What’s the Best Option for Boston Air Conditioning: Central Air or Ductless Mini Split?

RTM Design • Jun 27, 2020

In Boston, heating and cooling systems use up a lot of energy so the air conditioning system you choose has a big impact on your utility bills and the environment. Central air conditioning is common in the United States but recently people have started to use ductless or mini-split systems. Both systems have a compressor or condenser indoors, and an indoor unit. Ductless systems seem to have more than one indoor unit, and rather than ductwork, a small conduit connects the components. Here’s a bit more info about the cost differences and other central and ductless air conditioning characteristics.

Up Front Cost

In general, a Boston ductless system will cost more than a central air conditioning system with the same capacity. However, you should expect to pay about twice as much money for a central air conditioning system as for a ductless system with the same capacity if you need to replace your ductwork or your home doesn’t have existing ductwork.

This means that ductless systems are ideal for existing homes and new additions to existing homes. They are also an excellent way of avoiding repairing old, obsolete air ducts. If your home has ductwork, your installer will seal the air registers so pests can’t get in and no dust or other contaminants inside will escape and lower the quality of your indoor air.


It usually takes about a week for contractors to install a Boston central air conditioning system. When you don’t have the ductwork installed, the cycle will take longer. Installers would need to take down parts of your walls and ceilings to install the ductwork, then patch the damaged areas and repaint. Custom-made ducts are essential for some homes and use valuable space in wardrobes, attics, and basements.

Boston Ductless AC

Since most of the pieces of a ductless system are placed together by the manufacturer, installation takes just a day or two. Contractors insert indoor units into your rooms and drill a hole for the conduit in your wall. Then, through the conduit, they run the suction tubing, power cable, refrigerant line, and condensate drain from outside to indoor units. Because installation is faster, you won’t have to pay as much for labor, and sooner you can get back to your normal schedule.

Your Utility Bills

Cool air has to fly through your air ducts from a Boston central air conditioning system to enter the rooms inside your house. A lot of that comes out in unconditioned areas of your home along the way. That forces your system to work harder and to waste energy. A ductless system is more efficient, which means your home can cool down faster.

Most ductless air conditioning systems have fans that can adjust their speed based on conditions inside and outside of your home. Those fans are often called variable speed air handlers. With this feature, air conditioners start operating at full speed and then turn to a slower speed when they hit the temperature you like. They remain on to maintain the temperature, save energy, and avoid unpleasant changes in temperature during the day.

Ductless HVAC

Ductless HVAC systems with more than one indoor unit can use zoning. Every indoor device has its own thermostat or a central thermostat with a separate temperature sensor. You may set a different temperature for each region or zone. That means you never have to cool an empty room and family members can remain warm in various zones by setting the temperatures they want.

Remember, whether you have an office, sunroom, basement, attic, or garage with a ductless system, you can use the same approach to lower your energy bills, even though that system does not have features built specifically for zoning. If someone is in the region of the Boston ductless HVAC system, simply switch off your central air conditioner and switch off the ductless system if no one is using it.

Indoor Air Quality

Inside the ductwork, in your central heating and cooling system, indoor contaminants like dust, dust mites, pollen, mold, bacteria, and even droppings of pests will accumulate. Such contaminants will gradually spread throughout your home through ductwork leaks without routine cleaning and maintenance and lower your indoor air quality. Family members may experience flu-like symptoms, irritation of the skin, worsening asthma, or other issues. The most vulnerable are infants, elderly people, and others with respiratory or other health conditions.

For ductless systems, these pollutants do not accumulate, and the filters can collect more contaminants. Since ductless HVAC systems with variable-speed fans stay on longer, they can much more efficiently eliminate pollutants. Longer cooling periods are also better at reducing humidity than central air conditioning systems. Your family would be more relaxed and by holding away pollutants that cause health problems, you might also lower the medical costs for your family.


You won’t have to spend time inspecting your ductwork for problems with a ductless air-conditioning system. You also won’t need to pay for the repair of ducts, such as repairing leaks, cleaning ductwork, or installing insulation. Boston central air conditioning systems, however, typically have longer guarantees than ductless systems.

No matter what type of system you choose, there are certain daily maintenance activities you will always need to perform. On ductless and central systems, you can check the air filter once a month to see if it’s dirty and change it every three months. You should also keep your leaves, grass clippings, and other debris away from your outdoor unit and have a professional audit of your system at least once a year.

Your Home’s Value

A ductless system can add value to your home, particularly if you’ve got a historic house with no room for ductwork. A ductless air conditioning system often draws many customers for energy efficiency and versatility.

Moreover, ductless systems are much quieter than Boston central air-conditioning systems as air does not have to pass through ductwork. Additionally, the exterior model is less noisy, which is perfect if it’s close to your bedroom doors, neighbors, or backyard. The outdoor unit can be mounted up to 50 feet away from the indoor units to prevent even more noise. Many people may not like the look of a ductless system’s indoor units, however. Some bigger homes may need more than one outdoor unit, too. This might conflict with the landscaping look.

Usually, central HVAC systems have an indoor unit in the basement or a utility closet. The unit connects to ductwork, and in each room, air flows through unnoticeable air registers. The indoor units for a ductless system hang in various rooms at the wall or ceiling. Floor models are also available. For the indoor units you can choose covers that blend in with the rest of your home and many come with convenient remote controls. Occasionally, though, you might need to look for the lost remote.

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