A simple guide to buying an airconditioner

Chances are, you have stumbled upon this page after one of the hottest days of the year. You may even be up at 2am right now, unable to sleep, as your fan blows a Saharan desert wind over your bed. You can almost feel the desert sand, so you have decided to bite the bullet and buy an air conditioner. Welcome, then, to a simple guide to buying an air conditioner.

This isn’t an exhaustive deep dive into the science of modern air conditioners. Since when did we research our tech more than we do our first homes? It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the calculations you are supposed to make when buying an air conditioner, such as the angle of the earth’s orbit around the sun and how that will affect the air conditioner’s ability to cool your room. Instead, these are the key things worth knowing when you make your purchase. The rest is for those with too much time on their hands.

What type of air conditioner?

For the average homeowner, there are two types of air conditioning to choose between. If you’re a renter, you are limited in your choices (consider portable systems), but you have a good case to convince your landlord to install air conditioning. Buyers look for cooling and heating in a home. Back to the two choices:

Split-system air conditioning

A split-system air conditioner has two parts: an outdoor compressor unit and an indoor cooling unit. A reverse-cycle split-system is an increasingly common sight. This just means you can heat your room with the unit as well. Only choose this if you live in a climate that requires heating in the winter (forget it, Darwin).

Split-system air conditioners are the most popular, simply because they can be used to cool individual rooms, giving you more control for a cheaper price, potentially saving you money in usage costs.

Cost: split-system air conditioners can run from the hundreds of dollars to the thousands of dollars. A good rule of thumb is to simply aim for the middle, somewhere around $1,300-$1,500. It seems obvious, but it’s easy to get sucked into buying too cheap or too dear.

Of course, it depends on how many units you intend to install in the home and the features that suck you in. Multi split-system units enable you to cool/heat your rooms separately, which can be ideal for homes that are not suited to your second choice, which is…

Ducted air conditioning

Ducted air-conditioning (and often reverse-cycle) is the more expensive option, often extending past $5,000, and is popular due to the fact that it is essentially invisible. Rather than large units like split-system air conditioners taking up space on your wall or floor, ducted air conditioning grates can be easily hidden behind furniture. They are a strong tool in marketing your home for sale, and can be used to cool or heat your home in zones.

If you have the money to spare on a ducted air conditioning system (accounting for the possible resale value of your home, which is not assured), and you have a home in which most if not all of the rooms are in regular use, then a ducted system may work for you. The main advantages of a ducted system:

  • its zoning system also allows you to cool/heat sections of the home, mimicking the efficiency of a split-system. Remember that this is more expensive, especially when compared to installing separate split-system units in each room
  • they are easily hidden in the home (a strong selling point for your home)
  • they are potentially quieter than split-systems, however, split-system units are becoming increasingly noninvasive

Cost: a larger initial outlay. Between $5,000-$10,000. Potential for savings over the long term.

Extra things to get you over the line

So now you are thinking, okay, split-systems may be cheaper to buy at first, but they are more obvious in the home, but the initial expense of ducted heating is too much. So, what will get you over the line for either option?

  • consider your climate. If you live in tropical locations, you most likely don’t need reverse systems.
  • how many rooms do you want/need to cool at any given time? Will one or two split-systems do the job?
  • what features do you want? Do you want to be able to control your system with your phone? Are you happy with just a remote or do you want it to sense when you are in the room? Do you want it to self-clean? Does it have a sleep mode (decreasing its power usage during the night)? If you want all of these things, the cost will go up, so consider what your budget is compared to these features.
  • how powerful does the air conditioner need to be? When reading up on a specific model, it should say what sized room it is tailored for. If not, move on. Aim for a unit that can easily power your room, rather than one that is too small, as this will make it work harder to cool the room and use more energy.

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