Skip to content

Are Ductless Mini-Split Systems More Efficient Than Standard HVAC Systems?

Estimates show that home heating and cooling costs homeowners $29 billion each year. By switching to a high-efficiency unit, you can decrease your heating and cooling costs by 20 to 50%. While there are standard HVAC system options that offer impressive energy efficiency, there may be an even better option for your space.
If efficiency is your top priority for HVAC systems, consider a ductless split system HVAC unit.
Choosing the best HVAC system means evaluating your space’s heating and cooling needs and weighing the pros and cons of each type of unit. Read to decide if the efficiency perks of a ductless mini-split system outweigh a standard HVAC system.

A Tale of Two Systems

First, review the major components of each system and how they work to cool and heat your home. Their individual parts contribute to the overall efficiency of each.

Standard Central Air Systems

Central air systems are the most common residential and commercial HVAC systems in the United States. Central HVAC systems push air throughout a space using a system of air ducts, fans, and motors.
The air conditioner in a conventional split system has two main parts. The air handler is inside your home, usually hanging in the garage or inside a closet. The condenser is the outside portion usually housed on a concrete pad near an exterior wall.
The air handler regulates and circulates the air, and the condenser is mainly responsible for getting rid of heat in the refrigeration cycle. Both the air handler and the condenser use refrigerant to execute a heat exchange.
Central HVAC units are controlled by setting a thermostat to regulate the temperature and determine how often the unit runs or is at rest.

A Mini-Split System

A unique aspect of a mini-split system is the fact that these units do not use a system of ductwork to distribute air. Units are installed in each room or area that needs heating or cooling.
Indoors, the units are either mounted on walls or hung from ceilings. The outdoor portion of the unit connects to the indoor unit through a refrigerant line.
Each unit is programmed separately by remote control instead of centrally controlled by a thermostat.


Both systems run on electricity and use refrigerants. Each system also requires regular maintenance to keep them clean and in optimal running condition.
Although both options are capable of regulating the temperature in your home, take a look at the reasons a mini-split system offers significant efficiency advantages over a standard HVAC system.

Energy Consumption

In a traditional HVAC system, the unit will turn on and then pump air consistently until it reaches the desired temperature. At that point, the unit will turn off until the thermostat signals the temperature has veered off the target temperature. This will signal the unit to kick on again and another heating or cooling cycle begins.
Nearly all mini-split systems available today make use of something called inverter technology. A mini-split will adjust the air output to maintain the temperature. Think of it as a smart system that alters how much energy it uses to run based on heating or cooling need in the space.
Additionally, because mini-splits do not use ductwork to circulate air, you won’t experience the energy loss that traditional HVAC systems produce. Gaps, cracks, and leaks in the ductwork can allow cool air to escape.
A ductless mini-split system also comes with a top SEER rating. SEER is the ratio of the cooling output of an air conditioner divided by the energy it uses. High-efficiency units rate at a SEER of over 20, and most mini-splits come in at or over this high-efficiency mark.

Mechanical Operations

Central air conditioners use large blower and condenser motors to push air through ducts.
With a mini-split system, there isn’t the need for a large motor to push air from one location through the entire ductwork system of a home. They use much smaller motors because they don’t have to push air through ductwork.
The condensers in mini-split units also use variable speed fan motors and compressors. When the unit switches on in a traditional AC unit, all motors and fans immediately run at full capacity. Mini-split motors accelerate slowly as they’re needed.

Supplementary Cooling

Sometimes, a homeowner with a central HVAC unit may notice that one room is warmer than the others. In order to compensate for this, you would need to run the entire unit at full capacity until that room has reached the desired temperature.
If there’s an area or a room like a bedroom or work area where you want cooler temperatures, a mini-split can help. Instead of running the entire unit and distributing the air over the whole house where you might not need it, you can improve cooling in a single area.
It’s possible to add a mini-split to the room without installing or connecting any ductwork, and that room has a supplementary cooling source all its own.

Zone Heating and Cooling

A central air conditioner pushes air throughout an entire home or building, working to ultimately reach one temperature throughout.
A mini-split can cool different areas at different times and temperatures. You can turn certain rooms up or down depending on use.
Systems are available with up to four indoor air handling units so that you can heat or cool four zones separately. Switch off rooms that aren’t in use for maximum energy savings.

Deciding on HVAC Systems

Both types of HVAC systems will effectively cool and heat your home. Depending on your efficiency priorities and the use of your space, a mini-split may be one of the best HVAC systems for you.
What are the heating and cooling needs of your home or business? Does it sound like a mini-split system satisfies your expectations for efficiency?
Let us help you make the final decision. For a free quote on HVAC system installation or a consultation regarding any of your heating and cooling needs, contact us today.