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Central Air Conditioning VS. Ductless Mini Split

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

The deck is almost finished and you can barely even see the AC Condenser

The LG condenser was installed under the deck in the backyard.

We’re having some warm autumn weather. It’s been so nice we even sneaked away to go to the beach last weekend. With the late summer we’re having, since we moved upstairs we also have needed AC. Our place didn’t have an AC system when we moved in so it’s something we added to the project early on.

There’s a few options when renovating and adding a new AC system. The scope of your renovation might help you figure out which system is best for you- a central AC system or a ductless mini split system. 

The split AC unit is a perfect solution to cool the Brownstone.

Central AC Ducted System Central AC systems consist of an outdoor compressor/condenser and a single indoor unit that pushes air through a series of ducts to vents throughout your home to keep it cool. Temperature is controlled by a single thermostat and heating & cooling typically share the same ducts.  Pros If you are completely gutting a place and the original features, plaster, and mouldings aren’t something that you’re keeping you might want to build in a ducted central AC system. The advantages are that you have control over the temperature of the entire home and it’s usually distributed evenly and comfortably. The upfront cost can also be a bit lower. 

Cons It can be difficult to run the ducts throughout your home if you aren’t gutting the entire place. It can also be less efficient because the ducts can leak over time. 

The AC fits perfectly next to door in the bedroom.

Mini Split system  A ductless mini split system also consists of an outdoor compressor/condenser but instead of connecting to a single unit that pushes air through ducts it connects to indoor units in each room that distribute heat or AC throughout a home. Each room’s temperature can be controlled individually, which makes mini splits an attractive option for those who want flexible control and all-around comfort.

Pros  Mini split systems are becoming more and more popular in New York. They are great for adding a system where one doesn’t exist because they are not as intrusive to install as a ducted central AC system. If you are doing a restoration (say a Brownstone ;)) and the thought of cutting through original features, plaster, and mouldings makes your heart hurt a bit this might be the option for you. Rather than large ducts carrying cool air though the ceiling and walls, there are small tubes carrying refrigerant and a small drainage tubes. We found it very easy to hide them in the walls without disturbing one plaster moulding or anything else important to us. In addition, since mini split systems are controlled in individual rooms, they can help save money by cooling or heating rooms on an as-needed basis.

Cons The main disadvantage of buying a mini split system is the cost. Although mini split systems are more expensive than other systems to install, they offer significant savings in the long run. Because they do not rely on ducts to operate, mini splits eliminate the surprise costs that come with leaky or uninsulated ducts.

Window Units Can’t forget about these! They might not be on your radar if you are going through a renovation, but in New York they are impossible to ignore. You’re probably familiar. It’s by far the cheapest, loudest, easiest, and least attractive option. They do a bad job of distributing the cool air evenly, but they do cool well. They are quick and easy to install and the least intrusive option since you just pop them into the window with no ducts or pipes that need to be run. Although, I guess the big box staring at you from the windows could be considered instructive.

Our Pick.... We decided on a mini split system for our place and it’s going online this week. Just in time for an almost 90 degree October day. We worked with our friends at AJ Madison and went with an LG system. So far we love the size and shape of the units. They are slim and attractive. Later this week when they are on we’ll let you know how they’re cooling!

We're living in the front bedroom (that will be our office) while we finish renovation. The temp. window box is keeping us cool!

The master bedroom is taking shape and the AC unit is hidden above the door.

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