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Central Air & Mini-Splits: What’s the Difference?

Date: July 3, 2023

Two options for reliably cooling your Boston area household.

air conditioning service boston, ma When temperatures rise in Sommerville, Melrose, Malden and other towns in the greater Boston area, you don’t want to rely on noisy, ineffective window air conditioners. You’ll end up racking up high energy bills for insufficient comfort.

The expert HVAC team at Cubby Oil & Energy installs central air conditioning equipment and ductless mini-splits in countless households each year. We can help you determine which efficient, permanent cooling solution is best for you.

How does central air conditioning work?

Central air conditioning relies on a ductwork system, generally, the same one that carries the forced air heating your home’s furnace provides. A unit with a condenser coil, fan, and compressor sits outside of your home. An indoor unit has an evaporator coil and blower fan to move cooled air through the ducts in your home.

Refrigerant travels between these units and continually shifts from vapor to liquid, changing temperature in the process. This movement simultaneously releases heat outside and cools the air that passes through the system’s evaporator coil.

Room temperature air enters the ducts. The heat from this air is drawn to the condenser for outdoor release, while cooled air returns to your home. This cycle continues until your home reaches the desired temperature.

How does a ductless mini-split work?

As the name suggests, ductless mini-splits do not require ductwork to cool your home. They comprise two essential parts. An outdoor unit containing a compressor connects to one (or several) indoor air handlers via pipes in your walls.

A mini-split system works by transferring heat. The air handler pulls in room temperature air from your home, and refrigerant in connecting lines draws out the heat and expels it outside. The cooled air then returns to your room.

This process can go in reverse in cooler months, providing supplemental heat and lowering your oil consumption!

Which A/C option should you consider?

The critical factor determining whether you’re better off with central air or a ductless mini-split is whether your home has ductwork. If you heat your home with a boiler system that has radiators, mini-splits are often a better option for the following reasons:

  1. Installing ductwork in a home can be expensive and disruptive to your daily life.
  2. Mini-splits are versatile and quick to install. We can install a whole-home system with only minor drilling.
  3. Mini-split systems offer “zoned cooling,” which allows you to keep individual spaces at different temperatures. This saves energy and lowers your electric bills.
  4. With proper maintenance, mini-split systems have a longer service life than central A/C equipment.

Homes with forced air heating (furnace) can more easily install central A/C. However, some homes also install individual mini-splits in garages, studios, attics, sunrooms and other spaces that ducts don’t reach.

Central A/C systems have the benefit of being generally less expensive to install than mini-split systems. However, the lower operational costs of mini-splits can defray this cost difference.

If you’re ready to throw away your inefficient window A/C units and find a better cooling solution, reach out to Cubby for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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