05.Types / Installation
- Some portable models are little more than personal coolers. Others can cool a small room (up to about 20 square metres). Portable units can be plugged into a normal power point. Expect to pay around $800 to $3000.
- A wall/window model is usually installed in a window or external wall, and can cool rooms and open-plan areas of up to 50 square metres. While smaller units can be plugged into a normal power point, larger ones may require additional wiring. Prices range from about $500 to $3500.
- A split-system air conditioner consists of a compressor unit that's installed outside, and one or more indoor air outlets. They're usually used to cool one or more rooms, or an open-plan area, of up to 60 square metres. They cost around $1200 to $5000.
- A ducted system is usually installed in the roof or outside on the ground, and ducted to air outlets throughout the house. Costs start from $5000.
Inverter technology: With conventional air conditioners, the compressor is either on (working to 100% capacity) or off. Inverters can vary the compressor speed and maintain the set temperature within a narrow range. Manufacturers claim inverter models are more efficient and reduce running costs.
Cooling-only or reverse cycle: Reverse-cycle models only cost a bit more than cooling-only models, but you can also use them for heating in winter. While the purchase and installation costs can be high, reverse-cycle air conditioners are among the cheapest forms of heating to run. They cause less carbon dioxide to be produced in power plants burning fossil fuel than other kinds of electric heater.
If you live in a hot and dry climate, an evaporative cooler can be a cheaper alternative to an air conditioner. Evaporative air coolers draw the hot air over a water reservoir. The water evaporates, absorbing heat from the air. The cooler, moist air is then blown into the room. Evaporative coolers are generally more suitable for areas with low humidity. The more humid the outside air, the lower the cooling effect you can expect .
- You can buy a split-system air conditioner from air conditioner retailers (look up — Air Conditioning / Home or Air Conditioning / Installation & Service, in the Yellow Pages), most electrical appliance retailers and some department stores. Most traders offer supply and install packages, and some installation only.
- Installation of a split-system air conditioner generally costs at least $500, depending on the model and your situation. Get several quotes.
- Cool air is heavier than warm air. So, for optimum cooling, the air outlet should be installed as close to the ceiling as possible, with the louvres pointing horizontally or upward. That way the cool air can spread out, drop down and cool the whole room; for heating, point the louvres downwards.
- It’s generally better to install an air conditioner on a longer wall of a room, but your installer should recommend the best place for your situation.
- Air conditioners can be noisy, so think about your neighbours when deciding where to install the outdoor unit. Check with your local council whether there are regulations on acceptable noise limits where you live.
- The outdoor unit of your split system needs to be installed on a firm base (for example, a concrete slab) or attached to a wall, using sturdy brackets. It should be as close as possible to the indoor air outlet, preferable 15 m or less away.
- Shade the outdoor part of your air conditioner from direct sunlight — for example, by installing it on a southern wall or providing an awning.
- Larger air conditioners than the models in this test can’t be plugged into a regular power point, but require a special connection.