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Energy efficient air conditioning

Last Updated Sep 14, 2018 · Written by Rob Schneider


Air conditioning and heating account for 40 percent of a home's energy use, so finding energy efficient air conditioning is a home improvement worth looking for. What is energy efficient air conditioning and how much can it save you? What are some things you can do to make any air conditioning system more efficient?

  1. Types of air conditioning systems
  2. Get the right capacity for your home
  3. Star ratings for air conditioning systems
  4. Why the capacity and star ratings of air conditioners is important
  5. How to save money on air conditioning

Types of air conditioning systems

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There are many types of air conditioning systems available and any one of them can be more or less efficient than its counterparts. Some common types of air conditioning systems include:

  • A split system has an outdoor compressor that is connected to an indoor unit via pipes
  • Wall and window mounted systems are installed in walls or windows and have the compressor on the outside wall or the outside of the window
  • Ducted systems have ducting installed to all rooms of the house

Wall mounted systems generally have the unit installed high on the wall. The cool air will drop and the hot air will rise to the ceiling. Floor models are also available, but they are usually most efficient for heating the home because hot air rises and a floor model will heat the floor area first.altThere are other things you need to know about air conditioning systems, too. An inverter system will change its speed according to demand. A non-inverter system will shut off when the air conditioner is not in use and only has one speed for all applications. A non-inverter wears out faster than an inverter and uses more power than inverters.

Reverse cycle air conditioners can heat the home in winter and cool it in summer. They can be a perfect choice in climates that have cool winters and hot summers. If you live in a relatively hot area, you may want to get a standard air conditioner and use heaters only when needed. Standard air conditioners are less expensive than reverse cycle air conditioners and may be more appropriate in some areas.

Find out the cost of being energy efficient

Get the right capacity for your home

An important part of buying any air conditioning system is to buy the right capacity for your home. You can save money by buying a smaller capacity system, but in the long run, it will cost more and wear out sooner. You also don't want to buy a higher capacity system than you need because it will work harder to cool or heat a room. Some typical capacities for air conditioners are:

  • 9m2 rooms should have a 2.5 to 3.0 kilowatt (kW) system
  • 25m2 rooms should have a 3.5 to 4.3kW system
  • 45m2 rooms should have a 6.0 to 7.2kW system
  • 55m2 rooms should have a 8.0 to 10.0kW system

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The ceiling height, number of windows in the room, your climate and other factors will also play a role in the capacity of the system you need. Higher ceilings will need a higher capacity system and if there are a number of single pane windows in the room, you may need greater capacity. It's best to close curtains or buy double glazed windows to keep cool air in the house.

Star ratings for air conditioning systems

Energy labels are on many air conditioning units. The star ratings are important when choosing an air conditioner because the higher the star rating, the more efficient the system will be. You will see both the star rating and the power output level on an energy label. Look closely at the power output label because that will tell you how much power an air conditioning unit uses.

Each star can represent a 10 percent savings in energy costs. If you buy an inexpensive 1 star system, you will lose money in the long run. Look for at least 3.5 stars and the more stars you get, the better. Today, star ratings go up to 10 because air conditioners and other appliances are more efficient than in the past.

If you buy a reverse cycle air conditioner, it will have star ratings for both heating and cooling. Compare labels carefully because you will be heating the home as much as you cool it and buying higher star ratings for both heating and cooling will save money.

Star rating labels are available for split systems and wall and window systems, but are voluntary for ducted systems. Look for ducted systems that do have star labels so you can compare them. If they don't have a star label, you may be able to get information from the Australian government's Energy Rating calculator.

Why the capacity and star ratings of air conditioners is important

If you get the right capacity of air conditioner for your house and combine it with higher star ratings, you will save a significant amount of money. How much can you save?

  • The average running cost of a reverse cycle air conditioner is between 35 cents and 95 cents per hour. The higher value is for a 50m2 room and the lower value is for a small room
  • Ducted air conditioners are even more expensive, with running costs of $2.45 to $3.45 per hour.

Heating a room costs less than cooling a room, but the costs are still significant. By purchasing the right capacity with a higher star rating, you can slash the air conditioning bill and still have a cooler or warmer room. By many estimates, each star can save you 10 percent on heating or cooling costs and the right capacity can help your system run longer.

How to save money on air conditioning

You don't want to spend more money than you need to on air conditioning. These are six ways you can have more energy efficient air conditioning and save money:

  1. Look for a high star rating
  2. Choose the right capacity system for your house
  3. Try turning up the thermostat for cooling
  4. Turn down the thermostat for heating
  5. Close doors in rooms you don't need to heat or cool
  6. Use a fan instead of air conditioning to cool the home

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Some other things you can do to save money on air conditioning and heating are to:

  • Seal gaps around windows and doors
  • Insulate the house
  • Close curtains when running air conditioning
  • Allow the winter sun to warm the house

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If you don't want to close curtains and make the house darker, consider buying awnings for outdoor areas where the sun strikes the house. The awnings should block the summer sun, but allow light to enter the home in the winter months when the sun is lower. Retractable awnings can be ideal for areas that face the sun because they can be adjusted as needed to let sun in or block it.

Another way to allow light into the home, but help keep cool or warm air out is to buy light filtering and sunscreen blinds. They are more expensive than ordinary blinds, but allow light to come into the room. Honeycomb blinds are designed to insulate against heat or cold entering the house. For more information about blinds, read What Blinds Should You Install in Your Home?

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Energy efficient air conditioning goes beyond buying high star rated air conditioning and buying the right capacity for your home. The home can allow hot air in and allow cool air to escape. A home that is well insulated and designed to block the summer sun and allow the winter sun to enter the home will also make air conditioning far more energy efficient. While awnings, blinds and other products cost money, the amount you save on air conditioning costs will make up for it in time.

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