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Air conditioning is an essential in most homes and commercial buildings, providing a comfortable indoor environment whether it be summer or winter. It can however be a difficult choice to decide between the two main types of air conditioning systems available on the market: ducted air conditioning and split system air conditioning. 

Much like anything we add to our homes, there are advantages and disadvantages to each system, and choosing the right ones depends on your specific needs and preferences.  

So what are the main differences between the two types of systems? 

Ducted Air Conditioning  

Ducted air conditioning systems are designed to cool an entire building or a large area like a floor or a wing in a commercial building. The system has a central unit which tends to be installed in the roof, this is connected to a outdoor unit usually placed down the side of the building on the ground. The indoor unit has a series of ducts that distribute the cool air throughout the building. One of the big benefits to ducted air is that the ducts can be concealed behind walls or ceilings so that the system is not visible – perfect for your home or business premises.  

One of the main advantages to ducted reverse cycle air conditioning is that it can provide a consistent and even cooling (or heating) temperature throughout the building, regardless of the size or shape of the building or room. Beneficially, a zoned ducted system allows you to control the temperature in different rooms and areas of the building independently to each other. This means that you could have the air conditioning on in the lounge room but not the bedrooms or that each individual family member can have the air conditioning in their room set at a temperature suitable to them.  

Ducted systems are also quiet because the noise from the central unit is isolated in the roof, meaning that if you work from home, or need a quiet, but cool, space for your work meetings, you won’t need to worry about the noise from an air conditioner.  

Split System Air Conditioning 

Split system air conditioning is common in many homes, particularly those who don’t have the space available or the budget for ducted. This type of system consists of an indoor unit and outdoor unit. The indoor unit is mounted on a wall and is then connected to the outdoor unit, which can be mounted on the ground, on brackets or roof mounted.. One of the downsides to a split system is that it can only immediately cool the room the system is in (other rooms may get cooler through the flow of air).  

One of the things that makes a split system air conditioner popular is that it is energy efficient because it does only cool the room it is in, rather than an entire building. They are also relatively easy and quick to install, don’t require a lot of maintenance and don’t require complicated wiring or ducting.  

They are however not useful for larger spaces or for cooling multiple rooms, without multiple units both indoors and outdoors (although with a large enough outdoor unit, you can run multiple indoor units). They can also be noisy, particularly if not installed correctly and as they age. 

Let’s take a look at the seven key factors that you should consider when choosing to install ducted or split system air conditioning in your home or business.   

Seven Key Factors to Consider When Installing Air Conditioning 

When choosing between ducted and split system air conditioning, there are several factors to consider including the size of the area you need to cool, your budget and any energy efficiency goals.  

Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages that are worth weighing up before you choose which system is best for your needs.  

If you are unsure, it is best to consult with a Air Conditioning Specialist, like the team at AAPL, who can assess your needs and recommend the best solution based on your budget.  

Consistent and Even Cooling  

If you need consistent and even cooling throughout the house, ducted air conditioning is the way to go. Ducted allows you to control the temperature through a central unit, which distributes cool air through to every room with ducts. When you add in a zoned system, you can then direct the air to the rooms being used, and at a separate temperature per zone with certain zone controllers. 

In comparison, a split system air conditioner only allows you to cool one room sufficiently, and while cool air may flow through to other rooms based on general air flow, you won’t have consistent and even cooling throughout the house unless you install individual units in each room.  


Whether it’s in an office or at home, there’s always complaints that the air conditioner is too cold or too warm. Both options allow you to cool and heat individual rooms, however a zoned ducted system does this from the one internal unit whereas a split system requires individual units in each room that you want heated and cooled.  

Energy Efficiency  

Both ducted and split system air conditioners are energy efficient, particularly if you use a zoned ducted system. Zoned ducted can be more energy efficient as it only cools the areas of the building that needs to be cooled or is turned on to be cooled. While a split system is similar, you may lose cool air to other parts of the building, forcing the air conditioner to work a bit harder to keep the room cool, particularly if it is an open plan area.  

However both options will help you save money on your energy bills while maintaining a comfortable indoor environment.  

Aesthetically Pleasing 

There is no doubt that a ducted system is more aesthetically pleasing – the ducting is concealed which means they aren’t visible in the room. Unlike a traditional split system, there are no bulky units taking up wall space. On the other hand, if this isn’t an issue for you, modern split systems are compact and designed to blend in with the surrounding room. They tend to be mounted high up on the wall to take up as little usable space as possible.  

Quiet Operation 

Because the indoor unit is located in the roof space, it is very quiet to run, which means you can relax or work in peace, and not be disturbed by the noise of the system. Split system units, particularly modern ones, are also very quiet to operate, and because the external unit is placed outside and points away from the house, unless it is installed near a window, you are unlikely to hear it. These systems tend to get a bit noisier as they get older.  

 Easy Installation 

Installation is one area where a split system wins out over ducted reverse cycle air conditioning. A split system is a relatively easy install, particularly when installing back to back. There is no need to run ducting, and unless you have the external unit installed some distance from the internal unit, there is little need to run piping through the building. In comparison, a ducted system requires, if it isn’t already in place, the running of ducting through the building. This can be difficult if there is minimal room to work with and installation will take longer.  


Both systems can be cost effective in their own way. A ducted system is more expensive to install, however they tend to last around 15-20 years with regular air conditioning services and maintenance. On the other hand, a split system unit is cheaper to install, but they generally only last around 10-15 years before they need to be replaced depending on the brand. If you do only need the one system in your living areas, a split system is a more cost effective option, however when you want a full building system, it is worth chatting to air conditioning specialists to work out which is the best long term option for you.   

Maintaining Your Air Conditioner 

Whether you choose a ducted air conditioning system or a split system, maintaining the unit to get a long lifespan and efficient cooling and heating is important. Neglecting maintenance can lead to increased energy bills, poor air quality, and eventually system failure. 

It is important to have your system checked and serviced regularly, which may include: 

While there are some tasks you can do yourself to keep your air conditioner in top shape, you will not be able to clean the internal workings of the system. It is important to have an air conditioning services and maintenance company check your system at least once a year.  

If you’re looking to install an air conditioner in your home or business, and aren’t sure what the best option is for your needs, contact AAPL Air Conditioning.  

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