Is a Mini Split Different Than a Central AC Unit?

We recently received an email from a local homeowner who wanted to know how mini splits differ from central AC units. Since this seems to be a fairly common question, we wanted to share that email, and our response in this blog post.

Hi. I have some questions and I was hoping you could help me. My husband and I currently live in an older, four-bedroom house and our central AC unit hasn’t worked for a couple of years. We’ve been going back and forth on replacing it, mostly because we only use part of the house, now that the kids are grown and away at school. We recently traveled to Mexico City and we noticed that a lot of the restaurants don’t have central AC but they instead use something called a mini split. Is one really different from the other? It seems like the mini splits did a great job of cooling the restaurants we went to.  Are there any benefits for one type of cooling unit over the other?  – Annie K.

Thank you for your email. Mini splits are extremely popular in other parts of the world, but they’re not all that common in the United States.

Mini splits have quite a bit of functionality, as they can serve as a heater, a dehumidifier, a fan and an air conditioner. They don’t have wall-based thermostats but are instead controlled by a remote. The newer models are highly energy efficient and most of them allow you to program them to operate in energy-saver mode. You can also program them to turn on, or off, at certain intervals (ie: having it power down at night but turn back on again in the morning before you and your husband get up.)

The biggest differences between mini splits and central AC units relate to duct work and whole-home cooling. Mini splits do not require duct work—they consist of a wall-based unit (which you likely noticed at the restaurants in Mexico City—it would have been located toward the top of a wall) and an outside compressor unit.  They’re designed to be zone-based heating and cooling systems, meaning that when you install one, you won’t be paying to warm or cool your entire house. You’ll be able to regulate the temperature within the room, or zone, you install it in.

With a central AC unit, you’ll be cooling the entire home, which may or may not be what you’re looking to do, since it sounds like you’re only using a portion of your home.

If you and your husband are wanting to either replace your broken central AC unit, or if you’re wanting to look into whether a mini split would work for your home based on what your needs are, we can help. Call us today at 970-663-6575 to schedule a time for one of our technicians to come to your home to provide you with a free evaluation.  We’ll provide you with some recommendations and if you’re wanting to move forward, we’ll be happy to help you set something up.


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