Let’s get ready for summer! Choosing the right air conditioner.
Today, air conditioners are considered an essential appliance in most Australian homes, with some form of air conditioning used in three-quarters of all households.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get better than heating or cooling at the touch of a button, new technologies have made air conditioners more efficient, effective and convenient.
1. Set your budget
How much you’re willing or able to spend will determine the type of model you choose, with options ranging from wall-mounted units to ducted systems.
When people are building a new home, they often prefer to go with a ducted system, this is an ideal way to ensure whole-home comfort and an even temperature, with the option to control temperature by zones.
On a limited budget, wall-mounted units are an affordable alternative. “These are designed to cool one area, so you might choose to put one in a bedroom, living area or the hottest part of your home,” Bourke adds.
2. Measure up
Air conditioner sizes are classified in terms of their kilowatt output, with sizing requirements determined by local climate, room size, windows and insulation.
Choosing the right size is very important, if the system is under-sized, it will work at maximum capacity all the time, while if it’s over-sized it may continually cycle on and off. Over-sizing or under-sizing could lead to unnecessary system wear, higher energy consumption and variations in room temperature.
3. Choose your features
Communicating with your air conditioner via your mobile and systems that detect your presence, are some of the new frontiers of air conditioning technology.
Sensors can detect when there’s no one in the room, and will switch the system to power-saving mode. There are also weekly timers, so you can set your air conditioner to come on just before you get home from work, or turn off an hour after you go to bed.
Wired remote controllers enable high visibility and easy operation, allowing you to set your system to a specific temperature or schedule it to turn on and off.
4. Consider zoning
Ducted systems can be split into multiple zones, allowing you to only heat or cool the areas you’re using.
Average-sized homes are often split into two zones, separating the living area and bedrooms, while larger homes might feature multiple zones to isolate lesser-used areas, such as a study or theatre room.
If some family members like to sleep with the air conditioning on, while others don’t, individually zoned rooms can cater to everyone’s preference.
5. Compare efficiency
According to the government’s ‘Your Home guide‘, heating and cooling appliances account for about 40 per cent of energy usage in the average Australian home, making the efficiency of an air conditioner a significant factor in power bills. Inverter technology, available on most new units, sets today’s air conditioners apart from earlier models, regulating the energy going into the compressor in the same way that an accelerator controls the speed of the car.
Rather than operating at full capacity all the time, inverter systems only use the power required to maintain a constant temperature.
Despite significant improvements in efficiency, not all air conditioners are created equal. Energy star ratings for wall mounted split systems, and efficiency ratings for ducted systems provide an easy way to compare similar models, with ratings based on output versus energy consumption.
6. Read reviews
An air conditioner is a long-term investment, so it pays to seek advice from those who have put them to the test.
7. Capitalise on passive solar principles
No-matter how effective your air conditioner, it won’t achieve optimal thermal comfort on its own.
You ideally want to position your living zones to the north-east, and your bedrooms to the south, check your site to see where the breezes come from, and make sure the windows are positioned to enhance cross-ventilation.
Overhangs above west-facing windows will provide protection from afternoon glare, while operable shading devices enable you to welcome sun in winter and block it out in summer. You could add double glazing on the sides of the home that get the most sun and wind, and there are lots of options to increase insulation in ceilings and walls.
The end of winter is in sight so it’s a great time to start thinking about what you’ll need in the warmer months. With so many models and systems to choose from, an informed decision will ensure you select something that suits both your home and your lifestyle.