The terms “ductless” and “mini-split” are often found together and sometimes even used interchangeably, causing confusion for those searching for HVAC systems for their home or business. The short answer is sometimes, yes, they are the same. But when they’re not, it’s crucial to distinguish between the two. Defining mini-splits and ductless systems separately is essential to clarify the distinction.

What Makes a Mini-Split a Mini-Split

An animated woman using a remote to control her ductless minisplit.A mini-split is a type of heat pump that requires no ductwork. It consists of an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units connected by refrigerant lines. The indoor units are typically mounted on walls or ceilings and serve as both air handlers and thermostats.

Mini-split systems operate on the same principle as traditional air-source heat pumps; the only differentiating factor is that they are more compact and ductless. Here’s a brief summary of what you must know about heat pumps:

The Refrigeration Cycle:

Heat pumps use a unique substance called refrigerant to absorb heat from the outdoor air, which it can do even in the coldest temperatures. The refrigerant circulates between the outdoor and indoor units to bring heat from one place to another.

Heat Transfer:

In heating mode, the outdoor unit gathers heat from the outside air and transfers it indoors through the refrigerant lines. The indoor unit then uses this heat to warm the air and circulate it throughout the zone. In cooling mode, the process is reversed. The indoor unit absorbs heat from the room and releases it outdoors.

Variable Speed Technology:

Many modern mini-split systems have added variable-speed compressors to their units, which adjust the cooling or heating output based on demand, enhancing efficiency.

What makes a Ductless System a Ductless System

No ductwork neededWhile mini-splits are a specific technology, a ductless system is a broad category. Ductless systems are any HVAC systems that operate without ductwork. Most ductless systems you encounter will likely be mini-splits, as other types, such as evaporative coolers or window AC units, are typically temporary solutions.

Differentiating Factors

Understanding how mini-splits and ductless systems sometimes differ is crucial when comparing various systems. Consider the following factors to determine which ductless system is right for you.

Heating and Cooling Needs

Researching HVAC options for homes and businesses. Access your heating and cooling needs to determine the right system. Decide if you want a system that heats and cools or does just one or the other. Many mini-split models are available as heating and cooling systems. Next, consider the size of the building. One outdoor unit of a mini-split can typically be attached to four indoor units, so you must consider a mini-split’s heating and cooling capacity. Proper sizing and capacity are critical for efficient HVAC performance. Consult an HVAC technician to determine your space’s square footage, insulation, and other factors to assess the system capacity needed for the building accurately. Additionally, think about the use of a space. For example, some offices use mini-splits to allow for hyper specific control of the temperature in each office to increase employee productivity and comfort. Other considerations include building layout, existing infrastructure, and climate.


The installation process varies for each type of system. For ductless systems, the process is typically less invasive and quicker than systems requiring ductwork. If you prefer to avoid installing separate heating and cooling systems, a dual-function system might be the best choice. Investigating the installation process before purchase ensures satisfaction with your new system from start to finish.

Maintenance and Service

Maintenance is key to keeping your HVAC system running efficiently and prolonging its lifespan. One benefit of choosing a mini-split is that dual-function models simplify maintenance. Servicing one system instead of multiple ones is more convenient. All ductless systems eliminate the need to repair and clean ductwork and vents, but each system has unique maintenance needs including cleaning the filter on a regular basis. Consult an HVAC professional to understand what maintenance your chosen system requires.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a high priority for those looking for long-term savings. All ductless systems avoid duct heat and cooling losses, which can account for more than 30% of air conditioning energy consumption. The efficiency of ductless mini-split systems and other heat pumps is approximately 3-4 times that of a traditional system. Smart technology, which provides custom settings and automatically makes changes based on your heating and cooling preferences, as well as your typical schedule, enhances energy efficiency. Variable speed technology adjusts the system’s output based on demand, which is another helpful feature to look for when aiming to reduce energy use. Look for high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings for the most efficient systems.


The cost of a new HVAC system can be daunting, so finding the right balance between affordability and desired features is essential. Consider the long-term savings on utility bills and maintenance, as well as rebates and incentives for energy-efficient systems. Sometimes, investing in a more expensive but efficient unit can save more money in the long run.

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If your question still needs answering or you would like to schedule a consultation, contact the friendly team at Genove Oil & Air, and we’ll help you find the right solution for your home or business.

Whether you need home heating oil or Bioheat delivery, or installation and service of oil & natural gas systems for HVAC, heating, and cooling—call us at 781-893-9191 or email us.