So far in this series, we’ve run you through the various air conditioning systems on the market and shown you how to choose one that suits your home and lifestyle. This third part of the series helps you find a quality system without paying a premium for features you won’t use.
Warranty and After Sales Service
Buying a really cheap brand may be a false economy if it needs replacing after only a few years. Invest more in a quality unit that lasts significantly longer and costs a lot less to run.
A good indication of system quality is warranty coverage – ask about the warranty period, whether it covers parts and labour, exclusions and claims frequency. Good after sales service is important if your aircon breaks down – ask about waiting periods for warranty or service calls, availability of parts and a local service agent.
Efficiency and Running Costs
The more efficient the air conditioner is at heating and cooling, the lower the running costs are. Heating and cooling efficiency is measured as the Coefficient of Performance (COP) and Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) respectively and are stated on the manufacturers’ brochures. The higher the number the better. Air conditioners must show their star ratings. The Energy Rating website allows you to compare the efficiency of different brands of split system (including ducted reverse cycle) under the same operating conditions, but it doesn’t provide running costs where the unit is operated significantly above or below capacity.
A split system air conditioner with an inverter is quieter and more energy efficient than a non-inverter (fixed speed) unit. Inverters slow the fan speed to maintain the desired temperature. Non-inverters turn off when the desired temperature is reached and turn back on when the temperature differs around 2°C from the desired temperature.
Daikin has the largest range, with a power output (when cooling) of 2-9 kW in wall split systems and 6-25 kW in ducted reverse air conditioners. Other brands only cover the most popular output ranges.
Ducted Reverse Cycle
Ducted reverse cycle air conditioners are less efficient when run significantly under capacity. If you want to regularly air condition only a small proportion of your home compared to the system’s capability then invest in a model where the compressor ramps down significantly (e.g. Actron or the new Daikin L series). The capacity range is shown on the manufacturers’ brochures.
If your house has three phase power ideally install a three phase ducted reverse cycle air conditioner. If your home has single phase power install a single phase unit (few brands have single phase air conditioners over 14kW).
Use temperature sensors to set different areas of the home (zones) to different temperatures, e.g. cooler setting in the bedroom zone when young children are going to sleep compared to the family room zone. This option is available with Actron Ultima and brands compatible with MyGen series 4 and iZone’s 311 controller when installed with temperature sensors.
iSave is a fresh air intake system which integrates with an iZone compatible ducted reverse cycle air conditioner and iZone’s 311 controller to drastically reduce running costs. It makes effective use of the air conditioner’s fan mode when refrigerated air is not necessary.
- New smart air conditioning controllers like MyAir series 4 and iZone 311 provide more features than the air conditioning manufacturers’ controllers. The iZone 311 is only compatible with Daikin, LG, Fujitsu, Toshiba and Panasonic currently.
Typical features and options:
- Operate your aircon through your smart phone or tablet.
- Control more zones.
- Touchpad control of your system’s airflow.
- Motion sensors to save energy usage.
- Filter clean alert.
Evaporative Air Conditioners
When comparing evaporative air conditioning brands look at the air flow, quality of the pads, unit noise and how the water management system works.
The water management system should empty the water every few hours and at the end of each use. This stops mineral salts building up which can hamper unit performance and stain your roof. Some brands let you change the frequency at which the water is dumped.
You can’t directly compare running costs of evaporative air conditioning brands. This isn’t critical because running costs of evaporative coolers are very low.
Evaporative air conditioners sit on your roof so choose a similar colour to your roof. You should also look for an evaporative air conditioner with a duct shutter (weather seal) which stops unwanted cool air coming into your home in winter and any heated air leaking out.
Features not common to many evaporative air conditioning brands:
- Centrifugal fan in Breezair to reduce running costs, but fan replacement is expensive.
- Wireless remote control with Bonaire.
- Fire rated ember guards are an optional extra available with most quality brands.
- Exhaust and bushfire mode with Cool Breeze when operated by their QA controller.
When you have found an air conditioning brand you are interested in read product reviews. Choice Magazine review wall split systems and portable air conditioners regularly, but don’t review ducted systems because of their complexity. Canstar Blue report annually on customer satisfaction ratings (it does not report on many brands) with Panasonic winning in 2014 and Daikin winning in 2013.
Part 4 of this series helps you find the right retailer and supplier to purchase your new air conditioning system from.