01.ICE Solair solar air conditioner first look
Price: $2076 (including delivery)
You’ve heard of solar electricity and solar hot water, but what about solar air conditioning? ICE Solair air conditioners are split-system reverse-cycle models with an added thermal panel mounted alongside the outdoor unit.
The thermal panel cycles refrigerant from the outdoor unit through coils and absorbs energy from the sun and air to warm it, thus reducing the need for the compressor to run. This should save electricity consumption; up to 50% compared to similar capacity systems, it’s claimed.
Sounds good in theory, but it's not so good in practice. We tested the ICE Solair 3.5kW wall-mounted split system and found it a mediocre performer in almost every way. It’s rated at 3 stars for cooling and heating, but under our test conditions (which are tougher than the official rating scheme) it would rate only one to one-and-a-half stars. Unfortunately, it seems that the thermal panel - the "solar" component of the system - doesn't add any significant energy-saving benefit after all.
Not only is the system inefficient at cooling and heating compared to most standard inverter models we’ve tested, but it has a quite limited range of airflow.
Ease of use
The ICE Solair is just OK for ease of use, due to a remote control with small, hard to read display and labels; basic instructions; and purifying filters that are fiddly to remove and replace. Its indoor and outdoor units are noisier than most other tested models, and it’s comparatively expensive too. It has three fan speeds, sleep mode and oscillating louvres.
Suppliers of ICE Solair air conditioners require that the units are installed by tradespersons specifically trained to do so; while our testing lab is expert in these matters, they had a recommended installer check our set-up of the ICE Solair to ensure it was done correctly.
Under our usual air conditioner scoring system the ICE Solair rates as follows:
- Overall score: 46%
- Cooling efficiency score: 37%
- Heating efficiency score: 53%
- Airflow score: 45%
- Ease of use score: 58%
The distributor disputes our findings, citing their own testing, but we stand by our test results.
We’re all for energy-efficient appliances. Reduced electricity usage is good for the environment and cuts down your power bill. But if you’re looking for an efficient air conditioner, a well-designed inverter model is a better bet than the ICE Solair. See our latest small air conditioner review for examples.