Ductless vs Central AC: Which is Best for My Boise Home?

June 17, 2019

cost to install a home thermostat in boise

Debating whether to get a ductless or central AC system?

Both systems work well for Boise homes, but for most homeowners, the question comes down to cost.

For the lowest upfront cost, this is what we recommend:

  • If your home already has ductwork, it’s probably cheaper to install a central AC system
  • If your home doesn’t have ductwork, it’s more cost-effective to install a ductless system

Below, we’ll explain how ductwork affects the upfront installation cost.

We’ll also look at how ductless ACs compare to central ACs in terms of:

  • Cooling capacity
  • Operational cost
  • Visual appeal

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Ductless vs central AC: Upfront cost

If your home already has ductwork, central air conditioners typically cost 30% less than a ductless AC system.

However, if you don’t have ductwork, installing ducts can cost an additional $5,000 to $15,000, plus the cost of the central AC system.

Bottom line: If you don’t have ductwork, a ductless system will probably be cheaper (or around the same price). If you do have ductwork, go with a central AC system.

However, the upfront cost isn’t the only thing to consider. Let’s look at some other factors to think about...

Ductless vs central AC: Cooling capacity

Central air conditioners are designed to cool an entire house. On the other hand, ductless ACs can only cool one room per indoor unit.

indoor unit and outdoor unit of a ductless system

A ductless AC consists of 1 indoor unit and 1 outdoor unit. That combination will cool one room or area of your home.

If you want to cool multiple areas of your home with a ductless system, you’ll need to add an additional indoor unit for every room you want to cool. Of course, the more units you add, the more expensive the installation will be.

Note: You can have up to 8 indoor ductless units per 1 outdoor unit. That means you can cool up to 8 areas or rooms in your home without having to add another outdoor unit.

Bottom line:

  • If you only wantone room cooled (like an add-on room or a garage), go with a ductless system.
  • If you want your entire house cooled, you’ll need to consider the upfront cost of each system (see the section above) and choose the system that fits within your budget.

Ductless vs central AC: Operational cost

Ductless units are typically less expensive to operate than central AC systems.

Here’s why: Central AC systems lose 20–30% of their air to leaks, holes and poorly-connected ducts. To put that in context, for every $100 you spend on cooling your home, $20–$30 is wasted.

Since ductless systems don’t use ductwork and instead cool your home (or room) directly, they don’t lose any air to leaky ductwork.

Ductless vs central AC: Visual appeal

The indoor unit of a ductless system is mounted directly onto a wall in the room you want cooled. This is a drawback to some homeowners because a ductless AC unit takes up wall space and isn't necessarily visually appealing.

On the other hand, the indoor unit of a central AC system is hidden from view in the attic or an interior closet.

Whether or not a visible indoor unit is important to you is a matter of preference, but can be a deciding factor when choosing between a central AC and a ductless AC unit.

Want a professional to recommend an AC system for your home?

We can help you weigh your options to find the best type of AC for your home and budget.


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