Ducted Air Conditioning vs Split System Air Conditioner

Ducted Air Conditioning

A reliable air conditioning system is a modern-day necessity in the scorching summer heat or the bitter cold of winter. Whether for your home or office, the right air conditioning system ensures you stay comfortable year-round.

But as you dive into the world of cooling solutions, you’ll soon discover that not all air conditioning systems are created equal.

Two prominent contenders in the air conditioning arena are ducted air conditioning and split system air conditioners. Each of these options has its own set of features, benefits, and limitations. This comprehensive comparison aims to help you understand the intricacies of these systems, empowering you to make an informed decision that perfectly suits your needs.

With this brief introduction, we set the stage for thoroughly exploring the advantages, disadvantages, installation and maintenance processes, and factors to consider when choosing between ducted air conditioning and split system air conditioners. Let’s embark on this informative journey to help you select the perfect cooling solution for your needs.

How Ducted Systems Work

Understanding the inner workings of ducted air conditioning systems is the key to appreciating their efficiency and effectiveness in maintaining a comfortable indoor environment. These systems deliver consistent cooling and heating across your entire home or office. Let’s dive into how these ducted air conditioner systems work:

1. Central Unit

 The heart of a ducted air conditioning system is the central ducted unit itself, typically located in a discreet area such as the attic, basement, or a dedicated utility room. This unit houses essential components, including the evaporator, condenser, and a powerful fan.

2. Air Intake

Ducted systems draw warm air from your living space through return air grilles. The system directs this air for conditioning and heating.

3. Cooling and Heating Process

 Inside the central unit, the air undergoes a complex cooling or heating process. The system removes heat and moisture from the air, making breathing comfortable. Here’s how it works:

  • Evaporator coil: The evaporator coil contains a refrigerant, a chemical that can absorb and release heat. Air passes over the evaporator coil, and as the refrigerant evaporates, it absorbs heat from the air.
  • Compressor and condenser coil: The heated refrigerant is pumped to the outdoor unit, releasing the absorbed heat. The compressor and condenser coil accomplish it. As the refrigerant changes from a gas to a liquid state, it expels the heat into the outdoor air.

4. Distribution through Ducts

 A network of ducts distributes the now-conditioned or cooled air throughout your space. These ducts connect various vents or diffusers in each room, allowing them to spread the cool or warm air evenly.

5. Air Quality

 Ducted systems often use air filters to improve indoor air quality. These filters capture dust, allergens, and other particles, ensuring clean and healthy air.

6. Zoning

Ducted systems frequently offer zoning capabilities. It means that different parts of your home or office can be divided into zones, each with its own temperature control. Zoning allows you to customise the climate in various areas, enhancing comfort and energy efficiency.

7. Thermostat Control

A thermostat controls the temperature and settings for the entire system. Modern ducted systems often have smart thermostats that can be programmed and controlled remotely via a smartphone app.

In essence, ducted air conditioning systems provide a centralised, efficient, and versatile way of maintaining a pleasant indoor environment. They excel in spaces where uniform cooling or heating is desired across multiple rooms, offering convenience, comfort, and energy efficiency.

However, it’s important to note that installing and maintaining ducted systems can be more complex and costly than other cooling solutions.

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Advantages of Ducted Air Conditioning

Ducted air conditioning is a versatile and efficient cooling and heating solution offering many advantages. Whether you’re looking for whole-house comfort in your home or an effective climate control system for your office, ducted systems have you covered. Let’s explore the key advantages of ducted air con systems in detail:

1. Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings

The designers have designed ducted systems with energy efficiency in mind. They can save you money on your energy bills in several ways:

  • Centralised cooling: Ducted air conditioning uses a single, centralised unit to cool or heat your entire space. It is more energy-efficient than having multiple individual units in each room.
  • Zoning features: Ducted systems often come with zoning capabilities, allowing you to divide your space into different zones. You can cool or heat only the areas in use, minimising energy waste in unoccupied rooms.

2. Consistent Temperature Control

  • One of the standout features of ducted air conditioning is its ability to provide uniform and consistent temperature control throughout your entire space. Regardless of how extreme the weather conditions are outside, you can enjoy comfortable and consistent temperatures indoors.

3. Aesthetic Benefits and Hidden Design

Installers discreetly install ducted systems, offering several aesthetic advantages:

  • Hidden components: A ducted system conceals most of its components from view. The central unit is typically located in an attic, basement, or dedicated utility room, while the only visible parts are the vents or diffusers in each room.
  • Preserving aesthetics: This hidden design keeps the aesthetics of your living space or office. You won’t have visible air conditioning units on your walls, which can disrupt the overall look and feel of the room.

4. Zoning and Multi-Zone Options

Ducted air conditioning systems often feature zoning capabilities, providing the following benefits:

  • Customised control: With zoning, you can control different parts of your home or office separately. It means you can customise temperatures to suit individual preferences in various areas.
  • Energy savings: Zoning enables you to optimise energy usage, eliminating the need to cool or heat the entire space when only specific areas are in use. It not only enhances comfort but also reduces energy consumption and costs.

In conclusion, ducted air conditioning is superb for those seeking energy-efficient, consistent, and aesthetically pleasing climate control. Zoning options offer flexibility and allow you to tailor the environment to your liking.

Whether for a modern home or a professional workspace, ducted air conditioning is a premium solution that enhances comfort and saves energy expenses.

Disadvantages of Ducted Air Conditioning

Ducted air conditioning systems offer many advantages. Still, knowing their disadvantages is equally essential to decide whether they are the right choice for your needs. Here are some potential drawbacks of ducted air conditioning:

1. Installation and Maintenance Costs

Expenses can be a significant drawback. The initial installation of a ducted air conditioning system can be costly. It is due to the system’s complexity, including the structure of the central unit, ductwork, vents, and other components.

Additionally, the labour costs associated with the installation can add up, mainly if your space requires extensive modifications.

Regular maintenance is also a necessity. Ducted systems demand ongoing upkeep to keep them running efficiently. Maintenance may include cleaning and servicing the central unit, ducts, and vents. You should factor in additional costs, which can lead to them in your budget.

2. Energy Consumption for Larger Spaces

While ducted systems are energy-efficient, their coverage of larger spaces can result in higher energy consumption than split systems in those specific areas. This is because ducted systems aim to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the room.

For larger homes or offices, the central unit may need to work harder to achieve this, which can increase energy usage and, subsequently, energy bills.

3. Limited Control in Individual Rooms

Ducted air conditioning systems provide overall climate control for your entire space, which can lead to some limitations:

  • Limited customisation: Achieving precise temperature control in individual rooms can be challenging. While zoning options are available in some ducted systems, they may provide a different level of individualised control than split systems, which have separate units in each room.
  • Room-specific needs: If certain areas of your space have unique climate requirements, such as a home office needing cooler temperatures than a nursery, it may be challenging to satisfy those needs with a single, centralised system.

4. Duct Cleaning and Air Quality Concerns

Maintaining good air quality is essential for the health and well-being of occupants. Ducted systems have specific concerns in this regard:

  • Duct cleaning: The ductwork in ducted systems needs periodic cleaning to prevent the buildup of dust, allergens, and other contaminants. Neglecting this maintenance can lead to declining indoor air quality, potential health issues, and reduced system efficiency.
  • Added cost and hassle: Duct cleaning is an added expense and may require professional services. It can be a hassle, both in terms of scheduling and the potential costs associated with maintenance.

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Installation and Maintenance

Installing ducted air conditioning is a comprehensive and intricate process requiring careful planning and professional expertise. Here’s an overview of the critical steps involved in establishing a complete ducted air conditioner system:

  1. Assessment and design: The installation process begins with a thorough assessment of your space. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals evaluate your home or office’s size, layout, and specific requirements. They design a system that includes the optimal location for the central unit, ductwork routing, and placement of vents or diffusers in each room. This design ensures efficient air distribution and consistent temperature control.
  2. Central unit installation: The central unit, which typically houses the evaporator, condenser, and powerful fan, is installed in a suitable location. Depending on the design and requirements, this may be in the attic, basement, utility room, or an outdoor unit.
  3. Ductwork installation: An installed network of ducts connects the central unit to each room in your space.  A team intricately designed the ductwork to distribute conditioned air effectively. We insulate the ducts to prevent energy loss and reduce noise transmission.
  4. Vent and diffuser placement: Vents or diffusers are strategically placed in each room to ensure even and uniform air distribution. The design of these outlets is often customised to blend with your interior design.
  5. Electrical and control wiring: To ensure the system operates properly, we make electrical connections. We set up the thermostat and control wiring for easy, convenient access.
  6. Testing and balancing: Once the installation is complete, we thoroughly test the system to ensure all components function correctly. Airflow is balanced to achieve consistent temperature control across all zones.
  7. Handover and training: After successful installation, the HVAC professionals provide instructions on how to use and maintain the system. They may also explain how to set up and program the thermostat.

Tips for Maintaining Ducted Air Conditioning Systems

Regular maintenance is essential to maintain your ducted air conditioning system at peak performance. Here are some tips for effective care:

  1. Cleaning ducts: Periodically inspect and clean the ductwork to prevent the buildup of dust, allergens, and contaminants. Professional duct cleaning services can ensure good indoor air quality.
  2. Changing filters: You should check and replace the air filters in the system regularly. Clogged filters restrict airflow and reduce system efficiency. This simple maintenance task can improve performance and indoor air quality.
  3. Checking for leaks and issues: Regularly inspect the ductwork, vents, and the central unit for any signs of leaks, wear, or other issues. Address these problems promptly to prevent energy wastage and system inefficiency.
  4. Scheduling professional maintenance: Consider scheduling annual or bi-annual professional maintenance. HVAC experts can thoroughly checkup, clean and service the system and identify and resolve potential problems.

By following these maintenance tips and staying on top of the upkeep of your ducted air conditioning system, you can ensure optimal performance, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality.

Regular maintenance extends the lifespan of your ducted reverse cycle system and enhances your overall comfort and well-being.

Split System Air Conditioners

Split-system air conditioners are famous for cooling individual rooms or smaller spaces. They consist of two main components: an indoor unit (evaporator) and an outdoor unit (condenser). This configuration of multiple units allows for effective climate control in specific areas while maintaining a compact and discreet design.

How Split Systems Work

Split systems operate by efficiently transferring heat from the inside to the outside of a building. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Indoor cooling: The indoor unit, known as the evaporator, is responsible for cooling the air in the room. This unit houses a coil that contains a refrigerant. The evaporator coil draws air from the room, and as the refrigerant evaporates, it absorbs heat from the air.
  2. Refrigerant circulation: The outdoor unit, the condenser, pumps the now-heated refrigerant. Here, the refrigerant releases the absorbed heat into the outdoor air. The compressor and condenser coil facilitate the transfer of heat.
  3. Heat dissipation: The outdoor unit expels the heat outside, and the cooled refrigerant returns to the indoor team to repeat the cycle. This continuous process effectively cools the indoor air while removing heat from the room.

Ideal Settings and Applications for Split System Air Conditioners

Split systems are ideal for specific settings and applications:

  • Cooling individual rooms: Split systems are perfect for cooling single rooms or smaller spaces, such as bedrooms, living rooms, home offices, or small offices. They offer localised comfort without the need to cool the entire building.

Advantages of Split System Air Conditioners

Split-system air conditioners come with their own set of advantages:

  1. Cost-effectiveness for smaller spaces: Split systems are a cost-effective solution for smaller areas. They eliminate the need for a central ductwork system, reducing installation and operating costs.
  2. Individual temperature control: One of the standout features of split systems is their ability to provide precise temperature control in each room. It allows for customised comfort, catering to the unique preferences of occupants.
  3. Easy installation and maintenance: Installation is relatively simple compared to ducted systems. Since no ductwork is required, the setup is quicker and less invasive. Maintenance requirements are minimal, often limited to cleaning or replacing filters and checking the outdoor unit for debris and the potential need for refrigerant top-ups.
  4. Improved energy efficiency in specific zones: Split systems offer the flexibility to cool or heat only the areas you are using. This selective approach saves energy, as you don’t need to maintain the entire space at a consistent temperature.

Disadvantages of Split System Air Conditioners

However, there are some drawbacks to consider:

  1. Aesthetic impact due to visible units: The indoor and outdoor units are visible, which may affect the aesthetics of your living or working space. The appearance of these units can vary, but ducted systems are more discreet.
  2. Limited cooling for larger areas: Split systems may struggle to effectively cool larger areas, especially during extreme heat. Their capacity is best suited for individual rooms or small spaces.
  3. Noise levels: The outdoor unit can generate noise while running, which may be a concern in quieter environments. Careful placement and acoustic considerations are often required to mitigate this issue.
  4. Potential for higher overall energy consumption: If you install multiple split systems to cool or heat different rooms or zones, the overall energy consumption may be higher than a single, centralised ducted system. Careful planning and zoning can help manage energy costs.

Tips for Maintaining Split System Air Conditioners

Maintaining a split system involves a few essential tasks to ensure optimal performance and longevity:

  1. Cleaning or replacing filters: Regularly clean or replace the air filters to ensure proper airflow and indoor air quality. Clogged filters can reduce efficiency.
  2. Outdoor unit maintenance: Keep the outdoor unit clear of debris, such as leaves, branches, and dirt. Adequate airflow around the condenser is essential for efficient operation.
  3. Check for refrigerant leaks: Monitor the system for any refrigerant leaks, which can cause a decrease in cooling or heating performance. If you suspect a leak, contact a professional technician for repairs.
  4. Professional maintenance: Consider scheduling professional maintenance on an annual basis. HVAC experts can inspect and service the system, ensuring it operates at peak efficiency and addressing any issues before they become significant problems.

By following these installation and maintenance guidelines, you can enjoy the benefits of split system air conditioners while minimising potential drawbacks. Careful planning and routine upkeep are critical to a reliable and efficient cooling and heating system.

Choose Your Aircon System Now

In the realm of air conditioning solutions, the choice between ducted air conditioning and split system air conditioners ultimately hinges on your unique needs and the context of your space. Each split system air conditioning also has distinct advantages and disadvantages, making it crucial to assess your specific requirements to make an informed decision.

We recommend engaging with HVAC professionals with expertise to evaluate your unique situation. These experts can offer personalised advice and guidance to help you choose the air conditioning system that aligns with your preferences and requirements. Their insights will prove invaluable in ensuring that you invest in the ideal cooling and heating solution for your home or workplace.

For more details contact the heating and cooling experts at Upside Down today.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.

Last Edited on: 12th December 2023