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The Complete Guide To Choosing Your Home Air Conditioner

Not sure what you should look for in a new air conditioner? 

Or whether the investment in an energy-efficient air conditioner is worth it for you? 

Learn how to confidently choose the perfect air conditioner for your home with this unbiased, comprehensive guide.

If you have any more questions or would like a free, no-pressure air conditioner quote from a thoroughly vetted installer, simply complete this short form, give our friendly energy efficiency experts a call at 1300 23 68 55 or email at advice@aef.com.au. We look forward to helping you!  

Here’s a preview of what’s in the guide

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: Choosing an Air Conditioner System 
  2. Do I Need a New Air Conditioner or Not? 
  3. Guide to Air Conditioner Types 
  4. How to Choose: Ducted vs. Split-System Air Conditioner
  5. How to Choose: Heating & Cooling vs. Cooling-Only
  6. How to Choose: Split-System Air Conditioner Size
  7. How to Choose: Other Air Conditioner Features 
  8. How to Choose: Locations for My Split-System Air Conditioner
  9. How to Choose: Air Conditioner Installer

Bonus: 6 Energy-Saving Air Conditioner Strategies

1. Introduction: Choosing an Air Conditioner System

If you’re reading this, you probably know that buying an air conditioner can get…complicated. 

At first, it sounds simple: you just need a system that will keep you and your family comfortable all year round. 

But air conditioners demand the most energy of any household appliance — on average, 40% of your annual energy use, when used for both heating and cooling.

Since our already-high electricity rates keep getting higher, you don’t like the idea of a new air conditioner sucking away even more of your paycheck. 

Many people might just accept that a new air conditioner will increase their energy bills, but you’ve heard that there’s another option — one that will both keep your family comfortable and lower your energy bill.

That’s true. 

But only if you choose the right air conditioner for your home and family. 

For instance, many people aren’t even aware that certain energy-efficient air conditioners will lower their heating & cooling bill by up to 46%

They simply assume that their electricity bill will stay the same (or even rise), so they don’t compare various energy-saving options before they buy. 

Then they end up with cheap, inefficient systems that don’t save them anything — especially if the low quality means multiple repair costs. 

Others buy $10,000+ ducted systems best suited for commercial use. These systems do the job…but only by raising home electricity bills by hundreds per season compared to more efficient $1,000-$5,000 options.

So if you choose the wrong air conditioner for your house, you could end up spending much more money than you need to — not just on the initial purchase, but for years to come. 

Fortunately, the flip side is that you can save — not just now, but for years to come — by choosing the right air conditioner for your home. Thousands of Aussies are indeed saving hundreds per year (and thousands over the life of their systems) by installing energy-efficient air conditioners. 

But without a comprehensive guide, choosing the right air conditioner system for you can get overwhelming. 

The more you look into it, the more unfamiliar phrases and new questions pop up: 

  • What’s an EER? 
  • Is it important? 
  • What does a rating of 3.67 (or 4.76, or 2.9) mean? 
  • How do ducted air conditioner systems work? 
  • How about split systems? 
  • Which type should I get? 
  • Do I need heating as well as cooling?
  • Do I really need all those other features?
  • How much could a new air conditioner save on my electricity bill? 
  • Is it enough to offset the air conditioner’s purchase price?
  • Is the most expensive air conditioner system always the best? 

However, hours (days?) of Googling all these and talking to air conditioner installer reps can just lead to information overload — especially if you’re not sure which answers you really need, and which ones you don’t. 

That’s why we wrote this guide. 

It takes the confusion and overwhelm out of choosing an air conditioner by giving straightforward, thoroughly researched answers to home air conditioner buyer’s 8 most important questions. 

These 8 questions and answers will give you all the information you need to make your best air conditioner purchasing decision. You’ll be able to: 

  • Understand the important air conditioner options & terms
  • Confidently choose your air conditioner type
  • Ask the right questions of prospective installers (and analyze their answers)
  • Decide between installation quotes
  • Know which features you need (and which you don’t)
  • And much more.

There’s even a bonus — check out the final section for simple post-installation tips that maximise your air conditioner savings.

So everything you need to make an intelligent, informed decision about your new air conditioner is right here. 

2. Do I Need a New Air Conditioner or Not?

Let’s start at the beginning:

Depending on your current air conditioner and its condition, you may not need a new one at all.

Sometimes, all an air conditioner needs is a repair.

Other times, repairs won’t save you anything; they’ll only delay the inevitable (and cost you an extra repair visit on top of it.)

Here’s how to tell whether you need a repair visit or a new air conditioner:

1. Is Your Current Air Conditioner 15+ Years Old? 

Yes: New Air Conditioner

The most efficient 2003 air conditioner wouldn’t even be allowed on the market today, and for good reason.

While 15+ year old systems typically use 6,000 watts/hr of electricity to cool an average-sized house, typical modern air conditioners can cool the same house with a mere 1,710 watts/hr.

Moreover, an air conditioners’ lifespan is about 15-20 years, and as they age they grow less and less efficient.

So even if your old air conditioner is still operating, it’s already costing you more per month. It’s time for a new one that does more with less.

No: Proceed to Question 2

If your current air conditioner is under 15 years old, it might be able to work just fine for your home.

However, if you’re having multiple air conditioner problems or high cooling bills, it’s time to double-check whether your air conditioner needs repairs, maintenance, or replacement. 

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