as achieving a uniform temperature with mini-splits is simply unrealistic in larger indoor spaces. Central air is typically preferable in regions with extreme winters.
  • Better Heating Capabilities: Speaking of extreme winters, central air systems tend to have better overall heating capabilities and performance. A central air system automatically comes equipped with the necessary components for heating and the ductwork involved in the central air process ensures each room in your home receives its fair share of warmth. 
  • Lower Upfront Costs: In many cases, a residential or commercial building will already come equipped with ductwork and a central air system. This can make central air the more affordable option when it comes to upfront purchasing and installation costs. However, as we will discuss more in a moment, you may also lose some efficiency with a central air system. 
  • Subtle Appearance: Unlike mini-splits, central air components can be partially or totally hidden from view when installed. This makes central air a much more visually appealing option, as a section of your indoor walls and outdoor space will not be impacted as much by the central air components as they are by mini-splits. 


  • Higher Energy Consumption: Although central air can achieve a more uniform heating or cooling experience, it can also run up utility costs due to an inability to adjust temperatures in specific rooms. This makes it much more important to be mindful of how often you are running your central air system and for how long. 
  • Ductwork Installation: In the rare case that you do not have existing ductwork to work with — such as in older homes or brand new constructions without ductwork as part of the base design — you are going to face high upfront costs to install the necessary ductwork. A ductwork installation can vary drastically in cost according to the size of your home, the complexities of the installation, and the company or contractors you hire. 
  • Complex Maintenance: Compared to mini-splits, central air systems have a much more complex maintenance process due to the ductwork involved. Cleaning out your air ducts requires a special vacuum and often the assistance of an HVAC professional. However, on the luckier side of things, these cleanings only need to occur every three to five years. It is also important to note that detecting malfunctions or damage in ductwork requires regular HVAC inspections. 

Mini Split vs. Central Air: Which is Right for You?

When making the final decision on which heating or cooling system you want for your home or property, it is imperative to make as informed of a decision as possible.

To quickly recap, mini-splits offer energy efficiency and ease of maintenance, but less effective heating and cooling range, as well as a much smaller overall range. Meanwhile, central air systems offer uniform temperature control and generally more affordable installations, but much more complex maintenance and far higher energy consumption. 

In general, if a structure already has a well-functioning ductwork system installed, it may be best to opt for central air. Central air may also be preferable in regions that suffer from harsh winters, as uniform heating capabilities can be crucial for not only staying warm but protecting your indoor plumbing. 

As for mini-splits, a mini-split system offers you the opportunity to save significantly on your energy and utility costs. The temperature zoning capabilities of mini-splits are especially beneficial for those who live in more moderate climates and smaller homes where less intense heating and cooling are needed.

Final Thoughts

Choosing whether mini-splits or central air is best for you comes down to your specific needs.

Both systems offer a myriad of benefits that can help you save money and improve your overall comfort in your home. The key is to do your research and determine your exact needs — and then weigh those needs against the pros and cons we detailed above for each system. 

Ultimately, one of the best choices you can make in this decision-making process is to consult with a professional HVAC team. Certified HVAC professionals can help you assess what components you need and determine how effective each system would be in your home specifically. 

To get the most out of your heating and cooling system, contact your local HVAC experts today. 

Looking for an HVAc Professional in Brentwood, TN?

We are the right choice for all your HVAC needs! Here at Rapid Response, we understand that no two customers are the same and that is why our team of trained professionals will go above and beyond to meet the customized cooling needs of every customer. By choosing us you will receive fair rates, quality work and outstanding service.