An air conditioner is an appliance that changes the surrounding air temperature. It can also provide humidity control and filtration. An air conditioner is used in both residential and commercial environments to cool the air in a room, maintain comfortable humidity levels, and remove pollen, dust, pet dander, mould spores, bacteria, smoke particles, etc. from the air.
In order to select a suitable air conditioner, you could consider the required cooling capacity and the level of noise that the air conditioning system may produce. You can find this information in manufacturers’ catalogues or brochures.
The first step is to assess your requirements for cooling power and determine whether to buy a fixed-capacity air conditioner or an adjustable-capacity air conditioner.
The Capacity of Air Conditioners
Fixed-capacity models offer a single tonnage (1 kW), which means they can only cool rooms up to a certain size. If the room is larger than the capacity of your air conditioner, it may take longer to cool down, or it may not reach its target temperature before dehumidification starts taking effect, leading to damp, clammy conditions and mould growth.
Adjustable-capacity air conditioning models let you choose a tonnage that best suits your room size. With such an air conditioner, you can cool rooms that are smaller than the tonnage of your unit.
Adjustable-capacity air conditioning models, also ensure temperature and humidity levels remain constant throughout the year as they allow a change in cooling capacity according to requirements. This is especially useful for short periods when the room cannot be kept below a certain temperature, for example during a hospital stay.
One other important factor about air conditioners is their noise level. Units with lower sound output could have a higher price tag but it’s worth paying the extra money if there’s going to be someone sleeping nearby or staying in the room all day.
Types of Air Conditioners
There are a few different types.
Vapor-compression (Refrigerant) Air Conditioning
These use a vapour compression cycle, which is the most widely used system in homes. Their main components include an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. They depend on chemical refrigerants such as R410A or R32 to transfer heat between two metal plates in the outdoor unit, thus creating cold air that’s distributed inside via the fan coil.
Rotary (Hermetic) Air Conditioning
Rotary systems circulate low-pressure gas by rotating aluminium fins around copper tubes at high speed to remove excess heat from the indoor environment. This type of system is also called scroll compressor multi-split systems because separate indoor units are connected to an outdoor unit by means of copper tubes instead of metal refrigerant lines.
Peltier (Solid State) Air Conditioning
Also known as TEC or thermoelectric coolers, Peltier-based air conditioning uses the Peltier effect to transfer heat to the cold side via semiconductor junctions. They are manufactured by using ultra-thin ceramic plates with low thermal resistance and high-speed fans. Although they’re more efficient than other types of air conditioners, their applications are limited due to their high price.
Ducted Air Conditioning vs a Split System Air Conditioner
With ducted air conditioning, the indoor units are usually fixed to the floor or wall. The ducted air conditioning unit can be mounted on walls using brackets and come with wheels for easy portability. Ducts (fibreglass or metal) connect them to one outdoor unit
A split system allows you to separate the indoor and outdoor units by a distance of up to 100 metres, which allows you to put the outdoor unit in a space where it won’t spoil the look of your home. The indoor units are usually mounted on walls and connect to an outdoor unit via flexible hoses.
How Much does It Cost to Run an Air Conditioner in Australia?
The cost of operating an air conditioner in Australia varies from unit to unit, but the average energy consumption for a room air conditioner is between 300 and 500 kWh per year. The amount you pay depends on your location, how energy efficient your air conditioner is and how much you use it.
In general, there are two main types of tariffs.
Indexed or Time-of-Use Tariffs
In this system, electricity prices vary according to demand. Peak hours tend to be during summer afternoons and evenings while off-peak times occur during early mornings and nights. This type of tariff can be more expensive than others so it’s essential to find out when peak hours take place in your area before figuring out if an adjustable air conditioner or fixed capacity air conditioner may suit your needs best.
These tariffs cost a flat rate throughout the entire day, which is convenient for users who regularly run their air conditioning units during the day and don’t need them at night when electricity rates tend to be lower.
Can I Use Solar Panels with an Air Conditioner?
Yes, it’s possible to use solar panels with an air conditioner in most cases. In fact, you can also add a solar hot water system to your existing air conditioning unit rather than replacing both units with a hybrid one. A hybrid system costs more so it makes more sense to install each component separately unless you have no other choice or want separate systems because of preference.
How do I Save Energy with Air Conditioning?
Regardless of which type of system you prefer, there’s one important thing you can do to reduce your use of energy. Close the window blinds and curtains to stop the sun from heating up the room. And if your air conditioner is equipped with a timer function, use it to turn off the unit for short periods when you’re away from home, such as at work or during holidays.
Calculating Your Air Conditioning Running Expenses
The best way to assess the running costs of your air conditioner is to look at its energy efficiency label. On the label, you’ll see a star rating that shows how efficiently a unit consumes electricity and a label value that represents the unit’s annual energy consumption.
To calculate your air conditioning expenses, use this formula. [label value] x [electricity price] ÷ 1000 = [annual expense]. In some countries, electricity prices are fixed for several years so it’s worth doing this calculation every year. In Australia, for example, the price of electricity is around 34 cents per kWh, so if your air conditioner’s label value is A$300 and your electricity consumption is rated at 1680 kWh per year, your cost to run it is around A$450.
Air Conditioner Operating Tips
Some additional steps you can take include:
- Keep the vents clean by wiping them with a damp cloth every few weeks.
- Check your room’s insulation before buying an air conditioner, then choose one with a high SEER or Energy Efficiency Ratio for optimal energy savings
- Don’t install air conditioners in poorly insulated rooms because they won’t be able to cool the air as well as expected
- Make sure your unit is serviced regularly so that any parts or refrigerant leaks can be detected and fixed promptly.
Call the Experts for Installation
Air conditioning unit installation, maintenance or repair is best left to professional technicians because it involves working with high voltages. If you have no choice but to do it yourself, be sure to read all the instructions carefully before attempting any DIY work.
The Air Conditioner Type for You
The first thing you need to know is which type of air conditioner would be better suited to your needs, especially when buying a new one. Although there are also up-and-down air conditioners that don’t use ventilation ducts, most modern units are split systems that can cool larger areas effectively
Outdoor vs Indoor Unit
Outdoor units are usually placed at the exterior wall of the building while inside air conditioners are connected directly to the indoor unit. The outdoor unit is used to reduce the temperature of the refrigerant before it enters the condenser, which usually has a fan and copper coils for this purpose.
What Factors to Consider when Buying AC?
When shopping for an air conditioner, your main focus could be on how energy-efficient it is, because it’s directly related to savings in both monthly bills and air conditioning cost of installation.
To make things easier for you, there are two types of energy labels that help estimate expenses during use: EER/Energy Efficiency Ratio label shows how much energy an air conditioner uses per hour while SEER/Energy Efficiency Ratio label gives information about annual costs based on electricity prices in various regions.
So, if you live in countries with high electricity prices such as Australia or U.S., be sure to check this label as well.
What Should I Know about Installation?
If you choose to hire a professional for the installation and maintenance of your air conditioning system, make sure they’re qualified, insured and registered members of one of these industry associations: Air Conditioning Refrigeration Institute (ARI), U.S. Green Building Council, National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).
HVAC professionals can help improve how energy-efficient an air conditioner is, as well as advise on suitable insulation materials such as roofing, wall coverings and window films that maximize thermal protection without affecting indoor comfort levels. Don’t forget that closed windows and blinds may help decrease heat gains from sunlight and awnings offer a good solution to the hotter months of the year in some regions.
Air Conditioners in Open-plan Offices
In an open-plan office, for example, it’s easier to move air conditioning units from one place to another when they’re not installed into walls or ceilings.
But keep in mind that noise levels may be considered because even small units with low capacity can create high dB noise if placed too close to occupied areas. Also, if you have small workstation partitions, don’t block airflow from the unit or increase its operating time by keeping it running all day long. Remember that increasing energy use also increases your monthly cooling bills.
What about Humidity Control?
Humidity is another factor that contributes to the overall health of your employees. If humidity is more than 60 per cent, people can experience discomfort or even health problems related to dry skin or scratchy throat.
A good solution is to install an air humidifier in addition to your cooling unit because it not only helps reduce static electricity but also provides moisture that can be absorbed by walls and other surfaces. But make sure you consult with a building service engineer before you decide on this option.
Another way to improve humidity control involves using desiccant dehumidifiers with refrigeration systems for long-term performance in large spaces such as warehouses.
No matter what type of AC you choose, always consider working conditions when doing office renovations because finding the right balance between environmental comfort and possible savings is the key to success.
Air Conditioning vs Gas and Electric Heaters?
Using a portable air conditioner for heating is possible but it’s not the most efficient solution because portable air conditioner units are already oversized to meet cooling loads, thus they have additional running costs. So running at maximum capacity all year round would produce an uncomfortable feeling instead of providing comfy warm air.
Using a Ducted Air Conditioner for Central Heating
That doesn’t mean you could rule out central heating entirely, though. It can be useful in some situations such as when there’s no natural lighting integration.
Also if your company has a building with high ceilings or large walls with poor insulation, installing a ducted air conditioner for central heating may prove beneficial and reduce overall air conditioning costs per hour, since the higher-than-room temperature may help improve thermal comfort levels without producing too much noise.
Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner
A reverse cycle air conditioner (or inverter) can be used in place of gas and electric heating for many applications such as using the AC’s heat exchanger to produce dry, hot, and ready-to-use thermal energy.
So, a reverse cycle air conditioner may be a good solution when you need to centralize your heating system because it makes it possible to use multi-split systems with one outdoor unit connected to several indoor units via refrigerant piping loops