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Summer is just around the corner and we’re beginning to feel the heat. If your 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. Whether you need residential or commercial air conditioning, 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 HVAC

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 conditioners are better suited to small houses, offices, shops, or single rooms.

What is a ducted air conditioner?

Ducted air conditioners are installed in the roof space of your home or commercial space. There is an internal fan coil unit with a series of ducts running from it, to your chosen rooms of the house or commercial space. 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 is what type of HVAC system is more energy efficient? 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 air conditioning 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.

According to H&H Air Conditioning, a 2.5kW split system consumes an average of 511kWh in energy when cooling a Brisbane home, equating to around $110 a year. Meanwhile, a ducted system will vary depending on its energy rating and usage, but will cost more to operate than a split system unless you have installed a zoning feature.

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

How to Best Maintain Your Split System HVAC System

To ensure optimal performance and longevity of a split system HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system, it’s crucial to follow a proper maintenance routine. Here are key steps to maintain your split system effectively:

  1. Regular filter cleaning: Clean or replace the air filters every one to three months to prevent dust and debris accumulation, ensuring efficient airflow.
  2. Coil cleaning: Clean the evaporator and condenser coils annually using a soft brush or vacuum cleaner to remove dirt and improve heat transfer.
  3. Clear debris: Regularly inspect the outdoor unit for debris, such as leaves or branches, and clear them to maintain proper airflow.
  4. Check refrigerant levels: Have a professional inspect and recharge the refrigerant if necessary to optimize cooling capacity.
  5. Schedule professional maintenance: Annually, hire a qualified technician to perform a comprehensive inspection, identify potential issues, and conduct necessary repairs or adjustments.

Remember, proper maintenance can enhance energy efficiency, improve indoor air quality, and extend the lifespan of your split system HVAC system.

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

Split SystemsDucted
ProsCheaper 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 room quieter 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

ConsNoisier than ducted systems

Less energy efficient

Units can be considered an eyesore

Can struggle to cool larger spaces

More expensive purchase price

Invasive 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

Air conditioning in living room

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 industrial, residential, domestic, and commercial air conditioning Brisbane.