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Small air conditioner reviews

A reverse-cycle air conditioner can be the most efficient way to heat (and cool) a large room.
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We review nine small air conditioners, with capacities of about 2.5kW for cooling and 2.7 - 3.6kW for heating, priced $833 to $1399.

Our testing reveals which small air conditioners:

  • Have the best cooling and heating performance
  • Have the best airflow performance
  • Are the easiest to use.

On this page you'll find:

Please note: this report is no longer being updated. For up-to-date information on small air conditioners, see our main air conditioner review.

With the huge range of heating options now available – including electric options such as oil column, ceramic, flame effectpanel and fan heaters, plus gas fires and ethanol-fuelled fireplaces – it’s easy to forget that a reverse-cycle air conditioner is still one of the most efficient ways to heat a large room or living area.

Nevertheless, in Australia’s warm climate, air conditioners are more commonly used for cooling, and most of the models tested are efficient in this respect too. Inverter models are generally more efficient than non-inverter models at both heating and cooling, as they vary their output to match room conditions, rather than simply being on (running at full capacity) or off. For large open-plan areas you might want to consider a large air conditioner.

And if you would like an air conditioner but can’t install one (for example, if you’re renting), see our report on portable air conditionersCeiling fans are also worth a look.

In this test, we looked at reverse-cycle split-system inverter models with cooling capacity about 2.5kW, rather than the 3.5kW models we usually cover. Models under 3kW make up about 30% of units sold and are good for cooling and heating a single room, such as a bedroom, office or small lounge room.

For more information about Home cooling, see Heating and cooling.

Models tested

  • DeLonghi DEINV27AUP
  • Fujitsu ASTG09LVCA / AOTG09LVC
  • Hitachi RAS / RAC-25YHA3
  • Kelvinator KSV26HRC
  • LG E09AWN-11 / R09AWN-11
  • Mitsubishi Electric MSZ / MUZ-GE25VA
  • Panasonic CS / CU-E9MKR
  • Samsung AQV09UWLN
Brands not tested

We were unable to get Daikin or Mitsubishi Heavy Industries models for the latest test, as their production is in Thailand and was affected by the recent severe floods there.

Previously tested models

These can be found in the Compare previously tested models page of this report:

  • Carrier 42NQV035M-A / 38NYV035M-A
  • Daikin FTXG35FVMAW / RXG35FVMA
  • Daikin FTXS35EVMA / RXS35EBVMA
  • Daikin FTXS35J2VMA / RXS35JVMA
  • Daikin FTXS35KVMA
  • DeLonghi DEINV35AUP
  • Fujitsu ASTA12LCC / AOTR12LCC
  • Fujitsu ASTA12LFC / AOTR12LFC
  • Fujitsu ASTB12LDC / AOTB12LDC
  • Fujitsu ASTG12LVCA
  • Kelvinator KSV35HRA
  • Kelvinator KSV35HRB
  • LG R12AWN NB9-UB9
  • LG R12AWN-10
  • Mitsubishi Electric MSZ-MUZ-GE35VA
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries SRK35ZGA-S / SRC35ZG-S
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries SRK35ZJ-S
  • Panasonic CS / CU-E12LKR
  • Panasonic CS / CU-E12JKR
  • Panasonic CS-E12HKR / CU-E12HKR
  • Samsung AQV12NSBN / AQV12NSBX
  • Samsung AQV12VSCN-CX
  • Sharp AC12RMCSYS
  • Teco LS-LT1507V
  • Toshiba RAS-13SKV-A / RAS-13SAV-A
  • Toshiba RAS-13SKVR-A / RAS-13SAVR-A

How we test

Efficiency To determine their cooling and heating efficiency (how much power they consume to produce their cooling or heating output), our testers operate the air conditioners continuously at their maximum thermostat and fan settings. The results are a worst-case efficiency scenario for inverter models, as most of the time they’ll run at lower than their maximum capacity where they are more efficient. The testers use the test room and climate conditions of the Australian standard, measuring and rating the cooling/heating output per kW of power used. In addition, they measure each air conditioner’s cooling efficiency at 50% of the measured capacity. 

There are two types of energy efficiency label for reverse-cycle air conditioners. The star rating always refers to heating at 7˚C (outdoor temperature), which is the temperature at which we test heating for these models. The “all options” label also lists the product’s heating capacity at 2˚C. The higher the number of stars, the more efficient it is (efficiency is calculated by dividing the output capacity by the input power). 

Airflow Our testers measure the indoor airflow (in litres per second) on each fan setting.

Standby power We’ve changed our scoring system by removing standby power consumption from the scores. Standby power consumption can be significant for older air conditioners, but our tests over the past few years have shown that is not the case for recent models. Modern air conditioners consume very little in standby mode; three models in this test consume less than 1W in standby, and even the worst consumes only 6W. It’s an insignificant part of their overall running cost. So while we’ll continue to measure standby power consumption, we won’t be scoring it.

Ease of use CHOICE tester, Scott O’Keefe, assesses ease of use of the remote controls, instruction manuals and timers, as well as the ease of removing and refitting the air filters for cleaning.

Noise The testers measure the noise levels of the indoor unit with the fan on the lowest possible setting, and the outdoor unit while it is installed in the test room. The results are comparative only.

Our test is carried out at a NATA-accredited external lab to our test program and quality requirements.

The Australian standard for air conditioners does not yet cover the technology used in reverse-cycle inverter air conditioners. The standard allows manufacturers to fix the compressor speed at a certain “rated” capacity; however, CHOICE believes this is unrealistic, as it doesn’t reflect the way an inverter air conditioner is used in real life – it will rarely, if ever, operate in such a fixed mode.

Our test method differs from the one manufacturers use for energy label testing (see below), which is why the energy efficiency on the label and our results don’t always match. A model that doesn’t meet its label claims isn’t necessarily inefficient or a poor performer, but you should be able to rely on the energy label for both cooling and heating capacity as well as energy efficiency. In our view, the current tests used by manufacturers don’t always show the whole picture.

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When buying an air conditioner, the usual first considerations are finding models with the right capacity, good energy efficiency (and lower running costs), from reliable brands and at a suitable price. You’ll also want good installation and repair service. For the air conditioner model itself, which of the following is the next most important consideration for you?

Ease of using the remote control and accessing the filters for cleaning
Good range of air flow settings from gentle low fan speed to powerful high speed
Good range of features such as a timer and sleep mode
Noise of the indoor and or outdoor units
  • 1726 votes


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