Multi Head Split Systems vs Ducted | Full Breakdown

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Multi Head Split Systems vs Ducted | Full Breakdown

There’s a lot to consider when choosing an air conditioning system for your home or workplace. What sort of building are you working with? How many rooms need to be cooled and heated? And just how much is this all going to cost?

To help you figure things out, we’ve put together a guide covering two of the most common systems you’ll come across in your hunt for cooler air: multi head split system vs ducted.

We’ll compare installation, efficiency, aesthetics, noise, maintenance, and, of course, the all-important price. But before we dive into the nitty gritty, let’s take a look at how each system works.

What is a ducted system?

A ducted system is run from an indoor unit, usually hidden away in an isolated spot, such as a roof space. The treated air is sent through ductwork concealed within the ceiling cavity and then blown into a room through a vent. A ducted system gives an even distribution of air across an area, with spaces hovering around the same temperature. Newer technology means specific zones and temperatures can be set and controlled with panels and phone apps.

Traditionally used by large commercial and office spaces, more and more homeowners are seeing advantages to using a ducted system, rather than a split system.

What is a multi head split system?

A multi head split system builds on a single split system, reaching several rooms rather than just one. This system uses piping that connects to multiple wall-mounted indoor units. and is run by one outdoor unit.

Each individual unit can be used to change and control temperature in a single space, usually with a remote.

Ease of installation

When it comes to installation, there’s a few key things to consider when choosing between a ducted or split system.

Because a ducted system requires its main indoor fan coil unit to be located in the ceiling cavity, and for ducting to be threaded throughout the entire building, it’s more common to find these in new builds, especially in houses that have minimal roof space or are two stories. In these instances, the system can be worked into the plans ahead of construction. Otherwise, houses can be ducted after being built, requiring a consultation from an air conditioning specialist.

On the other hand, a multi head split system can be added to a previous build on external wall rooms with minimal difficulty. All that’s required is a central outdoor space for the main unit, and some externally mounted duct covers to allow for the piping drainage and electrical to be connected to the wall mounted indoor units.

Installation costs

With the amount of work involved, it’s no surprise that a ducted system can cost more up-front. Ducted systems range from $8,000 up to $20,000, compared to anywhere between $3500 for two bedrooms to $20,000 depending on the number of areas needing to be air conditioned.

That being said, a larger build might find a ducted system to be a cheaper option overall. If you’ve got a lot of space to cover, installing one large ducted system could work out cheaper than setting up all the individual components of the multi head split system, both in terms of installation and in long-term running costs.

Efficiency and running costs

As with installation costs, if you’re working with a big build, a ducted system can actually be much more cost-effective in the long term. This is because it’s more efficient at cooling larger spaces – precisely why it’s been the system of choice for places like shopping centres and office buildings.

But, of course, it all comes down to the size of your property. The indoor unit of a split system can only reach the room it’s in, meaning you’ll need one for every space you want to cool or heat. But if you’re only going to be cooling a certain room for a few hours – say a bedroom on a hot summer night – you won’t need anything large to do that. Just install units in the rooms you need and keep an eye on usage.

A whole host of factors need to be taken into consideration when it comes to running costs, and if you’re wanting to dive in, we’ve put together a detailed breakdown of the running costs you can expect from a ducted or a split system.

At the most basic level, you’ll need to look at how often you’ll be using the units, what temperatures you’ll be running them at, and the sorts of spaces you’ll be working with. It’s also worth looking at specific brands, as well as the age of your system. For a regular home, this will likely point you in the direction of a split system.

Aesthetic appeal

We can say looks don’t matter but we’d be lying if we said they didn’t cross our minds, even when considering air conditioning systems.

With much of a ducted system hidden behind walls, and only a vent required to allow air into a room, it’s a lot less obtrusive than a multi head split system. They’re definitely the choice for a more streamlined, minimal look.

That said, there’s plenty of clean, crisp lines on offer with a modern split system, even if those wall mounted units are still noticeable. Plus, they’re common enough in homes that they shouldn’t disrupt the visual flow of a room too much—especially when weighing them up against a muggy Brisbane summer!


This is likely the big question for a lot of people, especially if you’re looking to upgrade from an already noisy system.

Both the ducted and the split systems are generally quiet, especially with newer models, but the ducted might just have the edge here. The main unit is usually in a fairly remote part of the building, with plenty of insulation to block out the sound.

Compare that to the multi split system. The interior units are usually relatively quiet, but if you’re near the outdoor condenser, you’re going to hear about it. You’ll need to find a suitable spot to house it, away from windows and doors – both yours and your neighbours!
Even so, some noise is inevitable, but if minimising this is a priority for you, take a look at our picks for the quietest air conditioners on the market.

Maintenance and cleaning

No matter which system you choose, one thing is certain. You’re going to need to look after it. Leave it to fend for itself and you’ll risk rising bills, damage to your home, and, potentially, your health.

While some people are comfortable checking over their systems themselves, it’s best to call out a professional to inspect and clean the system regularly – no matter which type you have installed. If you’re thinking it might be time to call in the experts, check out our 10 signs your ducted air conditioner needs a service.

Though ducted systems endure less wear and tear, and are usually the more stable and reliable option, it’s still recommended that ducted systems are checked yearly, with filters changed twice per year. The ductwork should also be cleaned every few years, and users should be on the lookout for potential leaks between ducts

Multi split systems will require regular filter cleans, as well as unit and coil cleaning. It’s also worth noting that repairs and replacements are much cheaper with this system than with the ducted.

The verdict: multi split head system vs ducted

Ultimately, the battle between a multi split system vs a ducted system comes down to where and how it’ll be used.

While it’s likely a given that a commercial build would go for a ducted system, a larger new home might lean towards this hidden, energy-efficient choice too.

Though it costs more upfront, it’s able to heat and cool larger areas, with consistent and controlled temperatures. If your space is large enough, the ability to manage those big spaces will more than balance out the cheaper install costs of a split system.

Controlled by wall panels, and in some cases by a smartphone app, it’s easy to use. Add that to a hidden main unit and no bulky wall units at all, there’s a particularly appealing high-end feel to a ducted system.

But for general day-to-day usage, and for those looking to add to an already existing structure, a multi head split system might be a winner. For those concerned about costs, the much cheaper installation is a big plus, as are the generally lower rates for maintenance and repair. Being able to control specific rooms, rather than a larger zone, is also a much better choice for smaller homes and smaller budgets. Not only can certain rooms be turned on and off as needed, but everyone in the home can manage their own space, without it impacting others. No shivering under a blanket so someone else can comfortably work out in the next room!

At the end of the day, no matter what your air conditioning requirements are, the key thing is to do plenty of research and find out what will work best for you. And don’t forget to reach out to the professionals for advice and an accurate quote.


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