The Energy Efficiency Differences Between Ductless Systems and Central Air Conditioning

energy consumption

Your HVAC system is responsible for nearly half the energy consumption in your Lubbock home. When you want to save on energy bills, assessing your HVAC’s energy use and considering a newer system is a great place to start, especially if you currently cool your house with a window air-conditioning unit. But how do you know which systems are most efficient? Learn more about how ductless systems and central air conditioners work, and discover the advantages of each system and whether one is better for you than the other.

The Way They Cool

Central air conditioners and ductless systems use the same process to cool the air: they both use refrigerant and condenser coils to pull hot air from your home and replace it with cooled air. Both types of air-conditioning systems use electricity to run this process, but while central air systems are designed to cool your entire house, a mini-split system with a single unit is only meant to cool one room or zone of your home. However, ductless systems are able to provide whole home cooling by simply using additional units in individual rooms or zones.

Ducts vs. Ductless

One significant difference between central air and ductless systems is the presence or absence of ductwork. Central air uses ducts, while mini-splits do not. The United States Department of Energy reports that you can lose almost a third of your system’s cooling through leaks and imperfections in ductwork, making ductless systems more efficient in that regard.

Zoned Cooling or Not?

A central air system operates by blowing cooled air through vents that attach to your ductwork. Unless you have a brand new central air system with a zoned thermostat, you probably adjust the temperature of the whole house at once. In summer and winter, this means you’re cooling and heating rooms you may not use. You can make central air more efficient by having new thermostats installed that will allow you to zone your temperature changes. A programmable thermostat will also help, since you can set it to run only when you’re home.

One way to increase the energy efficiency of your home is to only cool or heat rooms you spend most of your time in and allow other rooms to be warmer.Ductless mini-split systems offer zoned cooling automatically because of how they’re designed and installed. As long as you operate the zones correctly and take care to only cool and heat rooms you’re spending time in, a ductless mini-split system is the more efficient option.

Energy Star and SEER

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, and it measures the amount of energy a cooling system uses compared with the amount of cooling it provides. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the system. Both ductless mini-splits and central air conditioners are measured on the SEER scale, and you can find Energy Star labels on both products. Both systems can be manufactured for maximum energy-efficiency, so if you’re looking for new equipment, you will find both types of air conditioners available in highly efficient models.

Air conditioners that are more than a decade old will likely have a SEER rating below 10. The current standard is 13 or higher, so with either HVAC system, replacing an older model will greatly increase energy-efficiency.

Choosing the Right System for Your Home

Depending on what kind of home you have, your options for cooling systems may be limited. For example, installing ductwork in a home built without it is much more difficult than installing a mini-split system. Though the two have a few energy-efficiency differences, if you’re concerned with the environment or want to save on energy bills, you have options. Remember that both new central air and mini-split systems are far more energy-efficient than window air-conditioning units.

Find out more about decreasing your home’s energy use by installing a higher efficiency HVAC system. Call Bruce Thornton Air Conditioning at 806-589-1014 today to learn about energy-efficient HVAC products and to find out which system is best for your home.

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With more than 50 years’ experience providing heating, ventilation and air conditioning services for residential and commercial customers, we at Bruce Thornton Air Conditioning are proud to be the South Plains TX area’s comfort specialists. We specialize in system replacement, preventive maintenance and repair, all with the goal of keeping your heating, cooling, refrigeration and plumbing systems functioning at maximum efficiency.


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Michael Villarreal
Michael Villarreal
January 15, 2024
Had Tony come in (BROSIG'S Custom Taxidermy) he was fast,professional, friendly and informative. Got us back up and running
CM Livingston
CM Livingston
December 20, 2023
I am so thankful for BTAC and the guys they sent out to repair a major hot and cold water leak under our slab. They knew what they were doing, and were very professional and polite, and I might add compassionate. They are an asset to the company!
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Jason Crites
August 26, 2023
Joshua K is amazing he came out after hours and had a simple fix that got our AC fixed right away!
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August 13, 2023
To the credit of BTAC and it's management, I had a frustrating experience with them on a call out for a problem with a blower motor. I made my opinion known and contacted them through email to express it. They responded, sent out new technicians and made it right. That doesn't happen very often these days, and it's good to see a company show it cares about that. If you call these folks to come out, and your experience is what you expected, let them know, they'll work with you. 👍
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July 27, 2023
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Cad Dunlap
June 8, 2023
I'm new to the Lubbock area and Bruce Thornton Air Conditioning was the first company we called. They had someone at our house to help in an hour and the service man had our AC fixed in 30 minutes. Their customer service was great from the receptionist who answered the phone to the hvac professional who fixed our AC!
June 1, 2023
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