Buying an air conditioner

We help you pick the best air conditioner for your home

A typical wall-mounted air conditioner.

A typical wall-mounted air conditioner.

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

Before making the decision to purchase air conditioning, consider whether or not you need one. Exploring options like insulation, ceiling fans and shading or curtains for windows facing north, east and west could save you a lot of money and energy.

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 by 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. Larger window / wall units will require the help of a professional to install as they have additional wiring. 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.

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