Choosing the right air conditioning system is essential for ensuring comfort, energy efficiency, and optimal performance in your home or business. With various options available, including HVAC systems, ducted air conditioning, and split system air conditioning, it is important to understand their unique features and benefits. This article delves into the key differences between these systems, providing detailed insights into their scope of cooling, installation requirements, control mechanisms, and visibility. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you will be equipped with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about the best air conditioning solution for your specific needs.

HVAC Systems

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are integrated solutions designed to provide climate control within a building. These systems combine heating, ventilation, and air conditioning into a single unit. The primary components of an HVAC system include a heat pump or furnace, ductwork, and an air conditioner or evaporative cooler. HVAC systems are ideal for maintaining a consistent indoor climate throughout large buildings or homes. They are typically more complex and require professional installation and regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance.

Benefits of HVAC Systems

Comprehensive Climate Control

HVAC systems are designed to provide comprehensive climate control, ensuring that indoor environments remain comfortable and consistent throughout the year. These systems are capable of managing temperature, humidity, and air quality. During the colder months, the heating component of the HVAC system keeps the indoor temperature warm and comfortable. In the warmer months, the air conditioning component cools the air to a desirable level. Additionally, the ventilation component maintains proper air circulation, ensuring fresh air is continuously supplied while stale air is removed. This comprehensive approach to climate control not only enhances comfort but also contributes to a healthier indoor environment by reducing the concentration of pollutants and allergens.

Suitable for Large Buildings

One of the primary advantages of HVAC systems is their suitability for large buildings. Whether it’s a commercial building, office space, or a large residential home, HVAC systems are capable of efficiently regulating the climate across extensive areas. The integrated design allows these systems to maintain consistent temperatures throughout different zones of a building, which is particularly beneficial in settings where varying temperature requirements might exist. For example, an office building might require different temperatures for different floors or departments. An HVAC system can be customised to meet these specific needs, ensuring comfort for all occupants.

Integrated Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning

HVAC systems offer the advantage of integrating heating, ventilation, and air conditioning into a single, cohesive unit. This integration simplifies the management of indoor climate control by centralising all functions within one system. This centralisation leads to several benefits:

  • Efficiency: By combining heating, cooling, and ventilation, HVAC systems can operate more efficiently than separate systems. This can result in lower energy consumption and reduced utility costs.
  • Convenience: With an integrated system, users have a single point of control, often through a central thermostat or control panel. This makes it easier to monitor and adjust the indoor environment.
  • Space-saving: HVAC systems reduce the need for multiple standalone units, which can save space and reduce the complexity of the installation.
  • Maintenance: Having a single integrated system can simplify maintenance and repairs. Instead of servicing multiple separate units, maintenance personnel can focus on one system, which can reduce downtime and maintenance costs.

Energy Efficiency

Modern HVAC systems are designed with energy efficiency in mind. They utilise advanced technologies such as variable speed motors, programmable thermostats, and energy-efficient compressors to minimise energy consumption. These features not only help to reduce the environmental impact of heating and cooling but also result in significant cost savings over time. For instance, programmable thermostats allow users to set temperature schedules that align with their daily routines, ensuring the system only runs when needed and operates at optimal efficiency.

Customisable Options

HVAC systems offer a high degree of customisation to meet the specific needs of different buildings. They can be tailored with various features such as zoning systems, which allow different areas of a building to be heated or cooled independently. This is particularly useful in large buildings where different zones might have varying temperature requirements. Additionally, HVAC systems can be equipped with advanced air filtration systems to improve indoor air quality, which is essential for environments where air purity is crucial, such as hospitals or laboratories.

Enhanced Comfort and Productivity

A well-regulated indoor climate can significantly enhance the comfort and productivity of occupants. In commercial settings, maintaining a consistent and comfortable temperature can improve employee productivity and reduce absenteeism. In residential settings, an effective HVAC system ensures a comfortable living environment, contributing to overall well-being and quality of life. Proper ventilation also helps in removing odours, moisture, and other pollutants from indoor spaces, creating a more pleasant and healthy environment.

Ducted Air Conditioning Systems

Ducted air conditioning systems are designed to cool entire buildings or specific zones within a building. These systems use a central unit connected to a network of ducts that distribute conditioned air throughout the space. The central unit is typically installed in a concealed location, such as an attic or ceiling void. Ducted systems are ideal for providing uniform cooling and are controlled by a central thermostat. They offer the advantage of being less visible compared to other types of air conditioning systems.

Benefits of Ducted Air Conditioning Systems

Whole-House Cooling

Ducted air conditioning systems are specifically designed to provide efficient and uniform cooling throughout an entire building. Unlike split systems that focus on individual rooms or areas, ducted systems ensure that every room connected to the ductwork receives consistent airflow and temperature control. This is particularly advantageous for large homes or commercial spaces where maintaining a uniform temperature is essential. The ability to cool multiple rooms simultaneously makes ducted systems ideal for creating a comfortable indoor environment, regardless of the size or layout of the building.

  • Uniform Temperature Distribution: Ducted systems distribute conditioned air evenly, eliminating hot and cold spots within the building. This ensures a consistent and comfortable temperature throughout all rooms.
  • Improved Comfort: By cooling the entire house, ducted systems enhance overall comfort, making living spaces more enjoyable during hot weather.
  • Efficient Cooling: These systems are designed to operate efficiently, cooling large areas without requiring multiple individual units. This efficiency can lead to energy savings and lower utility bills.

Centralised Control

One of the significant advantages of ducted air conditioning systems is their centralised control. These systems are typically managed through a single thermostat or control panel, which allows users to adjust the temperature and airflow for the entire building from one convenient location. Advanced models often come with programmable thermostats or smart controls that can be operated remotely via smartphones or other devices.

  • Ease of Use: A centralised control system simplifies the process of managing indoor climate. Users can easily set their preferred temperature and make adjustments as needed without having to operate multiple units.
  • Programmable Settings: Many ducted systems offer programmable features that allow users to set schedules for different times of the day or days of the week. This can help optimise energy usage by cooling the building only when necessary.
  • Zoning Capabilities: Some ducted systems include zoning options, enabling users to control the temperature in different areas or rooms independently. This allows for tailored climate control, ensuring that each zone meets specific comfort needs without wasting energy on unoccupied areas.

Concealed Installation

Ducted air conditioning systems are designed for discreet installation, making them an aesthetically pleasing option for cooling large spaces. The main components, including the central unit and ductwork, are typically hidden within the ceiling, attic, or under the floor, leaving only the air vents visible. This design not only enhances the visual appeal of the interior space but also offers several practical benefits.

  • Aesthetics: With ducted systems, there are no bulky units mounted on walls or windows, preserving the clean and uncluttered look of the interior. This is particularly important for modern or minimalist designs where visual harmony is a priority.
  • Space Saving: By concealing the main components of the system, ducted air conditioning frees up valuable space that can be used for other purposes. This is especially beneficial in smaller homes or offices where space is at a premium.
  • Quiet Operation: Since the central unit is usually located in a hidden area, such as the attic or basement, the noise generated by the system is significantly reduced. This leads to quieter operation compared to other types of air conditioning systems, enhancing the comfort of the living or working environment.

Enhanced Air Quality

Ducted air conditioning systems can be equipped with advanced filtration options that improve indoor air quality. These systems can filter out dust, pollen, and other airborne particles, contributing to a healthier living environment.

  • Air Filtration: Many ducted systems include high-quality air filters that capture contaminants and allergens, providing cleaner air throughout the building. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions.
  • Humidity Control: Ducted systems can also help regulate indoor humidity levels, preventing the growth of mould and mildew, which can adversely affect air quality and health.
  • Ventilation Integration: Some ducted air conditioning systems can be integrated with ventilation systems to ensure a continuous supply of fresh air, further enhancing indoor air quality.

Energy Efficiency

Ducted air conditioning systems are designed to be energy-efficient, providing significant cost savings over time. By cooling multiple rooms with a single system, energy consumption is optimised, reducing the overall cost of operation.

  • Optimised Energy Use: Ducted systems can be more energy-efficient than operating multiple individual units, especially when equipped with energy-saving features such as programmable thermostats and zoning.
  • Reduced Utility Bills: The efficiency of ducted systems can lead to lower utility bills, making them a cost-effective solution for long-term cooling needs.
  • Environmentally Friendly: By using energy more efficiently, ducted systems can reduce the overall environmental impact, contributing to a greener and more sustainable building operation.

Split System Air Conditioning

Split system air conditioning consists of two main components: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The indoor unit is mounted inside the room or area to be cooled, while the outdoor unit is installed outside the building. These units are connected by refrigerant piping and electrical wiring. Split systems are highly versatile and can be installed in individual rooms or specific areas, making them suitable for both residential and commercial applications. They are controlled by a remote or wall-mounted thermostat and are generally easier to install than ducted systems.

Benefits of Split System Air Conditioning

Flexible Installation

Split system air conditioning units offer significant flexibility in terms of installation, making them a preferred choice for many homeowners and businesses. This flexibility stems from the system’s design, which includes two main components: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. These components are connected by refrigerant piping and electrical wiring, allowing for a wide range of installation options.

  • Versatile Placement: The indoor unit can be mounted on a wall, suspended from a ceiling, or even installed as a floor-standing model, depending on the specific requirements of the room and aesthetic preferences. The outdoor unit can be placed at a considerable distance from the indoor unit, providing more options for positioning and minimising visual impact on the building’s exterior.
  • Adaptable to Various Building Types: Split systems can be installed in various building types, including residential homes, apartments, and commercial spaces. Their flexibility makes them suitable for both new constructions and retrofitting in existing buildings without extensive modifications.
  • Minimal Structural Alterations: Unlike ducted systems that require significant structural work to install ducts throughout the building, split systems require only a small hole in the wall to connect the indoor and outdoor units. This makes them a less invasive option, preserving the integrity of the building’s structure.

Ideal for Individual Rooms

Split system air conditioners are particularly well-suited for cooling individual rooms or specific areas within a building. This characteristic makes them highly versatile and practical for targeted climate control.

  • Personalised Comfort: Split systems allow for customised temperature control in each room where they are installed. This means that different rooms can have different temperature settings based on the occupants’ preferences. For example, a bedroom can be kept cooler for comfortable sleeping, while a living room can be set to a warmer temperature for daytime activities.
  • Energy Efficiency: By cooling only the rooms that are in use, split systems can be more energy-efficient than whole-house systems. This targeted approach reduces unnecessary energy consumption, leading to lower utility bills and a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Ideal for Additions and Renovations: Split systems are an excellent choice for home additions or renovations where extending existing ductwork might be impractical or too costly. They can provide efficient cooling without the need for major alterations to the existing HVAC system.

Easier Installation Compared to Ducted Systems

The installation process for split system air conditioners is generally simpler and quicker compared to ducted systems. This ease of installation offers several advantages, making split systems a convenient option for many applications.

  • Lower Installation Costs: The straightforward installation process for split systems typically involves less labour and fewer materials, resulting in lower installation costs compared to ducted systems. This cost-effectiveness makes split systems an attractive option for budget-conscious consumers.
  • Quick Setup: Since split systems do not require the extensive ductwork associated with ducted systems, they can be installed relatively quickly. This means less disruption to daily activities and faster access to a comfortable indoor environment.
  • Less Invasive: The installation of a split system is less invasive, requiring only minor modifications to the building. This is particularly beneficial for older buildings where installing ductwork might be challenging or where preserving the architectural integrity is important.
  • Flexibility in Expansion: Split systems allow for easy expansion if additional cooling capacity is needed in the future. Additional indoor units can be added without major changes to the existing system, providing scalability to meet changing needs.

Improved Air Quality

Split system air conditioners often come with advanced air filtration systems that can significantly improve indoor air quality. These systems help remove dust, pollen, and other airborne particles, contributing to a healthier living environment.

  • Built-in Air Filters: Many split systems are equipped with built-in air filters that capture allergens and pollutants, providing cleaner air. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions.
  • Humidity Control: Split systems can also help control indoor humidity levels, preventing excess moisture that can lead to mould growth and other humidity-related issues. Maintaining optimal humidity levels is crucial for both comfort and health.
  • Quiet Operation: Split systems are designed to operate quietly, making them ideal for bedrooms, offices, and other areas where noise levels need to be kept to a minimum. The quiet operation ensures a peaceful environment, enhancing comfort and productivity.

Cost-Effective Maintenance

Maintaining a split system air conditioner is generally more straightforward and cost-effective compared to maintaining a ducted system. The design and accessibility of split systems contribute to easier upkeep and lower maintenance costs.

  • Accessible Components: The components of a split system are more accessible, making routine maintenance tasks such as cleaning filters and checking refrigerant levels simpler. This ease of access can help ensure the system operates efficiently and prolongs its lifespan.
  • Lower Repair Costs: Because split systems have fewer components compared to ducted systems, there are fewer parts that can potentially fail. This can result in lower repair costs and reduced downtime.
  • Long-Term Reliability: Regular maintenance of a split system can help prevent major issues, ensuring long-term reliability and consistent performance. This can provide peace of mind to homeowners and business owners alike.
Technician talking client in Rivervale

Key Differences Between HVAC, Ducted, and Split System Air Conditioning

Scope of Cooling

HVAC Systems

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems are designed to provide comprehensive climate control for entire buildings. They integrate heating, cooling, and ventilation into a single system, allowing for precise management of indoor air quality and temperature across large spaces. This makes HVAC systems ideal for large residential homes, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities where consistent climate control is necessary throughout the entire building. By maintaining a balanced indoor environment, HVAC systems can significantly improve comfort and energy efficiency in large structures.

Ducted Systems

Ducted air conditioning systems focus primarily on providing whole-house cooling. These systems use a central unit that cools air and distributes it through a network of ducts to various rooms within the building. While they do not typically include heating and ventilation functions in the same unit, they are highly effective at maintaining a uniform temperature throughout all connected spaces. Ducted systems are particularly well-suited for residential homes and small to medium-sized commercial spaces where consistent cooling is desired in all rooms.

Split Systems

Split system air conditioners are designed for cooling specific rooms or areas within a building. Each split system comprises an indoor unit and an outdoor unit connected by refrigerant piping. This setup allows for targeted cooling, making split systems ideal for individual rooms, office spaces, or areas that require independent temperature control. The ability to cool specific zones separately enhances energy efficiency and allows for customised comfort in different parts of a building.


HVAC Systems

Installing an HVAC system requires extensive ductwork and professional installation. The system’s complexity involves integrating heating, cooling, and ventilation components, which necessitates significant structural work to install ducts throughout the building. This process often includes placing the central unit in a basement, attic, or mechanical room and running ducts to distribute air to different zones. Due to the intricate nature of these systems, professional installation ensures proper setup and long-term functionality.

Ducted Systems

Ducted air conditioning systems also require ductwork, but the installation process is generally less complex than that of full HVAC systems. The primary focus is on cooling, so the ductwork layout is simpler. Installation involves placing the central cooling unit in a concealed location, such as an attic or ceiling void, and connecting it to a network of ducts that deliver cooled air to various rooms. While professional installation is still recommended, the process is typically quicker and less invasive compared to HVAC systems.

Split Systems

Split system air conditioners are simpler to install compared to HVAC and ducted systems. The installation process involves mounting the indoor unit inside the room to be cooled and placing the outdoor unit outside the building. These units are connected by a small conduit that contains refrigerant piping and electrical wiring. The minimal structural modifications required make split systems a convenient option for both new constructions and retrofitting in existing buildings. The straightforward installation can often be completed in a few hours by a professional technician.


HVAC Systems and Ducted Systems

Both HVAC and ducted systems are typically controlled by a central thermostat. This centralised control allows users to manage the temperature and airflow throughout the entire building from a single point. Advanced thermostats, including programmable and smart thermostats, provide additional features such as scheduling and remote control via smartphones or other devices. This centralised approach ensures consistent climate control across all connected zones, enhancing comfort and energy efficiency.

Split Systems

Split system air conditioners are controlled individually, offering more flexibility for specific areas. Each indoor unit comes with its own remote control or wall-mounted thermostat, allowing users to adjust the temperature and settings for that particular room or zone. This independent control is beneficial for tailoring the climate to different preferences and needs within a building. For instance, one room can be kept cooler for sleeping, while another can be set to a warmer temperature for daytime activities. This flexibility not only enhances comfort but also improves energy efficiency by allowing users to cool only the areas in use.


HVAC and Ducted Systems

HVAC and ducted systems have more concealed components, making them less intrusive to the building’s interior design. The central units and ductwork are typically hidden in basements, attics, or ceiling voids, with only the air vents visible in the rooms. This concealed installation preserves the aesthetics of the living or working space and maintains a clean, uncluttered appearance. The hidden nature of these systems also helps reduce noise, as the main units are placed away from occupied areas.

Split Systems

Split system air conditioners have visible indoor units, although they can be designed to blend with the interior decor. The indoor unit is typically mounted on a wall or ceiling within the room, and while modern designs are sleek and unobtrusive, they are still more noticeable compared to the hidden vents of ducted systems. However, the flexibility in placement allows for strategic positioning to minimise visual impact. Additionally, the outdoor unit is installed outside the building, which may affect the exterior aesthetics, but careful placement can mitigate this impact.


Understanding the key differences between HVAC, ducted, and split system air conditioning systems is crucial for selecting the right solution for your specific needs. HVAC systems provide comprehensive climate control for entire buildings, making them ideal for large spaces. Ducted systems offer whole-house cooling with centralised control and a concealed installation, suitable for residential and small to medium-sized commercial spaces. Split systems provide flexible, targeted cooling for individual rooms or areas, with easier installation and independent control, making them a versatile option for various applications. Each system has its unique advantages and considerations, ensuring that there is an appropriate solution for every climate control requirement.

For all your air conditioning needs in Perth, Gildan Air and Electrical is the best choice. With extensive expertise and a commitment to quality, we offer a range of air conditioning solutions tailored to meet the unique demands of your home or business. Whether you need an HVAC system, ducted air conditioning, or a split system, Gildan Air and Electrical provides professional installation, maintenance, and support to ensure optimal performance and comfort. Trust us to deliver the best climate control solutions for your needs.

author avatar
Daniel Gilpin
Daniel is the founder of Gildan Air & Electrical, HVAC & Air Conditioning Contractor for Perth and surrounds.