Stay Comfy Blog

Ductless vs Window AC: How Efficient are They?

window ac unitIf your home doesn’t have central air conditioning, you’ve probably really been “feeling the heat” this summer — and wondering what you can do to keep cool the rest of the season and in summers to come. Many older homes in Minnesota have hot water heat and no ductwork, making them poor candidates for central air. But other than central air, what are your options? Well, you can either use window units or ductless systems (also called mini-splits). But how can you tell which is right for you?

Here are the pros and cons of each option and the key questions to ask to help you decide.

Window Units


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install — most are a DIY job


  • Losing the use of a window and possibly cutting down on available sunlight
  • Some units are noisy — about the same level of a dishwasher — and can be disruptive, especially if installed in a bedroom
  • Most units cool just a single room or smaller spaces
  • Not very efficient, as they operate in an open window that can let cool air escape

Ductless Mini-Splits


  • Compact so they can be installed almost anywhere — usually discreetly toward the top of a wall
  • Don’t need to use a window
  • Very quiet
  • Can be set up to cool multiple rooms in your home (zoned cooling)
  • Likely to add to value to your property
  • Humidity removal is considerably more than a window unit  and low humidity is a big benefit for both comfort and indoor air quality


  • Fairly expensive
  • Require professional installation, which will add to the cost

Which Solution is Right For You?

When it comes to deciding between window units and ductless systems, there are really just three basic questions you’ll need to consider.

What’s Your Budget?

Mini-splits are expensive, starting around $1,500, depending on how many zones you’re cooling and the size of those spaces. If you’re looking to cool your entire house, mini-splits can add up to a major expense.

If you’re on a tight budget or just aren’t ready to make a significant investment, you might consider one or two window units for the time being.

What’s the Size Area You’re Cooling?

This goes along with budget considerations. If you’re just looking to cool one or two smaller rooms, window units might serve your purposes just fine. But if you’re looking for broader coverage, mini-splits could be the better way to go. Also, think about how much window space you’d be sacrificing with window units that you wouldn’t lose with mini-splits.

Do You Rent or Own?

If you’re a renter, talk to your landlord about a mini-split. It’s really more of an investment than most renters want to make, but your landlord may see the value of upgrading the property. Otherwise, window ACs are probably a renter’s best choice.

If you’re a homeowner, it’s a different story. Not only can mini-splits be a great cooling solution, but they can add significant value to your home. This raises one last consideration. If you’re thinking of selling in the near future, you may want to work with a real estate agent to see how much return on investment you’d see in the short-term by installing mini-splits.

If you’ve decided that mini-splits are the way to go for you, congratulations! Now you’ll need to work with a reliable HVAC pro to determine how best to configure your system and the right manufacturers to use. Use our dealer locator to help you find a trusted HVAC pro near you.

New Call-to-action

Find a Stay Comfy Minnesota Dealer Near You

Learn More