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Buyer’s Guide to Air Conditioners
The hot summer’s near and it’s time to turn the A/C on. If you’re buying an air conditioner for the first time or need to replace your ancient model, here’s a checklist of what to look for
By Carlos Gonzales
Thirty four degrees Celsius is not “warm.” It’s the “Sahara Desert.” Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but summer nights can be awfully hot. Electric fans just won’t do it and if you’re still keeping your decrepit 80s- or 90s-era air conditioner, you’ll wonder if it has miraculously transformed into a heater or at least a glorified blower.
The average life expectancy of an air conditioner is around 10 years, after which it starts having more problems. The longer you hold on to it, the less sense to have it fixed since repairing it may not be cost-effective and will likely not do much good in the long haul. You might as well buy a new unit that’s much more energy efficient and will last a longer time.
So whether you’re replacing a unit or buying for the first time, there are five things you should consider:
Air conditioners come in at least four types: window, split, centralized, and portable. Your choice depends on your space requirements and budget.
Window: This is the most common type for home use, particularly for small rooms, installed through a window or a hollow area of a wall. Pros: ideal for small rooms, relatively inexpensive, and easy to install. Cons: a bit unsightly, can’t handle big spaces.
Split system: A notch above window types are split systems, which come in either as a package (no outdoor components, but take up room space) or in separate components (indoor and outdoor). They can also be wall mounted, floor mounted, or ceiling suspended. A variant is a multi split system, which is similar to a split system except one outdoor component powers multiple indoor parts, thus is able to cool the entire house instead of just one room. Pros: cools bigger space better, sleek and compact design, quieter. Cons: more expensive, require professional installation.
Central ducted: A centralized system uses an indoor unit linked to an outdoor compressor unit that pumps cool air through flexible ductwork around your house. Pros: efficient, quiet, cools entire house. Cons: most expensive type, difficult to install.
Portable: The newer portable air conditioners can be rolled around the house. Pros: portable, cheaper, consume less energy, simple to install. Cons: less powerful, can’t be a substitute for standard types.
For most homes, a window type or split system is sufficient. But if you have a big house, centralized air conditioning may be a better option. For living rooms and kitchens, a portable unit will suffice.
The most crucial factor to consider when buying an A/C is its size, which should be based on how big your room is. If it’s too small for your room, it will not be cool enough and your air conditioner has to work harder, thus consuming more energy and jacking up your electricity bill. If it’s too large, it may cool your room fast but it will feel damp and humid since there isn’t enough time to remove moisture. There are generally three sizes for window and split type units:
Small: For rooms smaller than 25 sq.m. Horsepower: 1.0 HP or below unit. Capacity: 8,440 to 10,550 kJ/hr (kilojoules per hour).
Mid-sized: For rooms between 25 and 44 sq.m. Horsepower: 1.5 or 2.0 HP. Capacity: 12,661 to 22,156 kJ/hr.
Large: For rooms between 50 and 72 sq.m. Horsepower: 2.5 or 3.0 HP unit Capacity: 24,266 to 35,872 kJ/hr.
For most rooms, small- and mid-sized air conditioners are enough. Aside from the room area, you should also take into account factors like ceiling height, other appliances, natural light, number of occupants, and adjust the required cooling capacity and horsepower accordingly.
This is what sales people will highlight to differentiate their models from competitors. So what exactly should you look for?
Inverter: This automatically adjusts the fan and motor speed of the A/C to cool down rooms quickly and more efficiently as well as maintain a constant temperature, which can save on power consumption. Models with inverters are a little more expensive but they can save 30%-50% in electricity.
Energy Savers: Look for a set of operating modes that help save energy usage, such as a timer, sleep mode, energy saving mode, auto restart, and the like.
Air Direction: You’re A/C is installed usually at either side of a wall, rarely at the center, so you need to direct airflow toward one side. Look for a model that has air flow control steps, air direction control, and a remote control.
Purifiers: Newer models have the ability to filters dirt and dust particles (even germs) to purify the air in the room as well as remove odors.
Dehumidifier: Removes some the humidity in the room without having to cool the room, so this should
There are other extra features that may appeal to you. Just remember that the more functions there, the more expensive.
Don’t just look for the initial purchase price but the total cost of ownership. The critical aspect is efficiency, which affects electricity consumption. What you should look for is an Energy Star rating, expressed in EER (energy efficiency ratio), which indicates how good an air conditioner is at turning electricity into cooling. For every point difference in EER, you save 10% in electricity cost. Air conditioners manufactured after October 2000 should have at least a 9.7 EER. To get the yellow Energy Star label, the unit must have a 10.7 EER.
Many air conditioners are noisier than your snoring spouse, which makes sleeping a bigger challenge. So if you’re a light sleeper, look for a unit that runs quietly in the background, not blaring scandalously. Some models indicate their low and high indoor and outdoor noise levels in decibels (dB). The lower the number, the quieter it is.
[note: please save space for this table]
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