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Do You Need Air Ducts to Get Central Air Conditioning?

Central air conditioning is a massive improvement over window air conditioners. Not only do they cool a house more effectively (window air conditioners are designed to cool only a single room), but with a programmable thermostat, central air can use less energy.

The downside? You need air ducts to get central air conditioning, and many older homes don’t have them.

Or do you?

There is a way to get central air without air ducts. It is also possible to add air ducts to an existing home, but it’ll cost you.

Read on to learn about the options for central air.

Ductless Air Conditioning Systems

According to an AtlasCare central air conditioning guide, it is possible to install central air conditioning in a house without existing air ducts.

The solution is a category of air conditioners known as ductless air conditioning systems.

Ductless systems function similarly to central air conditioning, with an evaporator coil unit inside the house and compressor unit outside the house. There are also air registers that distribute cooled air throughout the home.

But instead of using air ducts, ductless units use thin pipes, which are easier to install in a house that doesn’t have ducts.

Installing Air Ducts in an Existing Home

According to This Old House, the cost of installing central air conditioning depends on whether the house already has a forced-air furnace.

With a forced-air system, it’s possible to modify the existing ducts for air conditioning. This can cost between $3,500 and $4,000. If the house has no air ducts whatsoever, however, the cost will be much higher, and the renovation will take longer.

In many cases, homeowners feel it is not worthwhile to tear apart the house just to install central air ducts when there are other options out there.

Other AC Options for Homes Without Air Ducts

In addition to ductless air conditioning systems, homeowners who don’t want to install air ducts can also install:

  • Window air conditioners
  • Portable air conditioners
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