Window Air Conditioner vs Ductless Mini-Split | What’s the difference?

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If you’ve ever rented an apartment before you’re likely already familiar with using a window air conditioning unit to cool your space. While they can be incredibly convenient when you’re a renter; they may not be what you’re looking for when it comes to your permanent residence. If you’re considering the possibility of upgrading your window air conditioning unit but you’re not sure where to start you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to break down the pros and cons of window air conditioners compared to ductless mini-split units. So, you can decide which is best suited for your needs. Read on for our Window AC vs Ductless Mini-Split breakdown.


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A Few Quick Facts On Window Air Conditioners and Ductless Mini-Splits

Window air conditioners and ductless mini-split systems are two types of air conditioning systems that are commonly used in residential and commercial settings. However, when it comes to selecting the right solution for your heating/cooling needs there are a few key differences to consider. Before we get more in-depth on the topic, here are a few quick key points you should be aware of when it comes to selecting your next unit.

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Window AC Unit
  • Heating / Cooling: Can be purchased as an air conditioner only. However, there are some newer models available that are dual-function and are capable of providing both heating and cooling. Making this a great candidate for year-round use.
  • Flexibility: Typically heavy and will require a window or specially designed opening in a wall to be installed properly. Due to their weight, they often need brackets installed on the outside of the window to help keep them properly supported.
  • Energy Efficiency: Most modern window air conditioners have a great energy efficiency (EER) rating. However, they tend to be less energy efficient when compared to ductless mini-splits. This is partly because they use a fixed-speed compressor. This compressor is designed to operate at full power until the desired temperature is reached.
  • Functionality: Designed to cool one room, but can be used to cool a variety of spaces as long as a window is available for use.
  • Noise: Tend to be a bit noisy. Though more expensive units can be less of a nuisance. All window air conditioners will likely be a bit noisy. Especially during their dehumidifying cycle.
  • Installation: Fairly easy installation that does not require an HVAC professional. No experience is necessary. Additional assistance may be needed in order to lift and support the unit to put it in place. Units that sit in the window will benefit greatly by putting a support bracket in place. Because of their portability, these units are ideal for renters.
  • Cost: Inexpensive to buy when compared to ductless and traditional HVAC systems. However, can become more costly when multiple units are needed to cool more than one room in a home.
  • Lifespan:
    8-10 years on average
Ductless Mini-Split
  • Heating / Cooling: Offer a convenient way to heat and cool one room or area of your home. Also available as multi-zone mini-split systems that can provide heating and cooling to multiple areas of your home or business.
  • Flexibility: Ductless mini-split systems require a small access hole. Just big enough for refrigerant lines and electrical wiring to pass through (approx, 3″). No need for a window. Giving you greater flexibility on their placement. These units can be hung from walls or suspended from a ceiling and are easily operated via remote control.
  • Energy Efficiency: Oftentimes more energy efficient than window air conditioners. In fact, according to Forbes a standard mini-split will consume 40% less energy than a traditional window AC unit. Thanks to their use of inverter technology. Which allows the unit to vary the speed of the compressor and adjust cooling output based on the room’s needs.
  • Functionality: Capable of heating/cooling multiple rooms at once. Mini-split systems are easily expandable to accommodate an entire home.
  • Noise: Generally quieter than window air conditioners. This is because the compressor is located outside the building and the indoor unit operates at a lower noise level.
  • Installation: Cheaper and easier to install compared to a traditional HVAC system. Ductless mini-splits however, do require an HVAC professional like the ones at Air Dynamics HVAC to install them. This is because the system incorporates an outdoor condenser component with smaller wall-mounted cooling units called zones. Making them an ideal choice for homeowners but not for renters.
  • Cost: Can be more costly to initially install. However, these units are more energy efficient. Allowing you to recoup some of those costs in monthly energy savings throughout the year.
  • Lifespan:
    20 years on average
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Whether you’re looking to cool your home from the harsh summer heat or warm up that same space from the cool winter weather we’re here to help. Did you know that there are some modern window air conditioning units that can provide heat too? But what if you aren’t sure if a window air conditioner is right for your space? Could a ductless mini-split be the right solution? Well, maybe… At Air Dynamics HVAC we want to give you the facts. Ultimately helping you to decide which is better suited to your home and individual needs.


Heating & Cooling Capabilities

Okay, so we’ve already mentioned that there are some models of window AC units that can heat as well as cool. Their dual functionality makes them great candidates for year-round use. That being said, if you’re looking to cool more than one room you will need to pick up additional units to do so.

Window AC Pros
  • Some Window AC Units are dual-function and offer both heating & cooling.
  • Fairly energy efficient, making them an affordable way to cool a room.
  • Available in a wide range of sizes with cooling capacities ranging from 5,000 BTUs to 24,000 BTUs.
Window AC Cons
  • Not all Window AC Units are dual-function and offer heating & cooling.
  • Limited in its ability to cool more than one room.
  • Additional units will be needed to cool more than one space.
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Both Ductless and Window AC Units offer a way to both heat and cool your space. They also offer a similar range in cooling capacities. These cooling capacities range from 5,000 BTUs to 24,000 BTUs. Though only some models of Window air conditioning units have heating capabilities; ductless mini-split systems are designed to handle heating & cooling your home year-round.

Ductless mini-split systems offer a convenient way to heat and cool a room or given area of your home. They’re also an excellent choice for homes that do not have existing ductwork already in place. In fact, multi-zone mini-split systems can be designed to provide heating and cooling to multiple areas or potentially your entire home if needed. These systems can also be easily sized and customized for specific zones and rooms, giving you more precise temperature control.

Ductless Mini-Split Pros
  • Capable of both heating & cooling.
  • Offered as multi-zone mini-split systems that can provide heating & cooling to multiple areas of your home.
  • Available in a wide range of cooling capacities ranging from 6,000 BTUs to 24,000 BTUs.
Ductless Mini-Split Cons
  • Requires the use of a filter and regular seasonal maintenance.
  • Needs a condenser (outdoor unit) in addition to the indoor air handler in order to operate.

Flexibility

Since window ac units are designed to fit inside a window, this type of air conditioner doesn’t take up any floor space. There are however some models called portable air conditioners that sit on the floor and vent out of the window, but even these units typically only take up a small amount of floor space. It is important to note, however, that portable air conditioners do not perform as well as window AC units or ductless systems do when it comes to cooling your place.

The difference, a window AC unit is designed to utilize the outside air to cool its coils. Whereas a portable AC unit uses conditioned air from the room it’s sitting in. Thus giving traditional window ac units more of an advantage when it comes to cooling your space. To learn more about it check out this article from consumer reports.

Window AC units can be a great choice if you’re renting or live in a smaller home and only wish to cool one room or small area. Because they sit within the window frame they are out of the way and easily hideable by pulling the curtains closed when not in use.

Window AC Pros
  • Can be removed from a window when not in use and taken with you if you move to a new residence.
  • More efficient at cooling compared to portable AC units.
Window AC Cons
  • Heavy and may require 2 people to lift and properly put in place.
  • Blocks natural light from a window (will block entire window opening).
  • Pose a security risk as the window is left unsecured when the unit is in place.
  • The size or design of your homes windows may or may not allow for enough room to install a window AC

Window air conditioners are typically heavy. They require a window or specially designed opening in a wall to be installed properly. Due to their weight, they often need brackets installed on the outside of the window to help keep them properly supported.

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But, if you’re looking for a sleeker HVAC system that doesn’t look unsightly on the exterior of your home then a ductless mini-split may be the right choice for you. Not only do ductless mini-splits forego the need for ductwork they’re also incredibly convenient. They can be placed in one room or throughout your home without the need for a window to support them. Eliminating the security risk of leaving your window accessible to the public when the unit is in use like a window AC does. Rather a ductless unit can be hung from a wall or even suspended from a ceiling. No need to worry about the height though, as these units are easily controlled via a handheld remote control. Giving you the greatest flexibility when it comes to their placement.

Ductless Mini-Split Pros
  • Ductless mini-split systems only require a small access hole. Just big enough for refrigerant lines and electrical wiring to pass through (approx, 3″). No need for a window.
  • Can be hung from walls or suspended from a ceiling and are easily operated via remote control.
Ductless Mini-Split Cons
  • Not portable.
  • Not an ideal choice for renters.

Energy Efficiency

It’s important to note that a window AC unit’s efficiency will heavily depend on which model you choose. That being said, there are several modern window air conditioners that offer a good (EER) energy efficiency ratio. In fact, according to The Department of Energy, switching to a high-efficiency window AC can save you between 20 and 50 percent on energy costs, when compared to older less-efficient models. While Forbes points out that “a mini-split AC can be as much as 20% to 60% more efficient, depending on your usage”.

Window AC Pros
  • Modern units have improved (EER) energy efficiency ratios.
Window AC Cons
  • Energy efficiency ratings depend heavily on which model you choose. As some are more efficient than others.
  • Will typically consume more energy and cost more to operate than a ductless mini-split.
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A standard ductless mini-split will consume 40% less energy when compared to a traditional window air conditioner.

But what makes mini-splits so energy efficient? Well, by transferring heat rather than generating it; mini-splits can be highly efficient when it comes to your home’s heating and cooling needs. You also won’t have to worry about energy losses associated with the ductwork of central forced air systems. That’s because mini-splits have no need for traditional ductwork.

Considering that duct losses can account for as much as 30% of energy consumption for the average homeowner when running their air conditioners; this feature alone can have a big impact on saving money on your monthly energy bill.

Ductless Mini-Split Pros
  • Mini-splits use far less energy. By allowing you to select each room individually; you’re only heating or cooling the rooms you’re actively using.
Ductless Mini-Split Cons
  • On extreme weather days though unlikely mini-splits may not get as warm or cold as you need them to. This possibility depends on a few things including where you live, how old your unit is, and the size of your home.

When it comes to energy efficiency, ductless mini-split systems are generally more efficient than window air conditioners. This is in part because they use inverter technology to vary the speed of the compressor and adjust cooling output based on the room’s needs. Whereas window air conditioners will typically use a fixed-speed compressor that operates at full power until the desired temperature is reached. This causes them to be less efficient overall.

However, no matter which option you ultimately decide to go with mini-split or window AC; it would be wise to check that unit’s EER rating. This can help to give you a better understanding of how much energy it will consume as it works to keep your space cool and comfortable.

For maximum energy efficiency, you’ll want to look for a unit that offers a high EER or one that has been Energy Star Certified.


Functionality

Supplemental heating/cooling is a popular strategy that many homeowners use to save money on their energy bills. This easy-to-achieve approach allows them to keep a single room at their desired temperature as opposed to heating/cooling an entire home. This simple strategy can be a perfect solution for keeping a home office, playroom, or other area of your house comfortable without wasting excess energy. While ductless mini-splits and window air conditioning units can be a perfect fit for this; there are a few things to consider. First, as previously mentioned most window A/C units are designed for cooling only. This can be problematic during the cooler months when you’re looking to warm an area rather than cool it.

Window AC Pros
  • These units are relatively affordable, making them a good option for budget-minded consumers.
  • As mentioned above, window A/C units can be removed from a window when not in use. You can also take them with you if you move to a new residence.
  • Window air conditioning units are fairly easy to install for the average homeowner. Help is often needed as they can also be quite heavy for one person to install alone.
  • Designed to cool one room, but can be used to cool a variety of spaces. Including bedrooms, offices, playrooms, and smaller living rooms.
  • Modern window A/C units are more energy efficient compared to older models.
  • These units are typically quite reliable and can last for many years with proper care.
Window AC Cons
  • Window A/C units have a tendency to be quite noisy, especially when they are first turned on.
  • Typically not as efficient as ductless mini-split systems.
  • Block windows, reducing natural light and ventilation.
  • Can be unsightly, especially if they are not well-maintained.
  • Pose a security risk, as they can be easily removed from the window. Allowing easy entry for potential burglars to enter your home.

This is where ductless mini-splits take the lead. With a ductless mini split, you’re not limited to a unit that can only provide cooling. Furthermore one of the most convenient features of a ductless mini-split system is your ability to easily add onto it. What does that mean for you? Well, if you originally designed your ductless mini-split system to control the temperature in just one or a few rooms in your home but later decide you want to be able to control the temperature of your entire home you won’t have to worry about starting over from scratch. Rather, you can simply add on to your existing system. Whereas trying to cool your entire home with a window AC unit wouldn’t just be far less efficient. It would also require the use of multiple windows throughout your home where cooling is needed.

So, If you’re a homeowner looking to dramatically slash your energy bills, then you may want to consider a ductless mini-split. Not only can they help save you money on your monthly energy bill (helping to pay you back for the cost of your system) they’ll continue to save you for years to come.

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At Air Dynamics HVAC we understand that keeping your family comfortable year-round is a top priority. By adding a ductless mini split system to your home, you won’t just be saving on energy. You’ll have complete control of each unit installed. That means you can comfortably relax in one area of your home at one temperature while the kids sleep in another nearby room at a completely different temperature of your choosing. But you won’t have to worry about the unit’s noise taking away from your piece and quiet. Thanks to their design, ductless mini-splits have their condensers and compressors installed outside; freeing your home of unnecessary noise pollution.

Ductless Mini-Split Pros
  • One of the quietest heating and cooling systems available.
  • Easy climate adjustment allows for multiple rooms to be set to different temperature needs.
  • Offer advanced filtration for the removal of pollutants, including dirt, dust, and allergens.
  • More efficient than traditional central air conditioning systems. This is because they do not require ductwork, which can cause energy loss.
  • Can be used to cool individual rooms or zones, making them a good option for homes with multiple levels or unusual layouts.
  • Generally quieter than traditional central air conditioning systems or window units.
  • Ductless mini-splits require very little maintenance.
  • With proper maintenance and care a ductless mini-split can be very reliable and last for years to come.
Ductless Mini-Split Cons
  • Requires professional installation which can add to the overall cost of the system.
  • May not be as efficient in extreme temperatures when compared to traditional central air conditioning systems.
  • Heating/cooling an entire home may require the installation of multiple units. This will heavily depend on how large your home is and how many rooms you’re looking to heat/cool.

Installation & Costs

One big benefit of a window air conditioner is the easy installation process. This process can differ slightly depending on which model you select. However, it’s rather simple & straightforward and most homeowners can easily accomplish installation on their own. It is however highly advised to have two people work together when installing these due to their heavy weight. Considering all of the parts and instructions needed are conveniently included with your purchase, you will not need the assistance of an HVAC professional to install this type of unit in your home.

But, what are the costs of installing a window AC? Well, according to this article published by Angi “Costs can range anywhere from $139 for a basic air conditioner to over $527 for a unit with higher cooling capacity and extra features—like smart connection to your home’s Wi-Fi or a heating function.” What you will need is a properly sized window (be sure to measure) and a little assistance from a friend or family member to get your unit up and running in no time.

Window AC Pros
  • Window air conditioners are typically installed in a window or a specially designed opening in a wall.
  • Installation can be accomplished easily by the homeowner.
  • Costs less than a ductless mini-split system.
  • Can often be used when renting property.
Window AC Cons
  • You may be restricted on unit selection based on the size of your windows opening.
  • Most units are heavy to lift and may require 2 people to install.
  • Can be unsightly to your home exterior with unit(s) hanging out from window frames.
  • Cannot use the window it’s installed in without removing the unit.

What’s different about ductless mini-split installation compared to a window unit? Well, first a ductless mini-split system does require installation by a professional like the ones at Air Dynamics HVAC. That being said when a window AC unit simply doesn’t fit the bill for your needs, a ductless system might just be the right alternative. Typical installation for a ductless mini-split will include units that are mounted high on an interior wall(s). Because they are out of the way, ductless air handlers with their sleek design will easily “fit in” with any décor and can certainly be a worthwhile addition to your home.

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Ductless Mini-Splits – Must be installed by a knowledgeable HVAC professional

Window Air Conditioners – Can be installed by the average homeowner, but may require two people due to their heavy weight

With a ductless system, you can avoid bulky window units hanging out of your home’s windows ultimately hurting your home’s curb appeal. Not only that but unlike traditional central HVAC systems, you also won’t have to worry about duct loss. That’s because as it says in its name ductless mini-splits have no need for traditional ductwork. Helping you cut costs by avoiding the need to install complex ductwork that is required for central systems.

While adding a ductless mini-split does come at an expense and certainly isn’t as cheap as a window unit you won’t have to stress about your family’s budget. At Air Dynamics HVAC we make adding this long-term solution to your home easier by offering easy & convenient financing to all of our customers. That way you and your family can enjoy comfort at home without stressing over costs.

Ductless Mini-Split Pros
  • Does not require ductwork but will require a small hole to be drilled in the wall for the refrigerant lines and electrical wiring to pass through.
  • Cheaper and easier to install than a traditional central air conditioner.
  • Will need to be the property owner as this system incorporates an outdoor condenser component with smaller wall-mounted cooling units and does require a hole in the wall.
Ductless Mini-Split Cons
  • Will require installation by an HVAC professional like the ones at Air Dynamics HVAC
  • Costs more than a window AC unit.
  • Costs can vary depending on the unit selected and the number of zones (wall-mounted units) are needed to provide heating/ cooling to desired areas of your home.

Which One Is Better?

Deciding which unit is better a window air conditioner or ductless mini-split will depend heavily on several factors. These can include things like whether or not you rent or own your home, how large the space is that you’re looking to heat/cool, the size of your homes windows, and the type of unit you’re looking for. Whether it is a dual-function that can both heat and cool or one that simply provides cooling only.

For those that own their homes, a ductless mini-split can be an excellent choice over a window air conditioning unit. Not only will it consume around 40% less energy than a traditional window unit, but it will look much more appealing and can easily fit in with any decor.

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Ductless mini-splits offer more advanced energy efficiency, by giving you complete control over your unit(s). Meaning you will have the ability to heat/cool only the rooms that are being used at that time.

While a ductless mini-split system is cheaper and easier to install over a whole-home central air system, it does cost more than a window air conditioning unit. It also requires a small hole to be drilled into the wall for refrigerant lines and electrical wires to pass through in addition to the installation of an outdoor condenser unit. For these reasons, it is certainly not ideal for those that rent their homes.

Advantages of Ductless Mini-Splits

An excellent option for homeowners who cannot accommodate a traditional central HVAC system but would like similar benefits to a central system. Ductless mini-split systems do not need the ductwork necessary for traditional central HVAC systems. Rather, they only require the installation of an outdoor condenser and a small hole for refrigerant lines and electrical wires to pass through on the interior of the home for the wall unit(s)/zone(s) to operate properly.

Ductless mini-split systems are energy-efficient, quiet, and require no ductwork.

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The placement of indoor units (zones) can be on an interior or exterior wall without requiring the use of a window. Ductless mini-split systems can also be networked throughout your home and can provide both heating and cooling, making them more versatile than a window AC unit would be.

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Indoor units are easily controlled with the convenience of a remote and can be hung from walls or suspended from ceilings.

Overall, ductless mini-split systems offer greater flexibility, energy efficiency, and comfort control compared to window air conditioners, but they are also typically more expensive to install upfront and will require an HVAC professional for installation. The best choice for your specific needs will depend on factors such as the size of your space, your heating/cooling requirements, and your budget.

Advantages of Window AC Units

Ideal for renters who are looking to cool their space. These units, while heavy are easily installed with the help of 1 additional person for safety reasons. Window air conditioning units are designed to make it easy for nearly any homeowner or renter to install on their own.

Unless you’re looking to have your unit(s) installed directly into the wall, you will not need the assistance of an HVAC professional.

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They can also be a great solution for cooling a dorm room, bedroom, small office or playroom. Because these units are easily removed they can be taken with you when you move. To help give you a head start when looking for an appropriate window air conditioner unit, consider looking for one that is Energy Star Certified. A program established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed to help consumers save money by easily identifying energy-efficient products.

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Inexpensive to buy compared to ductless mini-splits and traditional central HVAC systems. Making them one of the most affordable and easiest-to-install options for cooling.

The downside of this type of cooling system is that it must be positioned in a window or wall opening. Putting this type of unit in your window will unfortunately affect visibility and may pose a security risk. This is largely due to the fact that their weight is really the only thing holding them in place. This can leave you vulnerable to home intrusions, especially if your unit is located on a lower level.

Must be properly sized to your windows opening and have all gaps around the unit blocked to avoid losing cooling to the outside of your home.

Still, because of their convenience, low cost, and versatility a window air conditioning unit is one of the most popular types of air conditioners available today. So, if you have an appropriately sized window and you’re looking for a cheap and efficient way to cool your space, a window air conditioner might be the perfect solution for you.

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Window Air Conditioner – Typical lifespan of 8-10 years

Ductless Mini-Split System – Typical lifespan of 20 years

So, when it comes to deciding which system is best for you and your home, you will need to factor in your budget, home size, and type, as well as whether you’re looking for just cooling or would prefer both heating and cooling functions. Your intended use for the system and whether your rent or own will also be important factors when selecting the right type of system to suit your needs. While a window air conditioner can be an efficient short-term solution, if you can afford a ductless mini-split system you’ll have far better efficiency and may even add to the overall value of your home.


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