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Split System vs Ducted Air Conditioning: Which One Suits You Best?


Deciding on the right air conditioning system for your home or business can be a challenging task.  With options ranging from ducted to split systems, bulk-heads to multi-heads, each offer a range of features and drawbacks.  It’s important to understand which system aligns best with your needs, wants, and unique property.

In this article, we dive into the specific features of both ducted and split system aircon installation.  We aim to equip you with knowledge required to make an informed decision by drawing on insights from industry experts.  This will help ensure your space is cooled efficiently, cost-effectively, and in harmony with your lifestyle and aesthetic preferences.

Join us as we explore the pros and cons of each main air conditioning type.  We hope that this will provide a clear pathway to a decision that will keep you cool and comfortable for years to come.

Section 1: Understanding Ducted Air Conditioning Systems

Reverse cycle ducted air conditioning systems offer a seamless way to cool or heat an entire property. These systems typically consist of an indoor unit concealed in the roof space and an outdoor unit located outside the property.  The 2 units are connected with copper pipework designed to transport refrigerant in a cycle of liquid and gas form.

The whole ducted system is controlled by a wall controller that also typically functions as a thermostat, unless zoning and room sensors are installed with zoned air conditioning.  Air is circulated throughout the home via a series of flexible ducts and rigid ductwork components.  Air is distribute into each room/area through air vents, and similarly returned to the air conditioning system by return air grille/s and filter/s.

New installation in Brisbane with HVAC technician attending in blue coveralls

Pros of Ducted Systems:

Full Coverage:  Ideal for large spaces.  Ducted systems help ensure even temperature control throughout the property​​.

Aesthetics:  Ducts and vents are usually hidden or unobtrusive.  This offers a sleek, stylish appearance​​.

Zoning Capabilities:  Many ducted systems allow for temperature control in different areas independently, with the use of room sensors.  This enhances comfort and energy efficiency​​.

Cons of Ducted Systems:

Higher Initial Cost:  There is generally a greater expensive upfront when it comes to the purchase and installation cost of ducted.

Installation Limitations:  Ducted systems require significant space for ductwork.  This makes them less suitable for certain structures or homes with limited roof space​​.

Control Limitations:  While zoning features offer some area-specific temperature control, they may not provide the same level of individual room climate control as split systems.  This can lead to energy wastage if cooling or heating unoccupied rooms​​.

When weighing up the pros and cons of ducted air conditioning, it’s important to investigate all options and compare the features to your specific property.  The assessment should not only include current demands and layout, but also any future plans such as renovations that may change your air conditioning requirements.

Section 2:  Exploring Split System Air Conditioning

Split air conditioners are just that; a split-design air conditioning system.  They are known for their two-component design with at least one indoor unit and one outdoor unit.  Most models on the market work using reverse cycle air conditioning principles.

You may be thinking; isn’t that the same as a ducted system?  You would be right!  A ducted system is technically a ‘ducted split system’.  However, in Australia, we tend to refer to wall split air conditioners as ‘split systems’ and split ducteds as ‘ducted systems’ for simplicity.

Split systems offer a distinct approach to climate control with a wide range of models available.  These typically consist of an indoor unit mounted on the wall, although they also come in floor-standing, under-ceiling, and even in ceiling in the case of cassettes.  They are connected by refrigerant pipework to an outdoor unit which houses key components, such as the compressor.

Local aircon installer installing wall split air conditioner in kitchen area

Pros of Split Systems:

Installation Flexibility:  Ideal for properties with limited space.  Split air conditioners can be installed in various locations without extensive ductwork​​.

Energy Efficiency:  Split systems often consume less energy than ducted systems when heating or cooling individual areas.  This reduces not only energy but also money wastage​​.

Cost-Effective:  Splits are generally less expensive to purchase and install upfront.  They also offer potentially lower running costs for specific area usage​​.

Cons of Split Systems:

Limited Area Coverage:  Split air conditioners are more suited for individual rooms rather than large, open spaces.  Large areas may require multiple AC units​​ or a multi-head system.

Aesthetic Concerns:  Indoor units may not blend well with interior décor.  External units can also impact the aesthetics of outdoor spaces​​.

Potential for Inconsistent Temperatures:  Since each split unit operates independently, varying temperatures can be present in different rooms or areas of a property​​.

When assessing the pros and cons of split system air conditioning, it’s important to consider all features and look at your property as a whole.  The review should not only include current aircon requirements, but any future events like kids or working location that may change your air conditioning requirements.

Section 3: Comparative Analysis

Several factors come into play when choosing between ducted and split air conditioning systems. The key factors include, but are not limited to, cost, efficiency, installation requirements, and specific needs of the property.

Cost and Installation:  Ducted systems are generally larger, more complex, and therefore more expensive to install.  This is particularly true in older style buildings and those with limited roof space.  In comparison, split systems offer more budget-friendly installation and flexibility in terms of unit placement​​​​.

Efficiency and Coverage:  Ducted systems have the advantage of providing more even temperature control throughout larger spaces.  Meanwhile, split air conditioners are more efficient for cooling or heating specific areas.  Split systems are subsequently ideal for smaller homes or single rooms​​​​.

Aesthetics and Control:  Ducted aircons offer a more integrated look, with vents seamlessly blending into the decor.  While split aircons provide more control over individual room climate conditions, they come with visible indoor units that may affect interior aesthetics​​​​.

Understanding these distinctions helps in making an informed decision that aligns with both your immediate and long-term requirements for climate control in your home or business.  However, there is certainly more to consider when it comes to making the right decision for you.

Section 4: Making the Right Choice for Your Home or Business

Choosing between a ducted system and split air conditioner depends on many factors, as we have discussed.  Further to the differences between the two AC styles, it’s also important to consider your property’s size, layout, and your personal preferences.

Mature couple deciding which air conditioning system will be best for their new home

Assess Your Space:  Consider the size of your property and the number of rooms you need to cool or heat.  Ducted systems are ideal for larger properties requiring consistent temperature throughout.  Meanwhile, split systems are better for smaller spaces or individual rooms.  In some cases, a combination of split and ducted may be required.

Budget Considerations:  Evaluate your budget not only in terms of the initial purchase and installation, but consider long-term running costs.  A local HVAC professional can offer tailored advice as to the how to choose energy efficient air conditioning on a budget.

Energy Efficiency:  Think about energy consumption and efficiency.  Split air conditioning units can be more energy-efficient for heating or cooling specific areas.  However, you need to consider the energy costs associated with running multiple split units compared to one main ducted aircon system.

Aesthetic Preferences:  Consider how the air conditioning unit will integrate with your home or office design.  Ducted systems are less visible, whereas split systems require visible indoor units.  However, you can get increasingly stylish indoor units in a range of colours, with Industry-leader Daikin providing a colour palate selection in their home base of Japan, known as Risora Custom Style.

Consult with Professionals:  Finally, seek advice from HVAC professionals who can provide insights tailored to your home’s specific needs and constraints.  With dozens of different scenarios to consider, they can save you time and money while finding your perfect heating or cooling solution.

By carefully weighing these factors, you can make a decision that ensures comfort, efficiency, and satisfaction in your home or business.  There may be many different solutions that could work.  Ultimately, the aim is to make the right choice for now and into the future.


In the quest to find the perfect air conditioning solution, understanding the differences between ducted and split systems is crucial.  While ducted systems offer an integrated, whole-home approach ideal for larger spaces, split air conditioners provide flexibility and efficiency for smaller areas or specific rooms.

Your decision should be influenced by your property’s size, budget constraints, aesthetic preferences, and energy efficiency needs.  With this article, we hope you feel equipped to make an informed choice that aligns with your lifestyle and ensures lasting comfort in your home or business.

Get a Personalised Quote Today

Unsure which air conditioning system is right for you?  Don’t leave it to chance!  Contact a trusted HVAC company that offers both ducted and split system installation options.

Our expert team can assess your unique needs, considering factors like property size, budget, and efficiency requirements, to provide a tailored solution.  Reach out now for a no-obligation quote and take the first step towards optimal comfort and efficiency in your home or business.

AC professional designing layout for new ducted air conditioning installation