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Young woman sits cross legged on her living room floor, with her laptop open, she's trying to decide which air conditioning system to purchase.

What you need to know before purchasing an air conditioning unit

To help you choose the most sustainable option for your home we’ll walk you through the five main types of air conditioners to find what’s best for you and your home.

On your journey to making your home more sustainable, upgrading or installing an air conditioning unit may be on your list. ⁠ ⁠Did you know that an air conditioning unit can be a sustainable choice? To help you choose the most sustainable option for your home we’ll walk you through the five main types of air conditioners to find what’s best for you and your home.

To start, grab some paper, a recent power bill, and jot down these questions:

  • What is my budget? How much can I afford to spend on my new air conditioning unit?
  • How big is my home? Is it a 2-bedroom apartment or a 5-bedroom home?
  • Is my home too hot or too cold? Or do I want a unit that can keep my home comfy all year round?
  • Outside of heating and cooling, what features are most important to me? Do I want a unit that I can control with my mobile phone? Am I concerned with the humidity or air quality in my home?

Okay, now you’re ready. Keep your answers nearby, it will help you narrow down your choice.

What are the types of air conditioning?

Single Split system air conditioning: Single Split system air conditioning units are known as the most energy-efficient aircon option available.
Best for: 1 room or open plan area, that is less than 60 square meters.
What is it: 1 indoor outlet that cools and an external outlet on the ground.
⁠Can be fully powered by a solar photovoltaic (PV) system?: Yes

Multi-split system air conditioners: Multi-split systems are the same as split systems but have multiple internal units in various rooms. Most multi-split systems would have the same or similar energy efficiency as a two-part split system.
⁠Best for: 2-3 adjacent rooms.
⁠What is it: Multiple indoor air outlets that cool and an external outlet on the ground
⁠Can be fully powered by a Solar PV system?: Yes

Wall or window air conditioners: Wall or window air conditioners have their purpose but are less energy-efficient than split systems. Best for: Homes that can’t install a split system, or don’t have the room for a larger internal split system.
What is it: Wall or window air conditioners have an internal and external part, but it’s housed in a single unit and usually installed in a window.

Portable air conditioners: Used for a single room only, they are the least energy-efficient than other types.
⁠Best for: These portable appliances are perfect for renters who can’t mount systems on a wall or in windows, best results when used in 1 room that are less than 20 square meters.
⁠What is it: Single unit with a venting duct attached to a window. Can be plugged directly into a socket and moved around the home.

Ducted air conditioning Ducted air conditioning is the most expensive air conditioning you can get but can be highly energy efficient.
Best for: Use in the whole house, some systems allow individual vents to be turned off as desired, for instance, bedroom at night or in the loungeroom in the evening.
What is it: Compressor located either on the roof or outside on the ground with ducted vents around the house.
⁠Can be fully powered by Solar PV system?: No

Other features to consider:

  • Inverter vs non-inverter air conditioners: Inverter air conditioners can moderate themselves based on the system’s needs at the time, whereas non-inverter will be off or on full blast as needed.
  • Reverse cycle vs cooling only: Reverse cycle air cons offer both heating and cooling and are often more cost-effective than having separate systems. Cooling-only air conditioners, as the name suggests, only allow the air conditioning unit to cool.

What type of air conditioning unit is best for an apartment?

If you live in an apartment, your choices of the type of air conditioning system you can install are limited.

If you rent: due to not being able to install a split system, a portable air conditioner is best for you. You can always talk to your landlord or agent, they may want to invest in a long-term option for the property.

The right size air conditioner will prevent higher energy bills and wasted energy, and a quieter air conditioner will keep your neighbours happy.

What type of air conditioning unit is best for a house?

Your two biggest considerations will be the size of your house and your budget. Getting the right size system that suits the size of your home will make sure it’s running most efficiently and will save you money on the electricity bill.

Although noise isn’t as much of a factor as it is for apartment dwellers because you’re likely to have more space between you and your neighbours, you shouldn’t ignore it. A noisy air conditioner will be disruptive to your own peace and quiet.

How much does it cost to install air conditioning?

Depending on the size and type of air conditioning system you choose and the size of your home, the installation may be the most costly expense. A simple small, single split system in a single room will understandably cost less to install than a complex large ducted system in a two-storey house.

What is the right temperature to run air conditioning?

Set your thermostat to 18-20 degrees in winter, or 25-27 degrees in summer. Every change in degree from this temperature will cause a 5-10% change in your energy usage.

It’s a personal choice as to what temperature you would like to keep your house at. In winter, some people like it really cozy whilst others are happy to layer up a bit more. When considering saving on your energy bills there are some small changes you can make that won’t change your lifestyle too much.

What features do you want in air conditioning?

Air conditioning units do a lot more than heat or cool your home these days including:

  • Air quality - do you want your air-conditioner to clean your air
  • Smart connectivity - do you want the ability to turn it on and off with your smartphone or other smart devices
  • Presence sensors - do you want your system to recognise when no one is in the room and switch off?
  • Noise reduction - do you care about noise?
  • Remote control - do you want to have to get up every time you want to adjust your air-con?
  • Timer - do you want to be able to set times when your system is on?
  • Dehumidifier - do you want to remove excess water from your air?

Now you're ready to go shopping for your new split system air conditioning for your home. Brighte is on a mission to make every home sustainable. We can help fund a range of products and services, including;

The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs and, where appropriate, seek professional advice.