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Window Air Conditioner vs Ductless Mini-Split

A man in a blue shirt working on a mini split ac thats mounted on the wall

When it comes to cooling your home, the debate between a window air conditioner and a ductless mini-split system is ongoing. Both systems have their unique set of benefits and drawbacks, making the decision more about personal preference and individual needs. This blog will delve into the pros and cons of each, providing a comprehensive comparison of window air conditioners vs mini-split to help guide your cooling solution choice.

What is a Ductless Mini Split?

A ductless mini-split heat pump is a versatile cooling and heating system that consists of an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air-handling units, most commonly known as wall heads, installed in the rooms of your choice. Unlike central air conditioning systems, mini splits do not require ductwork, which makes them an ideal alternative to window air conditioners for homes without existing ducts.

Mini-splits operate quietly, offer flexible installation options, and provide more efficient energy usage, which can result in significant cost savings over the long term. One of the key features of a mini-split system is its capability to control the temperature in individual rooms, offering a level of comfort and convenience that traditional HVAC systems can’t match.

Pros and Cons of Mini Split

Despite the numerous advantages of mini-split systems, they also have their disadvantages that you must consider before making a decision. Let’s delve into the pros and cons of choosing a mini-split over a window unit.


  • Energy Efficiency: Mini-splits are generally more energy-efficient than window units. They minimize energy loss typically associated with ductwork and use inverter technology, leading to less energy consumption and lower utility bills.
  • Quiet Operation: Unlike window units that can be noisy, mini-splits operate quietly, providing a more peaceful interior environment.
  • Flexible Installation: Mini-splits offer flexibility in installation. They can be mounted on a wall, ceiling, floor, or even ducted, giving homeowners more control over their placement.
  • Versatility: Mini-splits provide both heating and cooling options, making them a versatile choice for all-year-round climate control.
  • Zoned Cooling and Heating: One of the significant advantages of mini-splits is the ability to control the climate in individual rooms or ‘zones‘. This feature provides superior comfort and can lead to further energy savings by only conditioning the rooms in use.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Mini-splits often have a sleeker, more modern appearance compared to traditional window units, blending seamlessly into your home’s decor.


  • Higher initial cost: The initial cost of purchasing and installing a mini-split system can be higher than that of a window unit. This price includes the outdoor compressor, indoor units, and installation costs. However, the long-term energy savings often offset this initial investment.
  • Installation Complexity: Unlike window units, which can often be installed by homeowners themselves, mini-splits require professional installation due to the complexity of the system. This process can be time-consuming and potentially disruptive.
  • Maintenance: Mini-splits require regular maintenance and cleaning to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Neglecting this can lead to decreased efficiency and potential system failures.
  • Potential for Irregular Cooling: In larger homes or spaces, mini-splits may struggle to distribute air evenly, leading to potential hot or cold spots.
  • Less Portable: Unlike window units, once a mini-split is installed, it’s not easily moved to another location.

What is a Window AC Unit?

A window AC unit, as the name suggests, is a type of air conditioner that’s installed in a window of your home. It’s a compact system that’s an affordable and popular choice for cooling single rooms or small spaces, especially in older homes. While window units can be a convenient and cost-effective solution, they also present a set of challenges that may not make them the best fit for everyone.

Pros and Cons of Window AC Unit

In the upcoming section, we’ll explore the pros and cons of window units to give you all the necessary information for making decisions about cooling your home.


  • Affordability: The upfront cost of purchasing a window AC unit is generally lower than a mini-split system, making it a more budget-friendly choice for many homeowners.
  • Easy Installation: Window units are relatively simple to install with basic tools and can often be handled by homeowners themselves. This could save you the cost of professional installation.
  • Portability: One of the key advantages of window units is their portability. They can be easily moved from one room to another or removed and stored away during cooler months.
  • No Structural Changes: Installing a window AC does not require major structural changes to your home, as they fit in an existing window or a minor hole in a wall.
  • Quick Cooling: Window AC units are often quite efficient at cooling the room they are installed in, and can provide relief from heat quickly.
  • Simplicity: For those who prefer straightforward operation, window units might be a better choice. The controls are usually simple to use and understand.


  • Limited Cooling Area: Window units are generally designed to cool single rooms or small spaces. If you have a larger home or multiple rooms that require cooling, you might find it frustrating to rely solely on one window unit.
  • Aesthetics and View Obstruction: Window units can obstruct the view from the window and may not be aesthetically pleasing, especially from both inside and outside the house.
  • Installation and Removal: Installing and removing a window unit can be challenging, especially for those with limited physical abilities or if the unit is heavy and difficult to maneuver.
  • Noise: Window AC units tend to be noisier compared to other cooling systems. The constant humming or rattling sounds may become bothersome, especially when trying to sleep or concentrate.
  • Lack of Zoning: Window units usually only offer cooling for a single room, lacking the ability to zone or control the temperature in different areas of the home independently.
  • Security Concerns: Window units can potentially compromise home security, as they provide an entry point for burglars if not installed securely.

Mini Split vs Window AC Considerations

When shopping for a cooling system, there are key considerations to think about. Here are some things you should focus on:


Mini-splits can be more expensive initially, but they can provide long-term energy savings. In contrast, window air conditioner units are more affordable upfront but may lead to higher energy costs over time.


If you care about how the cooling system looks, consider that mini-splits blend more seamlessly into your home decor, whereas window units can obstruct views and stand out.


Window AC units can usually be installed by homeowners, while mini-splits require professional installation. The complexity and disruption of the installation process should be factored into your decision.


If you’re looking to cool several rooms or a large space, a mini-split might be a better choice. Window AC units are generally designed to cool single rooms or small spaces.

Noise Level

Window AC units can be noisier, potentially disrupting sleep or concentration, while mini splits tend to operate more quietly.

Energy Efficiency

While some window units can be energy-efficient, mini-splits are typically designed to use energy more efficiently, potentially saving you money in the long run.


Mini-splits usually have a longer lifespan than window units, which might lead to fewer repairs or replacements.

Ultimately, the decision between a mini-split and a window AC unit should be based on your specific needs and circumstances. Weighing these considerations carefully will help you make a choice that benefits you most in the long run.


Is a mini split AC better than a window AC?

Yes, a mini split AC is generally considered superior to a window AC. This is due to its greater energy efficiency, superior cooling performance, quieter operation, aesthetic design, and the ability to offer zone cooling.

Is it cheaper to run a mini-split or a window unit?

While the upfront cost of a mini-split system is higher, it is generally cheaper to run than a window AC unit due to its higher energy efficiency. Over time, the reduced energy consumption can help offset the initial investment, making a mini-split a more cost-effective option in the long run.

Are mini splits more efficient than window units?

Yes, mini splits are generally more efficient than window units. The advanced technology used in mini splits, such as inverter technology, allows them to use energy more effectively, leading to potential cost savings on energy bills in the long run.

Replace Your Window AC Unit with a New Ductless Mini Split

If you’re not sure what type of air conditioning system is right for your home and family, our consultants and Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning are here to help. We’ll evaluate your home, help you understand your options and aid in determining the best system to meet your home cooling needs. Home and business owners throughout the Portland and Vancouver area trust Jacobs with their heating, cooling, and ventilation needs.

We’re here to answer your pressing questions, help you make the right decision for your home, and keep you and your family comfortable year-round. Call us at (503) 444-8470 or contact us online with any questions.

About the Author

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Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.