Need to know
- We compared 200+ air conditioners from LG, Mitsubishi, Daikin, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Hitachi, Samsung and more
- Our experts assessed factors such as cooling and heating performance, airflow, noise, key features and more
- Consider joining CHOICE to access full reviews and top-rated air conditioners
With household bills rising and a hot summer looming, reverse-cycle air conditioners are a smart move for cooling your home. They're also a good warming option for winter, as they can be cheaper to run than gas or electric heaters.
But between the big upfront and installation costs, absurdly long model numbers and confusing sizing advice, it can be hard to tell which is the best option for your particular needs.
To help make choosing easier, our air conditioning experts review more than 200 models each year, covering all the major brands on the market, including Daikin, Mitsubishi Electric, Fujitsu, LG and more.
In our most recent air conditioning reviews, we encountered some excellent units and some poor performers. Here are the ones to avoid.
For this list, we've focused on small-size air conditioners (up to 4kW) as they're the most popular type in Australia. If you're after medium or large models, check out our full reviews. (Just note: it's unfair to compare large against small units – they aren't as energy-efficient, but they can heat or cool a much bigger space.)
"All these models have passed minimum energy performance standards to be registered and sold in Australia, so their cooling and heating energy efficiency scores are OK, but there are much better models out there to look for," says CHOICE household appliance expert Chris Barnes.
Good brands, ordinary products
Interestingly, the same brands that delivered air conditioners with the lowest heating and cooling efficiency also produced some of our review's top scorers – a result we often see across product reviews.
"The brands in this list aren't bad brands," says Chris.
"It just goes to show that even a good brand can sometimes make some pretty ordinary products. In some cases these air conditioners are older models that may be overdue to be phased out or replaced with more efficient lines."
Small air conditioners are popular in Australia.
These are the air conditioners that scored the lowest for cooling efficiency in our lastest review:
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries DXK12ZMA-S (55%)
- Fujitsu AUTG12LVLB (56%)
- Haier AS35TB4HRA / 1U35MA4ERA (56%)
- Braemar WSHV35D1T/WCH325D1T (57%)
- Haier AS26TB4HRA / 1U26MA4ERA (57%)
- LG WS12TWS (57%)
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries DXK07ZTLA-W (57%)
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries SRR35ZS-W (57%)
- Samsung F-AR12BXECNWK1 (57%)
Of course, cooling efficiency is just one criteria for a great air conditioner. Our air conditioner reviews also assess heating efficiency, airflow, noise, key features and more.
Reverse-cycle air conditioning is actually a very cost-effective way to heat your home and, surprisingly, it can be cheaper to run than even a gas or electric heater.
However, these models might leave you a bit cold come winter time. Here are the air conditioners that scored the lowest for heating efficiency in our review, plus their heating efficiency score:
- Mitsubishi Electric MFZKW35KIT (55%)
- Haier AS35TB4HRA/1U35MA4ERA (55%)
- Samsung F-AR12BXGYCWK1 (56%)
- Samsung F-AR12BXECNWK1 (56%)
- Fujitsu AUTH12KVLA (56%)
- Haier AS26TB4HRA/1U26MA4ERA (56%)
Insulation improves both heating and cooling.
Insulate your home
Make sure your home is insulated – particularly the ceiling. This will help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer, with or without air conditioning.
Do your research
Before you buy, check out our expert air conditioner reviews and check the stars on the rating label – the more stars the better.
And make sure the unit is suitable for where you live. A home in Tasmania is going to have different requirements to a home in Perth, so find out how the unit will perform in your region.
A home in Tasmania is going to have different requirements to a home in Perth
"The zoned star-rating label gives more information about how the air conditioner performs in different parts of Australia and New Zealand, so you can pick a model to suit the region you live in," says Chris.
Buy the right capacity
It's important to find the right size air conditioner for the space you need to heat and cool. Don't be tempted to undersize to save on the upfront cost, or to go for the biggest available unit in the hope that it will work better – they're both false economies.
"Try to size the air conditioner's heating and cooling capacity correctly for the room where it will be installed," says Chris. "Models that are too powerful or too underpowered won't run as effectively or efficiently."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.