First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
- — 25 October, 2007 14:50
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- Size it up
- Types of air conditioners
- Inverter systems
- Reverse cycle
- Costs and energy efficiency
- FAQs: Air Conditioners
- Shopping checklist: Air Conditioners
There are so many different types of air conditioners on the market that finding the right one can be confusing. Models range in size, features and price so it's important to know the basic facts and take a few measurements at home before you run out and buy one.
Size it up
Size should be your number one priority when looking at the different models of air conditioner. You need to think about whether you are cooling a single room, a selection of rooms or the entire house. If you choose a unit that is too big for your house or room, you will feel damp and humid instead of cool and refreshed as the fanning system will create too much refrigerated air for the space required. On the other hand, a unit that's too small will need to run all the time and will waste energy and money.
So before you buy an air conditioner it is important to know what size device you need and if your house already has insulation as this will affect how well your air conditioner works.
Make sure you measure the ceiling, floor and window areas in cubic metres (multiply length by width or height) and then ask your air conditioner sales person what device best suits your needs.
Types of air conditioners
There are many different air conditioner models on the market, but most fit into these five groups:
Central ducted air conditioner: These air conditioners are great for cooling lots of rooms or office buildings. A large cooling fan and motor sit outside while cool air is pumped around the house through a duct system. These are the most expensive type and have to be installed by professionals.
Window and through-the-wall: Window units are complete air conditioners that are installed in a wall or through a window and can often be installed without professional help. These units are ideal for small rooms. However, some people find them unattractive because they are often bulky and can block out light if mounted in a window.
Split system: Split systems are usually used to cool one or more rooms or an open-plan area. They provide better cooling than window and through-the-wall or portable air conditioners. However, they are more expensive and require professional installation. Split systems work by placing the cooling parts of the air conditioner outside and then having one or two inside parts that contain the fans.
Multi split system: Normally targeted for commercial use it is now becoming available to the consumer through commercial specialists and resellers. Similar to a split system, the multi split system provides cooling from two to nine rooms throughout the house from one outdoor air conditioner unit through to the indoor units. Unfortunately, this type of air conditioner makes it difficult to determine minimum efficiency performance (MEP) when the air conditioner is turned on in all rooms of a house.
Portable: Portable air conditioners can be moved around and are much cheaper than other air conditioners. However, because of their small size and lower power output, they are not as good at cooling you down.
An air conditioner with an inverter can alter the fan and motor speed to cool down rooms quickly and more efficiently. An inverter works by continuously changing the fan and motor speed of the air conditioner so it can reach the required temperature quicker. Once the desired temperature is reached, the air conditioner adjusts itself up and down to maintain a constant temperature.
Air conditioners that don't have an inverter operate the motor and fan system at a fixed speed and automatically switch off when the required temperature is reached. Because of this, the air conditioner cannot maintain a steady temperature so it must continually be stopped and started to get the desired temperature.
One downside to air conditioners with inverters is that they are not as energy efficient as air conditioners without inverters when operating at full load. However, air conditioners with invertors tend to be very efficient at part load operation, which is a more common mode in a typical household.
Manufacturers claim that although air conditioners with inverters cost more money to buy, they can be 30 per cent more energy efficient than air conditioners without inverters and will save money in the long run.
Reverse cycleAir conditioners with reverse cycle can both cool you down and warm you up, so you can factor into the cost not having to purchase heaters.
Costs and energy efficiencyTo make sure you are getting the most cost-effective and energy efficient air conditioner, check the energy rating label on the unit. It's always a good idea to look for one with as many stars as possible - it will save money on your energy bill and helps to protect the environment.