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Ultimate Air Conditioning Systems Buyer Guide

Air Conditioning Systems REEF AIR

Ultimate Air Conditioning Systems Buyer Guide

Are you thinking about adding an air conditioning system to your office or home? There is so much jargon out there that it can leave you feeling confused making your choice of air conditioning systems and models very overwhelming.  In this article, we share the knowledge that Scott Brophy from Reef Air Conditioning, Sunshine Coast has gained from many years working in the industry. We will run through different kinds of air conditioning systems available, the way they work, and also which of them will be best suited to your needs.


In Australia, three of the most common types of air conditioning systems are:

1. Wall hung split system

A typical split system air conditioner contains two units – one unit outside unit which is the compressor part of the system, and one unit inside which is the air outlet (wall hung unit). You can also have a what is called a multi split system where multiple units indoors (from two up to six) are connected and run off a single unit outside.  Reverse cycle split air conditioning systems (systems that can cool as well as heat) are very popular with customers as they can be used all throughout the year, cost the least amount to run and are also whisper quiet.

How a split system works: The indoor and outdoor units are linked together using pipes that circulate refrigerant. While the unit indoors is blowing cool air, the unit outdoors dispels any heat from the area being cooled.

Strengths: Your desired area can be both cooled down or warmed up; installation options are flexible; easiest of all the air conditioning systems to install; little or no change required to your existing structures design

Weaknesses: Can cool or heat a small – medium size room only; and you’re limited to a maximum of six individual wall hung units for each outdoor unit

Average costs (installation included): $1,000 to $5,000+

2. Evaporative ducted air conditioning systems

These systems consist of a cooling unit mounted externally on a roof which is then connected via a ducting system which will distribute the cool air to multiple vents placed strategically throughout a home or office structure

How an evaporative ducted system works: These systems operate by using evaporation to make the air cool. They draw hot air into a cooler which will pass the air through a series of pads moistened with water. The hot air evaporates the water and subsequently absorbs the heat and cools the air. The cool air is then blown through the ducted vents into the building

Strengths: Can cool your entire dwelling; lower operating costs than a refrigerated air conditioning system; and no wall mounted unit required indoors

Weaknesses: Not as effective operating in humid areas (not suitable for NT and North QLD); needs a large amount of fresh air flowing through the dwelling so internal air can escape, therefore, good ventilation is vital; and normally only able to cool a desired area (no heat)

Average costs (installation included): $4,000 to $8,000+

3. Refrigerated ducted air conditioning systems

These consist of a concealed indoor unit, located in either the ceiling or beneath the floor, as well as an outdoor unit connected to a ducting system, which then distributes cool air through vents placed strategically throughout the dwelling.

How refrigerated ducted air conditioning systems work: They have a series of indoor & outdoor coils which are connected via a pipe containing refrigerant which circulates through the pipes. The refrigerant will absorb heat as the air passes over the coil inside. It then expels any heat through the coil outside.

Strengths: Can cool or heat an entire dwelling; filters the internal air, so is very allergy friendly; will work well in humid areas and allows the homeowner more control, irrespective of the weather outside; and no wall mounted unit required indoors

Weaknesses: Doors and windows will need to be closed when system is in use; and more expensive costs upfront

Average costs (installation included): $6,000 to $14,000+

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Inverter technology

Air conditioning systems that have ‘inverter’ technology included are particularly desirable, as they operate much more efficiently than a non-inverter system.

An inverter will give you a more even room temperature as it continuously regulates the temperature, removing the well-known temperature fluctuations that fixed-speed air conditioning systems can produce. An inverter system is around 30% more efficient compared to a fixed-speed unit. Inverter systems are quicker at reaching the required room temperature, are quieter and have lower operating costs. Sharp load fluctuations are eliminated as the temperature is continuously regulated. This reduces wear and tear on parts resulting in a more reliable and durable system.  An inverter system may initially cost more than a fixed-speed air conditioner, but the lower running costs moving forward will easily balance out the difference overall.

Installation and ongoing costs

To make the most from an economic point of view, you would be wise to consider both cost factors when looking at air conditioning systems – the initial purchase and installation price and the continuing running costs.  You may find the option with the cheapest upfront cost, like wall hung split systems, can end up costing you more in the long run if you are using them to cool your entire building or home.


Air conditioning systems that work solely to keep you cool can still be purchased, the majority of systems now come with dual functionality that can heat your home, too. A reverse-cycle system can end up cheaper than spending extra money on two individual units and will help to keep your cooling and heating costs down.


What size area you wish to cool determines the amount of power you’ll need and also the system type that will best suit your needs. Is your cooling area a small room or is it open-plan living space? It is crucial to know the size as well as the type of space you wish to cool. A system that is too small to meet your needs will end up overworked and less efficient. But you can also reduce your air conditioning systems efficiency and increase running costs if it is too powerful.

If you have multiple rooms that you need to cool, then you should look closer at systems that have zoning.  These allow different temperatures to be set for different spaces.

Your location

Where you live can affect the operation of certain systems. Let’s say you are in a more tropical, humid location in Northern Australia.  An evaporative cooling system would not suit this environment and would be much less efficient. It is also imperative you check that the temperature range of the system is appropriate for the climate in your area, especially if your area experiences extreme weather conditions. Make sure you don’t buy a system that can only operate to a maximum 42 degrees if temperatures in your area can reach higher.

The details

Beyond the critical considerations above, Scott Brophy from Reef Air Conditioning, Sunshine Coast suggests contacting Reef Air to ask an air conditioning specialist these questions to help you make your decision:

  • What is included with the warranty?
  • Are replacements parts easily sourced if it does break down?
  • Is a simple remote supplied, and is there an available smartphone app?
  • Will the system be suitable for a person with asthma?
  • How much electrical power does the system require?
  • What level is any operating noise (dB) and could my neighbours be affected?
  • Are there any manufacturer promotions or similar cash back incentives?

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Eco-friendly solutions

Australia’s air conditioning use has increased exponentially, and, as such, more people are on the lookout for eco-friendly air conditioning solutions. Some of the available options are solar-powered air conditioning systems, ice battery power or geothermal heat pumps. We’re still a few years away from these becoming an everyday option, but, considering the advancements with inverter technology as well as the new R32 refrigerants, todays air conditioners are still some of the most eco-friendly and efficient systems available.

Wi-fi control

Wi-fi control is common with many systems these days, enabling your units to be controlled from anywhere using an app and internet connection. This ability can assist with keeping running costs low as it provides you with current energy use information, along with the capability to control the air conditioner (on/off etc) when you’re away from home.

Built-in room sensor

This feature will detect motion of people within a room which helps deliver optimum temperature control and efficiency by saving running costs. If an area is vacated, the sensor switches the air conditioner to energy saving mode once no motion has been detected after 20 minutes. Normal operation will resume when someone re-enters the area and the sensor detects movement.

Air filter

Many major brands manufacture air filters that are able to eliminate odours and germs from the surrounding air making a much healthier home.

Sleep timer

This feature is particularly useful if you prefer to sleeping with your air conditioning off.
A sleep timer means you can programme your air conditioner to turn off and on, so it will do this automatically.

Built-in dehumidifier

This feature will reduce condensation and moisture.

Mosquito trap

There are some models with speakers that are able to generate ultrasonic waves that will repel mosquitoes.

Costs and prices stated in this article are estimates and should be used as a guide only. They also vary locally and are subject to market forces.

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