Small air conditioners review 2009

Reverse-cycle air conditioners are the most efficient form of electric heating, as well as being effective coolers.
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  • Updated:6 Mar 2009

04.What to look for

  • Size matters To get the most from an air conditioner, match its cooling (and, if required, heating) capacity to your room. 
  • Energy efficiency Once you’ve worked out what capacity you need, compare the star ratings of models of similar capacity — the more stars the better. Note that star ratings are different for heating and cooling.
  • Automatic de-icing If you live in a cold area, frost may build up on the outdoor heat exchanger coils in winter if the air conditioner doesn’t have this function (all the tested ones do).
  • Noise A noisy indoor unit may interfere with your conversation — or sleep. And most local councils have noise restrictions relating to the use of air conditioners: check before you buy, especially if the outdoor unit has to be installed close to a neighbour’s house.
  • Fan speeds The fan circulates the cooled or heated air around the room. Ideally, you want a model with a wide airflow range and multiple fan speeds: from very high, to help the room cool down quickly, to very low so there’s less noise and no unpleasant draught once you have the right temperature.
  • Operating modes: Auto Automatically chooses the mode required to keep the room at the chosen temperature. Cool Pumps heat from the inside to the outside. Heat Pumps heat from the outside to the inside. Dry Dehumidifies the air (while cooling only slightly). Fan only Blows air without heating, cooling or drying. This can be useful when all you want is a cooling breeze.

Useful features

  • A timer lets you switch the air conditioner on and/or off automatically at certain times, and all the tested models have one.
  • Remote control with buttons that are well spaced.
  • Airflow control Some models have settings with reduced airflow (quiet operation) and/or extra-high airflow (fast or jet operation). A sleep mode adjusts the temperature in several steps (up when cooling, down when heating) so the air conditioner doesn’t work as hard (so more quietly) when you’re sleeping. You can program how long you want the sleep mode to operate.
  • Adjustable louvres allow the air to be distributed more evenly. Point them up for cool air and down for warm — this can be done via the remote on all the tested models. Left and right adjustability helps direct air where it’s particularly needed.
  • Restart delay This is a protective feature that prevents the air conditioners from starting up again too soon after being switched off.

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