Australians have no better friend than their air conditioner. It’s there for us in warm times, and it’s even got our back in the colder months. Air conditioners, we salute you! However, not all air conditioners are as reliable, effective and easy to use as we would like, so you’re advised to do your research before buying – otherwise you might be left feeling a little hot under the collar.
So where do you find the best air conditioner? Well, you start by comparing brands with our customer reviews. The ratings table you see above reflects the honest opinions of hundreds of Aussie consumers who have recently bought and used a new air con unit. No one knows better than these people which brands are really delivering on their cooling (or heating) promises.
This year we’ve had a changing of the guard, with Panasonic replacing Fujitsu General at the top of the table. Panasonic has been rated 5 stars in Overall Customer Satisfaction for air conditioners, winning the Canstar Blue award for 2016. On top of this, Panasonic secured a five star rating in every single research category:
- Reliability (i.e. it doesn’t break down)
- Ease of use (of the controls and buttons)
- Noise level while operating
- Value for money
- Functionality (i.e. the ability to choose and adjust functions)
- After sale service (including warranty)
A pioneer of modern air con innovation, Panasonic is leading the energy efficiency revolution in home cooling. Its invertor operating system allows air conditioners to vary the rotation speed of their compressors, which results in reduced energy consumption without compromising the set temperature. What’s more, Panasonic’s aptly-named ‘ECONAVI’ intelligent sensors monitor the movements of people in the room and can adjust the air conditioner’s output accordingly. So if there is no one in the room, it will reduce its cooling power and stop you wasting money.
In addition to awesome energy efficiency, Panasonic’s air conditioners also boast technology that ensures clean and purified air is being pumped through your home, called nanoe-G. The system uses ‘nano-technology’ consisting of ions and radicals to purify the air in the room and help protect against bacteria and viruses. Of course, air conditioner features like these do not come cheap, but Panasonic has scored a five-star rating on value for money, so we can assume customers think the technology is worth paying for.
You can find out more about Panasonic air conditioners, and the other bands featured in this review, by clicking on their name in the ratings table above.
Types of air conditioners
Once you’re decided on the best air conditioner brand, it‘s time to narrow things down by choosing whichtype of air conditioner is right for your home. If you’re not familiar with the different types available in Australia, here is a quick rundown of the most common ones:
- Split-system air conditioners: Consisting of an indoor wall-mounted unit and an outdoor compressor that removes heat from the inside, split-system air conditioners are the most widely seen in Australia. As the compressor which makes most of the noise is outside your home, they tend to be relatively quiet. However, their cooling power is limited to a specific room and space.
- Reverse-system air conditioners: Similarly to their split-system cousins, reverse-system air conditioners consist of an inside wall-mounted unit and exterior compressor which does the hard, noisy work. The difference is that reverse-system air conditioners can create both cool and warm air, keeping you comfortable all year round. You will need to pay a little extra for this convenience, but you might consider it a price worth paying.
- Wall/window air conditioners: Not so common these days, wall or window-mounted air conditioners consist of an inside unit which pumps the hot air outside through an outlet, or hose. These models are generally quite large and can be noisy, but they are cheaper to buy upfront, if not in ongoing running costs.
- Ducted air conditioners: To most households, a ducted air conditioning system would be the Holy Grail of modern day cooling. Consisting of an outside compressor unit, but multiple inside units, a ducted air conditioning system can cool your entire home – at a price. These systems will cost you thousands of dollars to install and will also cost you the most in ongoing running costs. Is it a price worth paying? You decide.
- Portable air conditioners: At the cheapest end of the air conditioning spectrum, portable air conditioners are perfectly fine for cooling a small area, but are unlikely to save you from the extreme heat of summer. Being portable they come with some advantages, but you generally get what you pay for when it comes to air conditioners, and if you buy one on the cheap you can only expect so much in return.
What size air conditioner do you need?
An air conditioner is likely to be the most expensive home appliance you’ll buy, so you need to understand exactly what you’re getting. Once you have decided which type of system you are going with, your next decision should be around size and power. This begins with determining the size of the room your prospective air conditioner is required to cool. Air conditioner sizes are measured in ‘kilowatt’ capacities. As a guide, these room sizes would require the following size air conditioners to produce effective results:
|Room size||Room examples||Air con kilowatt capacity|
|10-25 square metres||Small bedroom, study, office, small lounge||2.5KW|
|25-35 square metres||Mid-sized bedroom, average sized lounge||3.5KW|
|35-60 square metres||Large bedroom with ensuite, large lounge||5-6KW|
|60-80 square metres||Larger living space, open plan area, small shop, office||7-8KW|
How much do air conditioners cost?
While the brand of air conditioner you buy – and the type of features it comes with – will partly determine how much you pay, the cost of most models will ultimately be decided by their size. As the table above illustrates, the size and kilowatt capacity of air conditioners can vary greatly, which means prices do too. The following table shows what you can expect to pay for each size split-system unit:
|Room size||Average price|
|10-25 square metres||$500 – $1,000|
|25-35 square metres||$750 – $1,500|
|35-60 square metres||$1,000 – $1,800|
|60-80 square metres||$1,500 – $2,000|
What about running costs?
It stands to reason that the larger your air conditioner and the room it cools, the more you will pay in ongoing electricity costs. The energy star rating of your unit will also play a big role. As a guide, the following table shows estimated annual running costs for three different room sizes, based on split-system units, 300 hours of usage throughout the year and an electricity price of 28c per kWh.
|Room size||System size||Energy star rating||Annual electricity cost|
|Small room (10 sqm)||2.5KW||2.5 stars5 stars||$34$27|
|Medium room (35 sqm)||5.5KW||1.5 stars3 stars||$74$86|
|Large room (60 sqm)||8KW||1.5 stars3 stars||$125$108|
Courtesy of Canstar blue website.