Split systems or ducted air conditioning. Which one is best for you?
Renovating or building a new house, replacing an old air conditioning unit or maybe installing air conditioning for the first time? It is very important that your new air conditioning unit meets your requirements, budget and blends in with its surroundings. Read below as we try to explain the differences, advantages and disadvantages of both.
A split system is an air conditioning system where half of the air conditioning unit is inside the house and the other half is outside – usually parallel to an external wall, on wall brackets or on a roof. The inside unit (fan coil) can generally be located on any wall internally however an exterior wall is preferred to allow water from the drain to be easily gravity fed outside. A drain pump can be fitted if your heart is set on an internal wall however note that unless the drain is cleaned at regular intervals it can become blocked and water will drip from the indoor unit. Drain pumps are generally noisy and expensive hence why an external; wall is usually recommend. If you are building or renovating a house then the drain can usually be run internally through the walls to the exterior of the house or an internal drain point (under a sink, tundish or into a sink)
The advantages of choosing a split system
The main advantages of a split system is that it’s cheaper to buy than a ducted system and can be installed in one part of the house at a time. You might start with a main living area and add additional units as your budget allows, for example. Split systems are also your first choice for apartment living or in double storey dwellings as installing ducting between the levels are usually impossible. Split systems are also a better option than ducted systems in smaller properties or where only a single room requires air conditioning.
Generally speaking, a split system is operated by remote control, putting you 100% in charge of the temperature of the room in which the unit is installed. A split system has lower installation and running costs than a ducted system, too, but cost shouldn’t be the only factor in deciding which system is ideal for your home. Whilst generally cheaper to purchase, split systems have some limitations too.
Limitations of split systems
One such limitation relates to the cosmetic impact of a split system. The necessity of having a condenser unit located outside your home can create problems. Whilst a reputable installer will always make an effort to locate the unit as discreetly as they can, it isn’t always possible to hide them away. If the unit must be located in a conspicuous place, you may need to spend extra money on screens or plants to preserve your property’s street appeal. Similarly, you need to turn your mind to the potentially negative impact of a split system on your freedom to decorate the interior of the room in which it’s situated. Thankfully there are now a range of options including ceiling or bulkhead-mounted units that go a long way towards helping in this regard. Split system innovation has come a long way!
A split system’s capacity to cool can be limited to the room or zone in which it is installed. That’s not so much a problem if you choose a powerful system and have few interior walls. However, your split system’s capacity to push cold air beyond its immediate precincts relates back to some important considerations:
• How much power it will consume,
• How costly it will be to run,
• The position of the unit on the interior wall, and
• The layout of your home.
Some more expensive systems (multi-headed split systems) partially alleviate this problem. They allow for more than one room or zone to be cooled at once. However, the need to have the exterior unit relatively proximate to the head units will affect whether this is a suitable solution for your property. Nevertheless, a multi-headed split system may be a viable option where a ducted system is not feasible due to limited space for ducting.
An alternative solution to this problem is to install more than one split system. In considering whether that is an option for you, you need to take into account a number of factors:
• The increased installation costs associated with having additional split systems,
• The limitations in terms of interior wall space and the potentially adverse cosmetic impact of having several interior units,
• The need for additional condenser units be located outside, and
• Any impact noise from your system may have on your neighbours’ use and enjoyment of their own properties
Nevertheless, there are definitely circumstances in which a split system is the ideal solution to the dilemma of cooling your property effectively and efficiently.
A ducted air conditioning system differs from a split system in that the entire unit is concealed, usually in the roof space of your property or housed unobtrusively outside the property. The cooled air is then directed to multiple rooms or zones within the building via a system of concealed ducting. Only the vents are visible.
The advantages of ducted systems
Invariably, a ducted air conditioning system is more expensive than a split system. However, its primary advantage is that it’s a solution that will cool the whole of your property. Centrally controlled by way of a thermostat, it allows you to maintain an even temperature throughout.
Ducted systems can also be zoned. This means that you can turn off the cooling in some rooms that you may not be using. Alternatively, a zoned ducted system enables you to potentially cool different rooms to different temperatures. A zoned system is, as a general rule, more costly than a standard ducted system.
Arguably quieter and more efficient when in operation, a ducted system makes sense where you plan to stay in a property for a long time. Whilst there is a greater initial outlay, you maximise the chances of recouping the costs of your investment over time.
For the ultimate in air conditioning control install a MyAir zoning system. This allows for temperature and fan control to each zone via a touchpad, smartphone or tablet.
The limitations of ducted systems
Ducted systems are not without their limitations either. A ducted system can only be installed where there is adequate space for ducting, making them unsuitable for certain structures. Ducted systems also point to the fact that you are paying for the unit to cool the whole area when you might only need to cool a few rooms – this is where zoning comes into play. Ducted systems will also sense the temperature at either the return air or the wall controller. So the unit will turn itself on or off when the desired temperature is reached even if other rooms still need to be heated or cooled. This is where the MyAir system comes into play. Unless you opt for a system that enables control via Wi-Fi, smartphone or tablet connectivity, the controller is normally hard-wired to a wall and lacks the convenience and portability of a remote control. However more controllers can be fitted if necessary – especially useful in multi level houses.
How do you decide: split system or ducted?
Selecting the right air conditioning system for you and your needs is an important decision. As a savvy home-owner, you want to invest in an air conditioning system that will maximise energy efficiency whilst adding value to your property. You want it to be tailored to suit your property’s orientation and floor plan. You need it to suit your lifestyle and budget. It has to be able to rise to the challenge thrown down by Brisbane’s unique and trying climate. These are all important considerations in deciding whether to opt for a split system or a ducted system of air conditioning.
So too are the running costs of any ducted air-conditioning system you are considering. Opting for a zoned system will alleviate any concern you might have that your system is unnecessarily chewing through electricity. It’s not just a question of initial outlay.
Confused by your range of options? Wanting to tailor an air conditioning system to your needs, budget and the layout of your home? Call on the professionals at Coastal Commercial and Residential Air Conditioning for honest, impartial advice and prompt and reliable installation and after-sales service.