Air Conditioner Buyers Guide

Air conditioners can last for 20 years and be huge energy guzzlers, so it’s important to carefully consider all your options and make the best choice for your home.

Here is our buyers’ guide to help you choose the best option for your home.

If you have any more questions, give our team a call on 1300 339 915 or contact us via email at hello@positivecharge.com.au

What are the different types of air conditioners I can choose from?

Air Conditioner Type What is it? Best suited for Purchase cost
Portable A single unit with a duct that is attached to a window, to vent the heat outside. They can be plugged directly into a socket and moved around the home. A room of up to 20 square metres. Best for rooms that can’t have split systems or for renters $300-$1300
Split system Consists of an indoor air outlet and a compressor unit that is installed outside. Used to cool one room or an open plan area of up to 60 square metres $600-$5500
Multi-split system Consists of several indoor air outlets and a compressor unit that is installed outside. Used to cool two or three rooms that are close together $600-$5500
Ducted Is usually installed in the roof or outside on the ground and has ducting to vents throughout the house. A large home throughout. Models with zoning can allow you to just cool one room or zone rather than the whole house $5000-$15,000

Which one is best for me?

Choosing the most appropriate air conditioner for your home will depend on what area of your home you would like to heat or cool.

Cooling or heating your entire home with ducted air conditioning can sound tempting, but where possible, we recommend installing a split system over a ducted air conditioner for the following reasons:

  • Ducted air conditioners are much more expensive to purchase and install
  • The installation of ducted systems can be complex
  • The running costs of ducted air conditioners is much higher than split system air conditioners
  • It is much more energy-efficient to only heat or cool the room that you are using
  • Ducted air conditioners usually require much more power to run, which means it is unlikely your solar PV system will be big enough to fully offset the power needed

Should I install a cooling or reverse cycle air conditioner?

If you need to heat your home in winter, we highly recommend installing a reverse cycle air conditioner. Heating with a reverse cycle air conditioner is a very efficient way of heating. In fact, it is cheaper than heating with gas!

Gas is also a fossil fuel, which is why many households are now choosing to move away from using natural gas and use efficient reverse cycle air conditioners to heat their homes.

What size do I need?

It’s very important to ensure you choose an air conditioner that is the right size for your home. If it is too big, it will use excess electricity and cost more to run, while if it is too small, it will have to work harder and won’t be appropriate for your needs.

Here is a rough guide provided from Choice magazine.

Room size Capacity
Up to 20 square metres 2-2.5kW
20-40 square metres 2.5-5kW
40-60 square metres 4-6kW
60-80 square metres 5-7kW
80+ square metres 6-9kW

However, to find out what size is best for your home, it is important to have a home visit. Some of the things an assessor will look at include:

  • Room orientation
  • Window size
  • Ceiling insulation.

Remember, a home that has adequate insulation, high performing windows and that is well-sealed will not need such a big air conditioner – helping you save in running costs!

Is there anything else I should look out for?

Energy Rating

Split system air conditioners carry an energy rating label to help you see the energy-efficiency of a particular model. Unfortunately, portable or ducted air conditioners are not required to carry the energy label.

The more stars a label has, the more energy efficient the air conditioner is. Reverse cycle air conditioners carry energy star ratings for both cooling (blue) and heating (red) modes.

Source: Energy Rating

The label also displays the ‘Power Input’ (in kilowatts), which shows how much electricity is needed to run the air conditioner at capacity for one hour. By multiplying this number by the amount you pay for electricity, you can calculate and compare running costs.

There’s a full list of star ratings and running costs of split system air conditioners available online at energyrating.gov.au.

Noise

Most modern split-system air conditioners are very quiet, but it’s worth checking a unit’s noise levels before purchasing. Also, consider where the system will be installed, particularly the outdoor unit, as some local Councils have regulations regarding noise levels.

You can check the noise level of a model by looking at the technical specifications of a particular unit. Noise levels are measured in A-weighted decibels, abbreviated to dBA.

To help you understand the noise level of a particular unit, here are some common noise levels for comparison.

  • 40 dB: Quiet library sounds
  • 50 dB: Refrigerator
  • 70 dB: Washing machine
  • 80 dB: Alarm clock

Timer

Check if the air conditioner has a timer. By using a timer you can automatically switch the air conditioner off at times when you don’t need it.

If you have solar, you can easily pre-cool or pre-heat your home. Read more about how that works.

Dehumidifier

If you live in a high humidity climate, consider an air conditioner with a dehumidifier option. This removes the moisture out of the air in an energy efficient manner.

Air filter

Some air conditioners also have sophisticated air filtration systems to remove mould, odours, allergens and dust helping you keep your home’s indoor air quality healthy.

Demand Response Technology

Demand response mode is a feature which will allow your electricity distributor to switch your air conditioner to an economy mode during periods of high demand on the grid. For instance, periods of extremely hot weather in summer.

Most of the times you won’t notice this is taking place and in some demand response programs you will be rewarded financially for taking part in the program.

By participating you are helping to reduce the demand on the grid during peak times, and reducing the need to build more infrastructure which helps keep electricity prices down.

The energy rating label will indicate whether the air conditioner has this feature. You will see three modes on the energy rating label.

  • Mode 1 means the appliance is capable of being turned off and back on.
  • Mode 2 means the appliance is capable of being turned down by 50%.
  • Mode 3 means the appliance is capable of being turned down by 25%.

Air conditioners with the ability to operate in all three demand response modes are best.

Are there any rebates available?

For a limited time, the NSW Government is offering households a discount on installing an air conditioner with a high star rating.

The installation discount will depend on the size of your air conditioner.

AC Size Discount
2.5 kW with a 5.5 star rating or above $200
3.5 kW with a 5.5 star rating or above $200
5 kW with a 4 star rating or above $500
10 kW with a 4 star rating or above $1000

Not all air conditioner units are eligible, only the most efficient ones. Many brands have eligible products, an approved installer will confirm if the unit you need qualifies for the discount.

For more information please see the Department of Planning and Environment website.

How can I reduce the running costs of an air conditioner?

Here are some tips to use your air conditioner energy efficiently:

  • If your air conditioner comes with an ‘eco-mode’ – use it!
  • Use a fan with your air conditioner. This will help circulate the cool air and allow you to set the thermostat to a higher temperature in summer
  • Set your thermostat to cool to 23-26 degrees in summer and in winter to heat to 18-20 degrees. Every 1 degree lower or higher can increase running costs by up to 10%
  • Keep the outdoor component of your air conditioning unit out of the direct sunlight
  • Make sure to maintain the air conditioner according to the operating manual
  • Only cool or heat the room you are using. Make sure to close all doors and windows and if you have an open plan home, consider using a door curtain in hallways to keep the cool or warm air in!

We are here to help!

If you have any more questions, contact our team via email on hello@positivecharge.com.au or give us a call on 1300 339 915 and one of our energy experts will be able to help.