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Summer is just around the corner and we’re beginning to feel the heat. If your rattly old aircon barely survived last season, you’ll be looking for a cool new investment in your comfort this year. Perhaps you’re building or renovating, or upgrading to a more efficient modern system; which aircon to choose? We’re going to outline the differences between ducted and split system AC’s to help you make an informed choice. However, it’s important to note the right system for you will also depend on what suits your particular property and lifestyle. Take some time to understand heating and cooling before you choose your air conditioning. If you’re starting to break a sweat over your decision, call in the experts to take a look and give you some advice.

What is a split system air conditioner?

The more budget-friendly of the two systems, the split consists of two units, the head unit and the condenser. The condenser is usually fixed to a wall outside the house, while the head unit responsible for blowing cool air lives inside. Operated by remote control, generally speaking, split systems have lower installation and running costs than a ducted system; but this does depend on your space and usage.

Split system air conditioner

Split systems can only blow air so far, so you’ll likely need a unit for each room. If they’re tasked with trying to cool very large areas, they struggle to operate effectively. Split system air cons are better suited to small houses and units or single rooms.

What is a ducted air conditioner?

Ducted air conditioners are installed in the roof space of your home. There is an internal fan coil unit with a series of ducts running from it, to your chosen rooms of the house. In each room there is a neat and tidy vent installed in the ceiling. You control the air conditioner via one central control thermostat, and if you’ve chosen a system with zoning features, you can control the temperature of each room individually. A zoned system is advised so you don’t waste money unnecessarily cooling rooms you don’t need to. This is the most effective system for cooling (or heating) a whole house; but with significant installation required, they can be a bit “ouch” on the pocket.

Which is more energy efficient?

Perhaps the most important question in the long term. When you’re going to be living in a property for a long time, you’ll maximise your savings in the long run by ensuring you’re operating an energy efficient system suited to your home. There are several things you can do to save money and reduce energy usage.

Efficiency levels in split system units can vary wildly depending on the size, brand and type of system. Many people choose a “Multi-Split or “Multi-head system so they can have a number of indoor head units attached to a single outdoor condenser unit. While this provides more comfort and aids street appeal, they consume more energy than single units. It pays to put some research into identifying which airconditioning units are eco friendly.

Ducted air conditioning is currently the most efficient option in the present market. Spending a little more on a unit with zoning features will maximise your efficiency through the ability to turn off the air conditioning in particular rooms.

Which is cheaper?

The million dollar question. As a general rule, ducted air conditioning systems are more expensive; but this really depends on your particular situation. If you have a six bedroom house with a large open plan living room and high ceilings, you could possibly need two large split system air conditioners per room. If they struggle to cool the large spaces, your power bills may be through the roof. In this case, a zoned ducted system may be the more cost effective option.

Which lasts longer?

There’s no clear cut answer here. Your aircon lifespan is determined by several factors:

  • Choose a reputable brand
  • Ensure a trained technician installs the unit in the best position
  • Keep your aircon well maintained and serviced by a professional
  • Don’t ‘overuse’ your AC’s
  • Protect your systems from pests and rodents

The Pro’s and Cons of Split System and Ducted AC’s

Split Systems Ducted
Pros Cheaper purchase price and installation

Non-invasive installation

Better for smaller homes and units

Full individual control over temperature for each unit/room.

Discreetly installed in the ceiling with a neat air vent in each roomQuieter than split-systems

More energy efficient

Zoned systems allow for individual temperature control in each room

More effective at maintaining an even temperature throughout the home

Cons Noisier than ducted systems

Less energy efficient

Units can be considered an eyesore

Can struggle to cool larger spaces

More expensive purchase priceInvasive and costly installation

Non-zoned ducted AC’s result in higher energy costs due to cooling every room

Generally will last longer when properly maintained and serviced

Australian summer with air conditioner

At the end of the (long hot) day, air conditioning is an important investment. With so many variables to consider, finding what’s best for you is never simple. Trained technicians will help you make the right choice based on your budget, your space and your particular needs, so you can enjoy our beautiful Australian Summers in comfort.


Air-rite mechanical services aim to help you with all your air conditioning and maintenance needs. We specialise in commercial, industrial, residential and domestic air conditioning but also mechanical ventilation and refrigeration equipment.

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