Technician fixing ductless mini-split ac system

Window AC Units vs. Ductless

If you’re looking to buy an air conditioner, you might find yourself wondering which type of AC unit will work best for your home. While many people think a central air conditioner is ideal, not every home has the ductwork needed to accommodate a central AC unit. Fortunately, there are other options for staying cool and comfortable during the hot summer months, including window air conditioners and ductless mini- split cooling systems. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between these two types of air conditioners.

What Is A Ductless Mini-Split Cooling System?

Sometimes referred to as a ductless air conditioner, a mini-split system can be added to your home without having to open up your walls and add or modify ductwork, helping you save on installation costs. They are available as single- or multi-zone systems, meaning you can cool one room or many. That makes a ductless mini-split system a great option if you want to provide cooling to a single room or a new
addition to your home not connected to ductwork.

A ductless mini-split system is made up of two main parts: the indoor air-handling unit, which is mounted on the wall ceiling, and the outdoor compressor/condenser, which is connected to the indoor unit via refrigerant line. As such, they need to be permanently installed by professionals. These systems are easily expandable should you decide you want to cool other areas in your home later on. And if you combine a ductless AC with a heat pump, you can heat your home year-round with just one system — perfect for sunrooms, garages and other hard-to-heat spaces.

ductless unit on wall with man standing in front with remote

What Is A Window AC Unit?

Window-mounted air conditioners can cool a small space like an individual room or a small one-room building, but unlike ductless AC systems, they’re intended to be installed temporarily. If you need to cool larger areas or different rooms in your home, more than one window AC unit will have to be installed. Window air conditioners use refrigerant to cool the air that is circulated into the room by a fan. They are compact, portable and offer a great amount of flexibility: you have the option to decide which room you want to cool, you can install the unit yourself and take it with you should you decide to move.

Comparing the Cost of Mini-Splits and Window AC Units

Window-mounted AC and ductless mini-split cooling systems differ significantly in terms of their installation and operating costs — so you’ll have to decide whether you want to spend more up-front or over the long run.

Ductless Mini-Split Costs

Ductless mini-split systems require a significant upfront investment. Depending on the make and model, these systems can range between $3,000 and $6,000, including installation. While mini-split systems do not require ductwork, a professional installation is highly recommended to safely run the refrigerant pipes from the outdoor condenser to the indoor unit. The good news is that ductless AC systems consume significantly less energy and have a longer life span than window units.

Window AC Unit Costs

Compared with other air conditioning options, window-mounted units are relatively inexpensive to buy. Depending on the size and unit-specific features, a window AC unit will cost between $200 and $1,000, and you can do the installation yourself. However, the average life span of a window AC is about 8 to 10 years — only half the lifespan of a ductless mini-split system — meaning you’ll have to
buy new units more often.

How Environmentally Friendly Are Window AC Units & Ductless Mini-Splits?

While all air conditioners use a significant amount of electricity, the energy efficiency of window AC units and ductless mini-split systems differs greatly. No matter which option you choose, be sure to install the right unit for the size of your living space to avoid excessive energy consumption. You also want to make sure that your wall and ceiling insulation is up to standard to avoid cool air leaking out of your living

Ductless Mini-Split Energy Efficiency

Ductless mini-split systems consume 40% less energy than window-mounted AC units and use a type of refrigerant that is more eco-friendly. When compared to a window-mounted unit, operating a ductless mini-split unit will reduce your energy consumption significantly.

Window AC Unit Energy Efficiency

The energy efficiency of window-mounted AC units depends largely on the model that you buy. Generally, the more energy-efficient the unit, the higher the price will be.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing an AC System

Cost and energy efficiency are just two of the many things you’ll want to think about when picking an air- conditioning system for your home. You also need to consider the size of your home and the short- and long-term investments of each option. If you’re unsure which air conditioner will best suit your needs, consult our definitive buyer’s guide to air conditioners.

Ductless Mini-Split

A ductless mini-split system can be configured to control anywhere from one to nine zones in your home, with the average-sized home requiring about four to five indoor air-handling units. The indoor units are available in a variety of mounting options and can be installed on the wall, floor or ceiling, giving you more flexibility on where they are installed. That also makes it easy to add to your mini-split system should you decide you need more rooms to be cooled later on. When deciding which model to buy, consider the square footage of your space — the larger the area to be cooled, the more cooling capacity you’ll need from your ductless system, which is typically measured in British thermal units per hour (BTUh). One BTU is the quantity of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water by one degree Fahrenheit, while BTUh refers to the number of BTUs of energy removed by an air conditioner in one hour.

Window AC Unit

When purchasing a window-mounted AC unit, it is very important to buy the right-sized model for the space you want to cool. An air-conditioner that is too small for your space will run excessively and consume lots of electricity. A model that is too big, on the other hand, will cool your space too quickly without removing enough humidity, leaving your space uncomfortably damp. Measure the square footage, but also consider the number of windows and doors as well as the ceiling height, then refer to the manufacturer’s recommendation to make sure you’re installing the right-sized model for your space.

Choose Enercare for Your New Air Conditioner

Determining which type of air conditioner to install in your home is a big decision, Enercare is here to help you find the right option to meet your home comfort needs. Contact one of our HVAC experts today for a free no-obligation price quote on your next air conditioning system.