What’s the Difference: Central vs. Ductless

Last month we started our series: What’s the Difference? This week, we’ll be going over two of the most common heating systems in our region: ductless and central air units.

Most people can go 10-20 years without replacing any part of their HVAC system, so it is very easy to get a little behind on what new technology is available. Think about all of the differences we have in technology from 20 years ago to today – we barely even had the internet! The technology has evolved similarly in the HVAC industry and there are many options including central air and ductless systems.

Here is a breakdown of central air systems vs. ductless heat pumps:

Central Air

Most often, these systems create heat by using fuel sources such as electricity, oil, natural gas or propane. This may be directly through the furnace or a boiler or one of many other options. Once heated, the air is distributed through ductwork installed with your furnace and into your home.


  • Inexpensive initial cost (Especially if there is already ductwork in place)
  • Custom air treatment tools are available
  • More uniform heating throughout large homes


  • Ductwork can be an added expense during installation
  • Less control over specific zones in your home
  • Requires above average maintenance and filtration

Ductless Heat Pumps (mini-split or multi-split systems)

A ductless heat pump is also known as a mini-split system. They are called split systems because of the combination of indoor and outdoor units that operate your heating. The system uses the condenser to add heat to the refrigerant, which then heats the air to be pushed into your home. This is an efficient model that allows for multi-season flexibility and no ductwork.


  • Multi-season use
  • Above average efficiency
  • More control over independent heating zones throughout your home
  • No ductwork


  • Can be expensive if your home already has ducts
  • Multiple units mounted on walls throughout your home
  • Can be less desirable for larger homes

One of the major differences that will help you decide what is better for your home is what previous work has been done. Ductless, as it implies in the name, doesn’t require ductwork. If your home doesn’t have any ductwork in place or your old ductwork is inadequate or needs to be replaced, ductless is likely the right choice for you. Installing an entire framework of ducts throughout your home can be a lengthy and expensive process.

However, if your home already has ductwork in place, it may be easier to stick with a central air system. There are plenty of high-efficiency central air systems and many of them offer rebates that could save you money on your initial purchase. Keep in mind, ductless systems can be great in a ducted house where there are rooms that suffer from poor air flow or have higher heat gains such as solariums or additions.

To find out what system is best for your home, call a Team Harding comfort advisor and we’ll find your ideal heating solutions.

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Team Harding has been Ottawa’s leading home comfort specialist since 1994. We are a family-owned and operated local business and all of our installers and technicians are fully licensed.

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