How to choose the most energy efficient air conditioner

Heating and cooling your home can contribute a lot to your household energy use and bills. Find comfort without the cash crunch by understanding the new Zoned Energy Rating Label for air conditioners.

Several interesting facts around the use of air conditioning came out of the Future Energy Report. One was that 51% of people who have rooftop solar now feel less guilty about using their air conditioning. Another is that 30% of households feel that the use of air conditioning is their most indulgent or extravagant use of electricity. Finally, and surprisingly, 16% of 18–34-year-olds run their heating or cooling when they’re not home, to keep their furry friends comfortable!

Air conditioning, in a country of extreme temperatures, is often considered essential. So how do households best balance its use with its impact on their power bills?

Most important, says Jared Mullane, Canstar Blue’s Energy Editor, is to ensure you’ve got the right one installed in the first place. All single-phase, residential air conditioners require an Energy Rating Label. The star rating as well as the average energy usage displayed on that label are helpful in working out ongoing costs.

Even more useful, is the Zoned Energy Rating Label – a relatively new requirement. Any model of air conditioner released into the market after April 1, 2020, must contain a more detailed label, indicating energy use across three climate zones, for both heating and cooling.

“The three zones are simply called Hot, Average and Cold,” Mullane says. “Brisbane and Darwin are hot. Sydney, Adelaide and Perth are average. Canberra, Hobart and Melbourne are cold. This takes into account performance in certain environments, including outside air temperature, humidity, frosting and cloud cover.”

The Zoned Energy Rating Label provides consumers with an entirely new level of detail on running costs.

The Zoned Energy Rating Label provides an entirely new level of detail around running costs, allowing the customer to somewhat individualise the costs for their own situation. To figure out ongoing costs, customers should first take note of what they’re charged per kilowatt hour (kWh). If the label says that in their climate zone the unit will use 1660 kWh per year for heating and 272 kWh per year for cooling, and they are charged 24c/kWh, then they know the unit will cost around $463 annually in electricity usage costs (1932 kWh x $0.24).

Remember, such detailed labels will only be shown on models introduced after April 1, 2020. “For any air conditioning unit, regardless of release date, it pays to have a discussion with an experienced installer,” Mullane says.

“Having the right capacity for heating and cooling, for your location and space, is vital,” he says. “You don’t want to be installing a large system in a small area, and vice versa. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an overpowered or underpowered system, both of which will cost you more in the long run.”

Finally, Mullane recommends, ensure your air conditioner is serviced at the correct intervals, and clean the air filters every six months. This is typically a simple DIY process that involves removing the filters, hosing them off and leaving them out to dry before replacing them. If you’re not confident doing this yourself, it should be done as part of the regular service.

The right air conditioning system for your home, and for your local weather conditions, will save you hundreds of dollars annually. It will also result in less stress on the electricity grid on hot days. Now that’s a win/win.

Looking for more ways to be more energy efficient at your place?

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