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Advice for your home

Reverse-Cycle Split System Air Conditioners FAQs

What is a reverse-cycle air conditioner?

A reverse cycle split system air conditioner provides an energy efficient alternative to traditional gas or electric heating and cooling systems.

Split systems are powered by electricity but are far more efficient and use far less energy than other systems. A reverse-cycle air conditioner can reach 300% to 600% efficiency. This means that it can take one unit of thermal energy and turn it into three to six times as much heating (or cooling) energy.

How does a split system work?

Reverse cycle split system air conditioners take air from outside and run it through a refrigerant to heat or cool the air before releasing it into your room. Certain units can even filter and dehumidify the air at the same time.

They have an outdoor compressor unit and at least one indoor condenser and evaporator unit. These units are connected by piping that is filled with refrigerant. On its default cooling setting, the reverse cycle air conditioner will draw in air from outside, cool it and release it into your home. On the heating setting, this is reversed to release warm air into your home.

What benefits does a reverse-cycle system provide?

As split systems use far less energy than any other heating/cooling technologies, it has far lower running costs and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

For those looking to find ways to reduce their bills and carbon footprint of their household – especially by creating an all-electric home – split system air conditioners are one of the best choices you can make.

Australia has high rates of hay fever and asthma, and many split reverse cycle air conditioner systems are able to purify the air while they cool or heat your house.

How can I save energy when using my reverse cycle air conditioning?

Here are some great tips for saving energy – and money – while using your reverse cycle air conditioner:

  • Set temperatures 2 degrees higher (or between 24 and 25 degrees)
  • Install curtains or blinds. Close windows and lower blinds early on hot days.
  • Keep your system in top shape. Clean the air filter regularly and get it serviced every couple of years.
  • On split systems, for heating adjust the louvres to release the air downwards. For cooling, adjust them to release the air upwards.
  • Close the doors to other rooms when trying to heat or cool one room.
  • Buying a new air conditioner? Choose one with more energy stars.

Can I set my split system on a timer?

High-quality reverse cycle system will have timers that allow you to run the unit at specific times. This allows you to operate it during off peak tariffs, or if you have rooftop solar, during daylight hours.

How much do they cost?

Depending on your needs, supplier, model, and eligibility for government rebates, split systems cost in the realm of $1,000 to $3,000. Given the wide range of prices, it is advisable to base your decision on a tailored quote.

It is worthwhile factoring running costs into any consideration of the expense involved in replacing your current heating and colling system. The upfront cost might soon be covered by the cheaper running costs of a split reverse cycle system.

How long will a reverse cycle air conditioner last?

This depends on the quality of the product, the system design, and whether it is well-maintained. The average lifespan is currently around 10-15 years with proper care and maintenance.

What rebates are available?

If you are replacing an inefficient heating and cooling system, you are likely to be eligible for VEECs (Victorian energy efficiency certificates) which your supplier will apply as a point of sale discount.

In Victoria, owner-occupiers who are holders of an approved concession card or have a combined household income of less than $90,000 may be eligible for a 50% rebate of up to $1000 from Solar Victoria and money off decommissioning outdated gas heaters, or upgrading a switchboard – if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Is it complicated to install?

Installing a reverse cycle air conditioner is generally no more complicated than installing any other HVAC system, provided the installer has the necessary skills and experience. However, it is important to consider the suitability of the proposed location for the system, ensuring there is an electricity source and a suitable air source. These factors depend partly on your property and the model your select. Ensuring you choose a trusted supplier is also key to a simple, stress-free installation.

Where can I find more information?

The experts at Renew have published an in depth article on reverse cycle air conditioning systems. There is also valuable information provided by Sustainability Victoria, Energy Rating, and certain commercial suppliers.