What To Know Before Buying An Air-Conditioner

August 4, 2017
BOOKMARK

Cover Image: U & Me Interior

A must-have in every Singaporean home, office, and basically anywhere indoors, we all know how to work an air-conditioner remote when the tropical heat gets too much to handle.

But when it comes to buying one? Not so simple. Let’s just say that the average homeowner isn’t as cool-headed about things. Whether it’s the number of systems, BTUs, decibels - it can all sound like Greek (or quantum physics). And bigger digits or fancier features surely mean better, right? Not always - it’s time to get up to speed and be a savvier air-con buyer! Check out our quick beginner’s guide to figuring out the best type of AC for your home.


Before You Buy: 3 Key Things You Should Know

Air-conditioning specs can sound like utter jargon. To clear up the air, do note these 3 important stats which you may encounter along the way whilst scouring the shops.

Air-Con Guide

Interior Designer: Absolook Interior Design

1. BTU (British Thermal Unit) / Capacity

The amount of heat your air-conditioner can remove from a given space, per hour. A bigger BTU/capacity means more powerful cooling, but more doesn’t always mean better in this case. Larger BTUs are usually used for bigger spaces that have more surface area to cool.

2. EER (Energy Efficiency Rating)

The amount of BTUs per hour used up for every watt of energy. Used to denote how efficient at cooling an air-conditioner is.

3. dB (Decibels)

The level of sound your air-conditioner makes. An average model will usually emit around 60 dBs - a loud as a face to face conversation.


What Types of Air-Conditioners Are On The Market?

There are many ways you can beat the sweltering heat. Here’s a breakdown on 4 commonly used systems you can find in the market for your home.

1. Window Air Conditioner

Air-Con Guide

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As its name suggests, window air-conditioners are single, standalone units usually installed by the windows. While they were a common sight in households back in the day (with split wall mounted systems taking over in popularity), window mounted air-conditioning is still better suited for homes that are shorter on space, and therefore cannot accommodate the connecting design of a split AC.

Pros:

  • Cheaper to install
  • Great for small spaces due to its all-in-one build
  • Easy to maintain and clean.

Cons:

  • Takes up a chunk of your window space
  • Will need to carve out a slot in the wall or window area to fit the unit.
  • Noisy, due to the built in compressor.

2. Split Air Conditioner

Air-Con Guide

Interior Designer: Dyel Design

The choice of many local homes these days, the sleek body of split air-conditioning systems are definitely a leap away from bulky, unglamourous window or central air-conditioners. This system includes an indoor and an outdoor component - a main compressor - which supports and transports cool air to the multiple units indoors. As a result, split systems are commonly categorised in ‘Systems’ which denote the number of indoor units to one main outdoor unit. So, if you see system 3 - that means 3 indoor units (usually 3 bedrooms) to one main compressor.

Pros:

  • Sleek design for indoor units
  • Despite sharing a main outdoor compressor, each air-conditioning unit can be individually controlled.
  • Are usually quieter than window air-conditioners, because the compressor is away from the unit.

Cons:

  • Much more costly - to purchase and install
  • And outdoor frame has to be installed to house the outdoor compressor unit
  • Wiring and piping works will have to be done to connect the satellite ACs in various bedrooms to the main AC.

3. Central Air Conditioner

Air-Con Guide

Interior Designer: Summerhaus D'zsign

Central ACs work great for cooling big buildings, offices and larger landed homes, simply due to it’s structure. Featuring a separate, larger compressor usually installed outdoors and a connected indoor furnace with pipes that transport and push cool air through vents, the central AC system has the ability to cool down an entire space evenly, rather than select areas as do window or split air-conditioners. Temperatures can then be controlled by a main thermostat.

Pros:

  • Consistent temperatures throughout a space.
  • More cost efficient for larger buildings rather than individual split or window AC units
  • Well concealed - uses vents instead of bulky units which may clog up a space.

Cons:

  • Still costly in terms of energy consumption
  • May require extensive renovation works to install (hacking walls, building of ducts)
  • Will require regular maintenance with heavy usage.

4. Portable Air Conditioner

Air-Con Guide

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If you want cool air, but don’t want the long term commitment and hassle of installation, a portable air-conditioner might just be the answer. It works similar to a mounted window AC, except has to be plugged into a power outlet, and that it can be moved around. Portable ACs will usually come with a window kit (window slider and exhaust hose) to transport hot air out of the room.

Pros:

  • Can be moved around - usually comes attached with wheels
  • Uses less energy than other built-in systems like central air-conditioning
  • Easy to set up and use

Cons:

  • Only useful for small areas
  • Take a longer time to cool a place
  • Not as energy efficient.

So, which air-conditioner type should you get?

There are a number of things to consider before you plunge into getting your air-conditioning fix.

Air-Con Guide

Interior Designer: 82

1. The Number of Rooms

If you’re planning to cool a:

  • Single room: Window or portable air-conditioner
  • Multiple rooms: Split air conditioning system (if space permits)
  • The whole house: Depending on your area size, you could consider getting larger split systems that accommodate more indoor units (like System 5). Or, if your home is on a larger scale, like a landed terrace with multiple stories, a central AC system would be better suited.
Air-Con Guide

Interior Designer: Third Avenue Studio

2. The Area Size You’re Planning To Cool

Now, here comes the math. Choosing between window, split or portable units may prove a little tough especially if you’re planning to install only for a single room or two. To determine the best type of air-conditioning for you, you’ll need to calculate the area of your room and find the cooling capacity that matches your area size based on the chart below.

Air-Con Guide

Image Credit: Energy Star

For instance, a typical HDB flat bedroom usually requires about 9,000 BTU worth of cooling capacity.

To put it simply, if you want something more powerful than the usual 9,000 BTU capacity for your room - consider a, portable AC unit which come with higher BTUs like 12,000 or 14,000.


Other Considerations

On top of the basics covered earlier, there are still a couple more considerations that need to be made.

Air-Con Guide

Architect: TENarchitects

Amount of Space You Have:

If you are looking for a single room cooling unit that doesn’t eat up much of your usable space, you would want to think about using a split unit rather than a window unit. Of course, that also depends if your home is able to accommodate a separate outdoor compressor unit.

Noise Levels

Need a recording studio level silence for a good night’s sleep? Ditch the window or portable ACs which are on the noisier side and go for split ones. Some models are as quiet as 19 dB - more quiet than a sound studio.

Installation Costs (and Effort)

You might also want to evaluate the amount of effort needed to install an air-conditioner. Split and wall-air conditioners are more labour intensive to install, and you may require a professional's help if you are not familiar with the installation process.


Check Out These Units:

Window Air Conditioner: LG Window AC (9000 BTU)

Air-Con Guide

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With a capacity of 9000 BTU, LG’s window air-conditioner is a sufficient alternative for cooling your bedroom. Using an eco-friendly R410A Refrigerant, the compact unit features 4-way front louvres that are able to push out cool air horizontally and vertically, and comes with complimentary installation and dismantling for HDBs.

Buy Now: $680, Lazada


Portable Air Conditioners: Akira ACP-123C Portable Air Con

Air-Con Guide

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This 12,000 BTU portable model which is suitable for medium and large rooms come with a handy remote control, and (the best part!) features a built-in self-evaporating system that drains away any condensation without the need of a drain pipe. Plus, this portable AC includes a 5-year warranty, all at a pocket-friendly price.

Buy Now: $499, Lazada

Split Air Conditioners: Mitsubishi Air Con SRK35ZMA - S System 3

Air-Con Guide

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A popular choice for air-conditioning systems, Mitsubishi’s System 3 air cons come with a slew of nifty features, such as 24-hour negative ion diffusion (to help clear mould, bacteria and dust), and self-cleaning option to reduce mold inside the unit. Apart from the standard 9,000 BTU capacity, buyers can opt for a complimentary upgrade to 12,000 BTU for more cooling power.

Buy Now: $2,650, Lazada

Hey there - just so you know, Qanvast receives a share of sales when you choose to click and purchase any independently curated Lazada and Amazon product picks listed in this article. Prices listed are accurate as of 4 August 2017.


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