Buyers Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Buying Air Conditioning

Air conditioning and Australia fit together like a glove. Our incredibly warm weather, and in some areas high humidity, makes the choice to buy an air conditioner a relatively easy one. However, with the many different types of air conditioning units that are out there, how do you know which one will be right for you? Where do you start?

This prospect is not helped by the technological innovations that occur almost every single day in the industry. The bigger brands in the HVAC sector are currently in a race to make the most efficient, powerful, and environmentally friendly unit that can be possibly made. Fortunately, the principles behind buying the right air conditioning or split system unit are relatively simple, and include:

  • The size of the room where the unit will be placed
  • The system type you wish to install.
  • The efficiency of the unit.
  • Who the split system installation is being done by.

This air conditioner buyer’s guide has been designed to cover all of these four facts, as well as providing real insight into getting the right unit for your needs. Should you have any further questions about anything on this page, please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can help.

What size split system air conditioner do I need?

The size of the room is often the most overlooked factor when buying an air conditioner. Buying an under or overpowered unit for the room can lead to higher running costs, and in the case of underpowered products, an inadequate cooling result. In some cases, it may be better to choose a slightly overpowered unit, as it will require less output to adequately cool your room.

The table below provides a general guide into which output you should purchase, as dictated by the size of the room. Other factors, such as the shape of the room or the amount of windows or doors, can also affect this. However this table will be your best bet for conventional interior spaces and home designs. We’ve also included a column for heating units, as a comparison.

Size of Room (m²)Cooling OutputHeating Output
9m² (3m x 3m)2.5kW3.2kW
25m² (5m x 5m)3.5kW3.7kW to 4.3kW
30m² (5.5m x 5.5m)3.5kW to 5.0kW3.7kW to 6.0kW
40m² (6.3m x 6.3m)5.0kW to 6.0kW6.0kW to 7.2kW
45m² (6.7m x 6.7m)6.0kW to 7.1kW7.2kW to 8.0kW
50m² (7.1m x 7.1m)7.1kW to 8.0kW8.0kW to 9.0kW
55m² (7.7m x 7.7m)8.0kW to 9.2kW9.0kW to 10.0kW

If unsure, the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) has provided a comprehensive sizing calculator. This also takes into account your location, as well as the floor surface of the room.

Which split system air conditioning you need?

There are two types of split system air conditioning available on the market today; single split, and multi-split. Single split system air conditioners are comprised of one unit, along with an outdoor compressor, and are the more common. Multi-split system air conditioners are two or more units that are connected to a single, outdoor air conditioner.

Both have a variety of positives and negatives, and offer specific benefits to certain sized homes and building types. The below table covers six of the more common questions regarding both types of split systems, looking at both practicality and financial aspects. The system you choose should be the one that best fits into what you want out of your new air conditioning unit.

Single Split SystemMulti-Split System
Installation CostAffordable, typically costing less than $3,500Can be quite expensive, due to multiple units needed and pipework required.
Running CostsAffordable, depending on the room size and its purposeVery affordable, as less output is required to cool the home sufficiently
Maintenance NeededRegular maintenance, at least once every 12 monthsRegular maintenance, however extra care must be given to the outside compressor. If this fails, the entire system will not work
Infrastructure requiredStandard, minimal pipeworkExtensive pipework to cover the home's layout
Small or large homesNot ideal for those with small space, such as a flat or an apartmentPerfect for small homes and apartments
Aesthetic propertiesIf purchasing in bulk, can occupy and clutter space to the detriment of the look of the propertySingle, unintrusive outdoor unit makes it the more visually pleasing of the two

Energy ratings

Energy efficiency doesn’t just take into account “energy rating” your choice of split system is, but also how it runs, which can dramatically impact your bottom line. When we consider that air conditioning accounts for over 40% of the average Australian household’s energy usage, this becomes a very important area to focus on.

The Equipment Energy Efficiency program (or E3 for short) measures the efficiency of all household electrical goods, displaying this info via the well known energy rating stickers. This rating measures the ratio between output capacity and power input, and provides a star rating out of six, which must be displayed predominantly on the unit.

A higher star rating will often mean a slightly higher price tag, but be warned. By choosing a unit with a poor star rating, you will be paying more in the long term than what the split system is actually worth. Low star rating systems, most of the time, also come with a lower output capacity, which is not ideal for larger homes or interior spaces.

You should always look to purchase the highest, star rated system within your budget. Not only will you be saving on running costs, but you will also be cutting down on emissions, which have halved in the industry since these ratings were made standard in 2001. For more information, as well as detailed documentation, check out the Energy Rating website.

The split system installation

The last step in choosing the right split system air conditioner is also one of the most vital. Many people often overlook the installation process, thinking that this will not impact on the performance of the unit, or going for a cheaper option. But did you know that, in Australia, you are required by law to have a split system installed by a licensed professional?

This regulatory law is designed to minimise health threats that can arise from poor installation or servicing techniques, as well as a stop gap against rip offs. Any person that you contract for the installation of your split system must have at least one of three licences issued from Australian Refrigeration Council. These licences are:

  • A full refrigeration and air conditioning licence, also known as a RHL.
  • A restricted registration licence for split systems.
  • A trainee’s licence for split systems, although they have to be under supervision.

Tradesman that have either of these licences are accredited as being experts in their field. This is important, not only for making sure that your unit will work perfectly from the minute you turn it on, but also on a warranty basis. All of the major brands will provide a detailed manufacturer’s warranty, which will become void if the unit is not installed by an accredited professional.

Other considerations

Whilst the above four points are by far the most important, there are also many other, smaller considerations that you need to take into account. These relate to the actual operation of the machine itself, as well as inconsequential factors that can make your life just that little bit easier. These considerations are:

  • Remote controls. Make sure that any remote is large enough to read with easy-to-access buttons.
  • A functioning sleep mode, which will minimise the noise of the unit during sleep times.
  • A restart delay function, which prevents the split system from turning itself back on should you accidentally press a button.
  • Fan speeds. A split system with multiple speeds is ideal for minimising noise and draught.
  • A movement sensor, which can help save on running costs but shutting itself off if no one is present in the house.
  • If you live in an area where frost occurs often, you may wish to consider a unit with a built-in de-icer. 

All of these factors will help you to choose exactly the right unit for you and your home’s needs. There are also many split systems out on the market that address various points brought up in this guide, whilst also representing great value, so don’t be bullied by a price tag. Once you’ve got exactly what you’re after, all that’s needed is to turn it on and enjoy that refreshing, cool air.

Please get in touch with our friendly team here at Splitsystems.Melbourne if you have any questions regarding split systems.