Ducted vs Split System Air Conditioning

Staying comfortable at home is easier than ever. The advent of affordable air conditioning means you don’t even need to break the bank if you want to stay cool year-round.

In the world of air conditioning, there are two main options: split systems and ducted.

These two types of air conditioning do the same thing, but they come with vastly different costs, installation requirements and performance. Deciding between the two can be difficult on your own.

We recommend consulting a HVAC professional before making any decisions. The right system for you depends on the size and layout of your home, how you’ll use the system, and your budget. A HVAC professional can design a system that’s cost and energy-efficient, keeping you comfortable in any weather.

In this article we’ll compare ducted and split system air conditioning to see which is the better choice for your home.

What is Split System Air Conditioning?

Split system air conditioning is a type of climate control appliance that’s used to cool the air inside your home. This is done using simple heat transfer principles.

First, the indoor unit that’s mounted to your wall sucks in warm air from inside the room. This air is passed across pipes that are filled with low-temperature refrigerant gas. The refrigerant gas in the pipes absorbs heat from the air. The cooled air is blown back into the room, and the warm refrigerant is pumped outside to the compressor unit.

At the compressor unit, a fan blows air across the warm refrigerant pipes. This cools the refrigerant in much the same way as a car’s radiator keeps the engine cool. The refrigerant is then compressed into a liquid state (which heats it up) before passing through an expansion valve that returns the refrigerant to a gas state (cooling it down).

Split system air conditioning is extremely popular in hot climates. It’s affordable, energy efficient, and it can be installed in a matter of hours by an air conditioning installation Brisbane Northside specialist.

What is Ducted Air Conditioning?

Ducted air conditioning is a type of climate control system that uses ducts to distribute cool air throughout a home via a central cooling unit. These systems consist of three main components:

  • Outdoor unit – This is the main unit that contains the compressor and condenser, responsible for cooling the refrigerant and disposing of heat from inside the house. It’s typically located in a discreet part of your yard where the noise it makes won’t be a disturbance.
  • Indoor unit – Usually located in the ceiling or under the floor, this unit contains a fan that pushes the conditioned air through the ducts.
  • Ductwork – These are flexible pipes that distribute the conditioned air from the indoor unit to various rooms or zones. Ducts are typically made of metal or flexible plastic, and they can be hidden in the ceiling or under the floor.

The major feature of ducted air conditioning is zoning. Because ducted systems are designed to cool your entire home, your cooling bill could get out of hand quickly. Zoning allows you to choose which rooms or parts of your home to cool at any given time.

Using zoning controls reduces your power consumption and makes it efficient to use ducted air conditioning, even if you’re only cooling one or two parts of the house.

Which is Better, Ducted or Split System Air Conditioning?

Choosing between ducted and split system air con depends on your needs. Here’s a comparison to help you understand the strengths and considerations of each system:

Ducted Air Conditioning


  • Zoning capability – Allows for individual temperature control in different zones or rooms, optimising comfort and potentially saving energy.
  • Aesthetic appeal – With only discreet vents visible, ducted systems can offer a cleaner and less obtrusive appearance compared to multiple indoor units.
  • Quiet operation – The main operating components, like the compressor, are located outside or in a dedicated space, leading to quieter indoor operation.


  • Cost – Ducted systems can be more expensive to install, especially if ductwork needs to be added or modified.
  • Space requirements – Requires space for ductwork, which might not be feasible in all buildings or may reduce ceiling height.
  • Efficiency – Proper design and installation are crucial for efficiency; poorly designed ductwork can lead to energy losses.

Split System Air Conditioning


  • Flexibility – Can be installed in individual rooms or multiple zones, allowing for targeted cooling/heating.
  • Cost-effective – For smaller areas or individual rooms, split systems might be more cost-effective than a ducted solution.
  • Easy installation – Typically easier and quicker to install compared to ducted systems, especially in existing buildings.
  • Energy efficiency – Efficient operation, especially with inverter technology, leading to potential energy savings.


  • Aesthetics – Multiple indoor units might not be as aesthetically pleasing for some homeowners, although many modern units offer sleek designs.
  • Noise – While quieter than some other options, the indoor units of split systems do produce some noise.
  • Maintenance – Each indoor unit requires individual maintenance, cleaning, and potential servicing.

Ultimately, the “better” system depends on your specific requirements, preferences, and the constraints of your space and budget. Consulting with HVAC professionals can help assess your needs and recommend the most suitable system for your situation.

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