Weighing the Pros and Cons of Ducted Aircon vs. Split Systems

Deciding between ducted aircon and split systems can be tricky. Ducted air conditioning often costs more upfront but provides consistent comfort across your home. Our guide compares these options, revealing how each could effectively serve your cooling and heating needs.

Let’s dive in!

Understanding Ducted Air Conditioning Systems

Ducted air conditioning systems deliver climate control throughout your home via a network of ducts. They offer a seamless way to manage indoor temperature and airflow from a central unit.

Pros of Ducted Systems

Ducted air conditioning systems deliver comprehensive climate control for entire homes or buildings. They maintain a consistent temperature, providing comfort in every room. Here are the advantages:


  • Efficient cooling of large areas is a standout feature of ducted systems, making them perfect for spacious homes and commercial spaces.
  • These systems offer consistent cooling throughout, ensuring no room is left warm or stuffy.
  • Aesthetically pleasing, ducted aircons hide the bulk of their components under floors or ceilings. This preserves the design integrity of your space.
  • They come with zoning capabilities, allowing you to control temperatures in different areas independently. This means you can cool only the rooms in use, saving on energy consumption.
  • Despite higher initial costs, ducted air conditioning units can yield significant long-term savings thanks to their energy efficiency.
  • The discreet design of ducted systems eliminates the need for wall-mounted units, freeing up wall space for art or furniture.
  • These systems are known for their quiet operation, providing a peaceful indoor climate without the noise associated with some split system air conditioners.

Cons of Ducted Systems

Choosing the right air-conditioning system involves careful consideration of its drawbacks. Despite their popularity for whole-house cooling and heating, ducted systems come with several disadvantages that need attention.

  • High Initial Cost: Installing a ducted air-conditioning system requires a substantial upfront investment. Compared to split air conditioners, the initial expense can be quite steep due to the complexity of installing ductwork and central units.
  • Expensive Installation: Beyond purchasing the system, installation costs are higher for ducted systems. This is especially true in existing homes where installing the necessary ductwork can involve significant building structure alterations.
  • Less Retrofit Flexibility: Fitting a ducted system into an already-built house poses challenges. Unlike split systems that require minimal space and alteration, retrofitting ducting often demands considerable renovation work, adding to the cost and inconvenience.
  • Increased Maintenance Costs: Ducted systems involve more components like fan coil units and extensive ducting, leading to higher ongoing maintenance costs. Regular cleaning of air vents and insulation checking are necessary to ensure efficiency and prevent energy wastage.
  • Limited Room Control: One key drawback is the limited ability to control temperatures in individual rooms. While some advanced models offer zoning capabilities through dampers, they generally provide less control than split systems with dedicated indoor units in each room.
  • Higher Energy Usage Potential: The risk of increased energy consumption exists if a ducted system is not well insulated or properly maintained. Inefficient or leaky ductwork can lead to significant energy wastage, making it less energy efficient than alternative heating and cooling options.

Elevating Ducted Air Conditioning Efficiency Through Insulation

Proper insulation is crucial in boosting the efficiency of ducted air conditioning systems. Insulating the ductwork significantly reduces heat loss or gain as air travels through the system.

This ensures that cooled or heated air reaches its intended destination without unnecessary temperature changes, making your home more energy-efficient and comfortable.

Insulating also helps maintain consistent temperatures across different rooms, enhancing the overall performance of your climate-controlled environment. It minimises the strain on your unit by reducing the need for constant adjustments, which can lower running costs and extend the lifespan of your heating and cooling system.

Exploring Split System Air Conditioning

Split system air conditioning offers a versatile solution for cooling and heating your home. It pairs an indoor and outdoor unit to deliver efficient climate control.

Pros of Split Systems

Split-system air conditioners offer several advantages, making them a favourable option for many homeowners. They blend energy efficiency with sleek design, balancing performance and aesthetics.


  • Energy efficiency stands at the forefront of split system benefits. These units consume less power than ducted systems because they cool specific areas without pushing air through extensive ductwork. This targeted cooling approach can significantly lower electricity bills.
  • The sleek design of split systems complements modern home interiors perfectly. These units can enhance a room’s look with various styles available rather than being an eyesore.
  • Built-in zoning capability offers unmatched control over indoor temperatures. Homeowners can adjust settings for different rooms independently, ensuring comfort where it’s needed without wasting energy on unoccupied spaces.
  • Installation of split ACs is generally straightforward and less invasive compared to ducted systems. This makes them ideal for new builds or renovations where quick and easy installation is a priority.
  • Maintenance requirements for split systems tend to be less demanding. Access to filters and outdoor units for regular cleaning is more straightforward, helping to keep the air-conditioner running efficiently and improving indoor air quality by reducing airborne particles.
  • Split systems excel in humidity control, crucial for maintaining comfort levels in humid climates. They effectively reduce moisture in the air, making living spaces feel cooler and more comfortable even at higher temperatures.

Cons of Split Systems

Split systems, despite their popularity for individual room cooling, come with certain drawbacks. These disadvantages can affect the efficiency of air conditioning in a home and the initial investment required.

  • Limited area coverage stands out as a major downside. These air conditioners excel in single rooms but struggle to distribute air in larger or open-plan spaces evenly.
  • Installation costs can be surprisingly high. Each unit requires a separate installation process, which can add up if multiple rooms need cooling.
  • Aesthetic disruption is often noted with split systems. The indoor units are visible and might not blend well with every interior design scheme.
  • Noise levels can be higher than expected. Although many models are designed to operate quietly, the compressor’s noise outside can sometimes be disruptive.
  • Energy efficiency varies widely among models. While some split systems offer energy-saving modes, they may still consume more power than central air conditioning in larger homes due to the need for multiple units.
  • They demand frequent maintenance. To ensure efficient operation, filters need regular cleaning, and the system requires routine check-ups.

Ducted vs. Split System: Comparing Efficiency and Coverage

When evaluating the efficiency and coverage of ducted versus split system air conditioning, it’s essential to consider their operational aspects and how they fit into various environments.

Feature Ducted System Split System
Efficiency Zoned systems offer enhanced cost-effectiveness. Individual units allow precise control over temperature in specific rooms.
Coverage Provides consistent cooling/heating across multiple rooms; ideal for larger properties. Best for targeting individual rooms or smaller spaces.
Operational Cost Standard ducted (refrigerative non-zoned) are 34% more expensive to run. Cost varies based on the number of units installed and their usage.
Longevity With proper maintenance, systems show excellent durability. Life expectancy can vary, with maintenance playing a crucial role.
Noise Level Often quieter than split systems, contributing to a more serene environment. Noise levels can vary; some models may be louder, especially older or less expensive ones.
Environmental Impact Zoned ducted systems can be more energy-efficient and have less environmental impact. Using multiple units increases energy consumption but offers flexibility in usage.

Cost Considerations: Ducted vs. Split Systems

Evaluating the costs of ducted versus split system air conditioning is crucial for making an informed decision. Below is a summary in table format highlighting key cost considerations.


Cost Factor Ducted Air Conditioning Split System Air Conditioning
Initial Installation Cost $7,000 to $25,000 Lower than ducted systems
Cost for Small Single-Storey House Approx. $7,000 Varies, but generally lower
Upfront Costs Generally higher Lower compared to ducted
Long-term Cost-effectiveness Potentially more cost-effective Depends on usage and maintenance
Coverage Consideration Suitable for larger areas Multi head systems can also cover larger areas

This table elucidates the financial aspects of both ducted and split system air conditioning, highlighting initial costs, potential for long-term savings, and suitability based on the space size to be air conditioned.

Aesthetics and Environmental Impact: Ducted vs. Split Systems

Ducted systems blend seamlessly into your home’s design, hiding the unit and ducts from view. This creates a more visually appealing space, as you won’t see any part of the air conditioning system.

Homeowners value this clean look, especially in living areas and bedrooms where large units can disrupt the aesthetic balance. Split systems, on the other hand, require visible indoor units that could clash with interior design elements.

Considering the environmental impact, ducted systems stand out for their energy efficiency over split systems. Thanks to advanced thermostat controls and even distribution through hidden ducts, they use less power to heat or cool entire homes.

This reduces carbon footprint significantly by lowering energy consumption across seasons, making them a greener choice for conscious homeowners aiming for an eco-friendly heating and cooling solution.

Choosing the Right A/C for Your Space

Selecting the perfect air conditioning system requires considering your needs and space limitations. It’s crucial to evaluate both ducted and split systems carefully before deciding.

Ideal Situations for Ducted Air Conditioning

Ducted air conditioning shines in large homes or offices. It delivers uniform cooling and heating, making it a top choice for comprehensive temperature control.


  • Large spaces benefit greatly from ducted systems. Cooling or heating multiple rooms evenly makes this system ideal for big houses or commercial areas.
  • Open-plan layouts find a good match with ducted air conditioning. These systems efficiently manage the climate of large, open spaces without creating hot or cold spots.
  • Families needing different temperatures in each room should consider ducted A/C. It offers zoning capabilities, allowing customisation of temperatures in various parts of the home.
  • Households prioritising discreet air conditioning solutions favour ducted systems. All major components are hidden away, leaving only ceiling vents visible and preserving interior aesthetics.
  • Properties designed with energy efficiency benefit from integrating ducted systems with insulation. This combination enhances the overall efficiency of heating and cooling systems, leading to lower energy bills.
  • Users desiring a quieter environment appreciate ducted aircon’s low noise levels. Since the evaporator and other noisy components are usually installed outside or in the loft, indoor noise is significantly reduced.
  • Ducted systems pair well with smart home technologies for those who love automation. Homeowners can easily control temperature settings for every zone through their smartphone or centralised control panel.

Ideal Situations for Split Systems

Split systems shine in smaller spaces or specific areas within a building. They are an efficient solution for individual room cooling, making them highly adaptable for various needs.

  • Single rooms or studio flats benefit greatly from split systems due to their compact size and the need for targeted cooling without extensive ductwork.
  • Small offices find split systems ideal because they offer precise temperature control for a comfortable working environment without the high costs associated with larger systems.
  • In homes with central heating systems, adding a split system can provide cooling in areas not adequately served by the existing setup, offering a tailored approach to climate control.
  • Split systems support energy efficiency in bedrooms, allowing residents to cool specific sleeping areas at night rather than the entire house, reducing electricity usage significantly.
  • Properties undergoing renovation often opt for split systems as they can be installed without altering the structure extensively, making them a flexible choice during upgrades.
  • Those looking to minimise installation and running costs will find split systems advantageous. Their lower initial outlay and operational expenses make them an economical option for budget-conscious individuals.
  • Homes already equipped with ceiling fans may add split systems to bolster cooling efforts during hotter periods while maintaining lower energy consumption than larger air-conditioned setups.
  • Split systems also offer zoning capabilities; users can cool specific zones or rooms as needed without wasting energy on unoccupied spaces.


Deciding between ducted and split system air conditioning depends on specific needs, budget, and space considerations. Ducted units excel in delivering uniform cooling or heating to larger spaces with minimal visual clutter.

Conversely, split systems offer flexibility for individual room control, proving cost-effective for smaller areas or buildings with unique layouts. Assessing the initial outlay and long-term running costs alongside aesthetic preferences will guide the choice of comfortable living environments.

Each system has strengths, making it vital to weigh these factors carefully before installation.


1. What is the difference between ducted aircon and split systems?

Ducted air conditioning sends cool or warm air through ducts in your ceiling to each room, while a split system has units in individual rooms that control the temperature.

2. Can both types of air conditioning use reverse cycle technology?

Yes, both ducted and split system air conditioners can have reverse cycle technology, allowing them to provide cooling in summer and heating in winter.

3. Which one is better for cooling my whole house?

If you want to control the temperature throughout your entire house simultaneously, ducted aircon is more effective than installing multiple split systems.

4. Are there any advantages of choosing a split system over a ducted aircon?

Split systems can be less expensive to install than ducted systems and offer the flexibility to heat or cool individual rooms as needed, which can save on energy costs if you don’t need your whole house at one temperature.


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