22 Jul. 19

Ductless Air Conditioning VS Central AC

As soon as you begin to consider the possibilities of cooling your home, you are bombarded with a lot of options to choose from. Amid the fiasco, one of the first choices you’d have to make is whether to choose ductless air conditioning or central air conditioning. This is a question that many homeowners in Toronto ask. To this end, we have prepared this article to show you what each system means, the advantages and disadvantages and how to choose the best cooling system for your Toronto home.

Related article: Is Air Conditioning Healthy?


Ductless Air Conditioning 

Ductless air conditioning is a kind of system that has indoor and outdoor parts. They are not built into pre-existing furnaces. Usually, homeowners mount the outdoor parts on the outer walls of their buildings. They also have options to position them farther away. 

Internally, ductless systems may have more than one air-handling unit. They can be positioned on walls, floors or on the ceilings. It is also possible to set different temperatures for different zones in a multi-split system. 


Central Air Conditioning

On the other hand, a central air conditioning system has three major parts. It compromises of the indoor unit, ductwork, and the outdoor unit. Simply put, the outdoor unit cools the air inside the home. The air is then recirculated around the building. The ductwork distributes the cooled air around the home. For a central air conditioning system, you need an HVAC specialist to specify the right unit size for your home. 


Types of Central Air Conditioning Systems

There are two types of central air conditioners. They include:

Split System air conditioner

This system contains two metal compartments. There are an outer one and an inner chamber. The outer compartment houses the compressor and condenser while the inner compartment contains the evaporator.  The evaporator coil is usually installed in the furnace or heat pump. 

Packaged Unit Central Air Conditioner

In this system, the compressor, condenser, and evaporator are all located in one compartment which is usually placed on the roof. Air supply comes from the roof into the house.


Advantages of a ductless air conditioning system

Some of the chief selling points of this system include:

Flexible Placement 

With a ductless air conditioning system, you have the freedom to choose your preferred placement. This means your air conditioning can be placed in only the rooms you select. You can also limit the placement to certain areas based on your needs.

Incredible Efficiency 

These systems are known for their incredible efficiency. Whatever the temperature a ductless air conditioning system is set to, you will be sure to get the best level of service. 

Low Noise Levels 

Ductless air conditioning has low noise levels. This system is quiet and runs without excessive noise.

Related article: Why Your Air Conditioner Is Making A Clicking Noise?

Varying Temperatures

With this system, you can choose whether you want to heat some rooms and cool others. A ductless air conditioning system allows you to choose what sort of air you want per time. It is even possible to use different cooling and heating temperatures in different rooms. This means that in one room, you can have cool air set to whatever temperature you choose. In the other room, you can choose to have the heating turned on. 

Disadvantages of ductless air conditioning 

Of course, there are some features of a ductless air conditioning system that are not very ideal. Some of these features include:


Ductless air conditioning outlets need to be mounted on the wall or ceilings of your home. This may be in contrast with the original decor of your home.

Uneven Air Regulation

A feature of ductless air conditioning that gives people a pause is the effectiveness of the ductless unit while cooling large houses. Having just one of these system will not give you the best result if you have a large home. 

If installed in the living room, only your living rooms get cool or heated. It’s cooling, or heating effect is dependent on the size of your home. To get more efficiency, you may need to install one in each room. This is not necessarily cost-effective.

Regular Maintenance

Every air conditioning system requires some sort of filter. This is due to the accumulation of debris in the filter. Ductless air conditioning systems cannot tolerate accumulated debris. This system has air filters and fans that require professional cleaning at least once every month. This should be done in order to improve air quality and remove allergens from the air. 

A ductless unit does not use air recirculation technology, which reduces the number of allergens in the air. This means you need to invest in high-quality filters. This might be costly to maintain. However, failure to do so can have an adverse effect on the lifespan of the system.

Limited heating options

This system also employs heat pump action. Using ductless air conditioners to cool your home during the cold seasons has its limits. This system does not provide adequate heat, especially with temperatures below 30 degrees. 

The heating capacity of this system is also restricted to specific climate zones. Depending on the temperature of your city during winter, you may need a backup heating source.

Related article: How Much Does Air Conditioner Installation Cost?


Advantages of Central Air Conditioning 

Central air conditioning units also have several advantages in their favour. Some of these advantages include:

All-round circulation

This air conditioning system cools your entire home with a single thermostat. You don’t have to go to each room to control the temperature. It provides an equal and consistent cooling effect. Irrespective of the size of your home, you can rely on the efficiency of distributed air evenly throughout your home.

Almost invisible when installed

If aesthetics is your goal, you have no worries. The metal cabinet which contains the compressor and condenser is installed outside your home. It does not interfere with your interior decor.

Also, the air is supplied through ducts and vents that are located in every part of your house. The ducts are hidden from plain sight. This means you get a clear view of your home both from the outside and inside.

More Space

The central air conditioning system is less bulky. It does not take up space. This means that you can save valuable space for other furniture and appliances in your home. It is less conspicuous and keeps your home looking modern.

Easy to Use

The entire system is controlled by a simple console. It can be conveniently programmed to run at different times and at preferred temperatures. This is usually done by pressing a single button on the remote. You have control over the conditioning of your home all day long. During the hot season, you can also program your central air conditioning system to turn on minutes before you get home. This way, you come home to a cooled house. 

Cleaner Air

This type of air conditioning system comes with highly efficient filters that keep the air in your house clean. It uses ductwork to circulate clean air throughout your building. The filters also trap debris and dust in the air.  This significantly increases the air quality of your home. Having clean air in circulation in your home improves your health, prevents respiratory diseases and generally improves the comfort of your home.

Related article: How Much Does Central Air Conditioning Cost?


Disadvantages of Central Air Conditioning 

There are a few negative sides to central air conditioning. Some of them include:

Difficult Installation

Installing a central air conditioner can be tasking, especially if you do not have ducts already installed in your home. The unit is usually installed on a concrete outside and connected to your existing duct system. The duct runs throughout your building. This usually involves digging holes in the ground, in the wall and sometimes in the ceiling. 

The process of installation involves:

  • Planning and installing the ducts
  • Installing the handlers away from the foundation
  • Fixing the compressor at least 12 inches away from your building
  • Drilling holes through walls
  • Filling the holes to guard against leakages


The condenser unit of this system is large. This causes it to make more noise than usual. The installed ducts also have echoing properties and tend to amplify the sound coming from the air regulating the system.

Duct Maintenance 

Quality air means air void of bacteria and allergens. In order to keep your air clean, you have to constantly clean your ducts as mould can build up in them if you don’t. You’ll need to ensure that your ducts do not accumulate mould by having them professionally cleaned at least once annually.

High Maintenance Cost

Just like ductless systems, centralized air conditioning systems can be expensive to maintain. Centralized air conditioning systems are programmed to keep working until the temperature in the house reaches a certain level. This means that the system keeps running until the signature temperature is reached. No window can be left open. 

Letting hot air in means, the system will continue to run. Electricity is consumed at a faster rate, and your bills automatically go up. Additionally, the system is built-in to cover the entire house and not specific rooms. Therefore, it requires higher operating costs.


How to decide between central air conditioning and ductless air conditioning 

Ductless and central air conditioning both have heating and cooling properties. They can keep your house either warm or cold, depending on your preference. However, they are quite divergent in terms of operation and features. Before deciding what type of air conditioning best suits your Toronto home, here are some factors to consider.

Size of your home

The majority of ductless air conditioners do not have enough capacity to circulate big houses. If your house is 2500 square feet and above, we will recommend you consider a central AC. Central systems, unlike ductless systems, distribute air evenly throughout the house. They require higher cooling power and more energy units.

If your house is 2000 square feet and below, ductless air conditioners are your best bet. Due to the size of your house, you will be able to get maximum operating power from this system. Installing a central air conditioner in a small home will make the system counterproductive. 


If you have ducts already existing in your Toronto home, then installing central air conditioning will be cost-effective and less time-consuming. You can also install a central system if your house has no ductwork. All that has to be done is to dig holes into the walls for about 3 inches and run the duct through them. While this method costs less, it is more time-consuming. 

Ductless systems are the best option for houses without ductwork. They are less expensive to install. However, since they do not supply air throughout the house, you might need more than one for your home.

Noise Sensitivity

If you are sensitive to noise or can’t stand the noise at all, go for a ductless air conditioning system. The condenser of a ductless AC is smaller and located far away from your building, unlike a central air conditioning, that has echoing ducts. Some are louder than the other, so it is advisable that you get adequate information on the noise level from your HVAC experts. Generally, ductless air conditioners are quieter when in operation.


Selecting a central air unit requires you to look at its SEER number (Efficiency Rating). The higher the number, the less it will cost you to run and vice versa. Here’s a rough estimate of pricing. 

A typical household will use about 13 SEER, which on the average cost CAD 2,700 to CAD 5,500 for a home that is less than 2000 square feet. A higher SEER number will undoubtedly increase the cost.

The installation cost ranges from CAD 2,500 to CAD 3000. This does not include the cost of the ducts. The cost of ductwork starts from around CAD 24 per linear foot. Most homes need ductwork with a minimum of 200 square feet. That equals CAD 4,800 for ductwork alone. The total cost of installation on an average system would be within the range of CAD 6,000 – CAD 12,000 for houses below 2000 square feet.

Ductless air conditioners cost around CAD 2,600 – CAD 5,000 per unit. If you intend to cool your entire house, you may need up to a 4 zone capacity unit which costs about CAD 4,800. Typically, the installation cost is about CAD 30 to CAD 60 an hour. 

Energy Consumed

Central air conditioning units are installed outside. This means that air needs to travel a long distance before getting into your home. This consumes a lot of energy. Ductless systems, on the other hand, save more energy. A major downside to the central system is leakage. As much as 30% of energy is lost due to leakage. Ductless air conditioners can save you as close to CAD 1500 annually on energy costs. 

Individual Zoning Control

If your household is made up of different people that prefer differing temperatures, a zoning system is the best solution. The good thing is both ductless and central air conditioners have a zoning system. However, it is cheaper with a ductless system.

Getting varying temperatures with a central air conditioning regulator requires integrating upgraded ductwork into the system. Otherwise, it only distributes even air throughout your home.

Ductless air conditioning gives you the chance to install different units in different rooms and get the desired temperatures for each room.

Efficiency potential

Central air has a high level of potential, but it all depends on two things, namely: 

  • Quality of ductwork and;
  • Installation

If the ductwork is designed with more twists and turns than necessary, or not sealed properly, there might be leakage. Consequently, this affects the efficiency of the system. If this happens, your HVAC technician is required to do certain things like:

  • Make sure the system matches the handler
  • Level the surface of the outdoor unit

Nevertheless, some ductless systems have a higher efficiency of 27 SEER compared to a central system which has a potential efficiency level of 21 SEER.

Related article: How often should I service my air conditioner?


How to Buy an Air Conditioner

There are two different air conditioning systems. Deciding on which to invest in might appear cumbersome. However, this article aims to help you make an informed decision. Now that you have it figured out, the next best question is how to purchase your chosen system. Here are two tips that can help:

Measure the areas that need cooling

You can do this by using a tape rule to measure the length and width of the indoor space. Multiply the length by the width. Different air conditioners come with different cooling capacities. You need this information to determine which is best for the size of the space that needs cooling.

Find an air conditioning unit with the standard BTU rating for your space. 

BTU – British thermal units – is used to measure the cooling capacities of all air conditioners. For example, an air conditioner with a cooling capacity of 6000 BTU can cool a room that is 14 – 23-meter sq. Note that the higher the BTU unit, the larger the area the A/C can cool.

If your space has a lot of exposure, get an A/C unit with a higher BTU rating. If you experience a high inflow of hot air, it is recommended that you get a unit with a capacity 10% higher than what you might originally require. 


Choosing the ideal air conditioning system for your home depends on your reasons. Do you want a cooling system that provides uniform comfort throughout your home? Or do you want a noiseless air conditioning system? If you still have any doubts or questions about which system to choose, our experts can answer them for you. Contact us today!