Split System Air Conditioner Review
Split System Air Conditioners are likely the most common air conditioners you will see in a home. They have been the default air conditioning system used by a majority of homes for decades.
There are many benefits and reasons why home owners choose Split System Air Conditioners.
In this post, we will take an in-depth review into split system air conditioning and it’s unique benefits, and also compare it to other air conditioning types. Such as Ducted Reverse Cycle and Evaporative air conditioners.
While split system air conditioners have many compelling benefits, it is not always the most suited air conditioner for a home.
Split System Air Conditioner – Overview
The Split System Air Conditioner comprise of an outdoor compressor and indoor wall hung units – commonly referred to as fan coils or wall units. The compressor generates the air and conditions it, and the fan units blow the conditioned air into a room or space in the home.
Split system air conditioning require a fan or wall unit to be installed into each room that requires air conditioning. As the wall units are rather obvious and at times, bulky, it is not the most discreet form of air conditioning. As compared to ducted air conditioning for instance.
Below, we will compare split system to other forms of air conditioning.
Split System Air Conditioner – Vs Other Air Conditioner Types
Besides Split System Air Conditioner, there are two other types of air conditioning. Namely, the Ducted Reverse Cycle and Evaporative Air Conditioners. Both types of air conditioners have their unique benefits and are ideally suited to different home layouts and usage models.
Ducted Reverse Cycle Air Conditioners
Ducted Reverse Cycle is a form of central air conditioning. It distributes conditioned air using ducting and vents installed into the roof wall and floor spaces of a home.
Unlike the split system air conditioner, there are no wall units. A ducted reverse cycle air conditioner comprises of an internal and external compressor unit, and a set of ducting and vents that help distribute the air.
The only visible part of ducted air conditioning are the air vents, which are usually unobstrusively installed flush into the ceiling and walls. For this reason, reverse cycle ducted air conditioners are very unobstrusive, and is highly popular with home owners that want a minimalist design to their home.
Like the split system air conditioners, ducted reverse cycle air conditioning is refrigeration-based, which means it cools air using a refrigerant and the process of refrigeration.
Evaporative Air Conditioners
Evaporative air conditioners are similar to ducted reverse cycle air conditioners in that it also uses ducts and air vents to distribute conditioned air. However, that’s where the similarity ends.
Unlike split system and ducted reverse cycle air conditioners, Evaporative air conditioners cool air using the natural process of evaporation. Warm air from a room is passed through damp cooled pads in the unit and blown out like a cool breeze.
It is this evaporative method of cooling that sets evaporative coolers apart from split system and ducted reverse cycles, which uses a refrigerative process.
Evaporative air conditioners produce air that is of a better quality and with a higher moisture content (due to the process of evaporation). While the air from refrigeration-based conditioners (ie. split system & ducted reverse cycle) is cold and crisp, air from an evaporative system feels like a comfortable, gentle breeze. It is easier to breathe and gentler on the skin.
Split System Air Conditioner Review – Features & Benefits
The Split System Air Conditioner has more features than other forms of air conditioning. The use of wall hung fan units actually allows manufacturers to incorporate many unique features into these wall units, which would not be possible with ducted or central air conditioning.
Below is a list of features commonly found in leading brands of split system air conditioners.
Most newer models of split system air conditioning comes with very high energy star ratings. This indicates that they operate with a high level of efficiency.
Energy efficient is first and foremost in the minds of many home owners, because the more efficient the air conditioner is, the lower it’s long term running cost.
In terms of running costs, split system air conditioners and ducted air conditioners are quite similar. Variations are usually due to the differing usage patterns of home owners.
However, the Evaporative air conditioner has the lowest running cost. Due to the fact that it is evaporative-based, and not refrigerative, evaporative air conditioning consumes far less power than split systems or ducted reverse cycle air conditioners.
Inverter technology allows the air conditioner to scale it’s power mode up or down, according to cooling or heating requirements of a room.
For example, if the room temperature has achieved the desired or preset level, the inverter kicks in and puts the air conditioner in low power mode. This low power mode consumes far less electricity. Conversely, if more cooling or heating is required, the inverter will scale up the power mode, generating more cold or warm air.
Recent models of both split system and ducted reverse cycle air conditioners come with Inverted technology. Originally invented by Toshiba, Inverted technology significantly increases the operating efficiency of air conditioners. Hence, lowering their power consumption.
All leading air conditioning manufacturers now feature inverter technology in their systems. Mitsubishi Electric, for example, has one of the most effective and efficient implementation of the inverter technology.
With recent advances in fan blade and grille designs, split system air conditioners have become very quiet during operation. Even when set to the highest mode, split system air conditioners emit very low levels of noise.
Most home owners do not like to have noisy air conditioners. Hence, all leading brands of air conditioners have invested heavily into producing air conditioners that function almost silently.
Central or ducted air conditioning, since they do not have fan units installed into rooms, are generally quieter in operation than split system air conditioners.
Split System wall units have movable parts (ie. fans) that will naturally generate a higher level of noise emission. However, this is almost unnoticeable to users.
Advanced Air Flow Controls
Since wall units are unique to Split System air conditioning, this feature is not found in ducted reverse cycle or evaporative air conditioning.
Advanced air flow controls have become a prominent feature found in Split System Air Conditioners. Through an advanced control panel, users can configure the air flow pattern of the split system air conditioners, producing a much more effective coverage pattern.
This means that users can “focus” the heating and cooling to certain areas of a room. Significantly increasing the comfort levels of a home.
A few newer models of Split System air conditioners come in sleek and colorful designs. Manufacturers like Samsung, Toshiba and Braemar, feature split system air conditioners in a variety of colours. Matched with very sleek wall units.
These sleek and beautiful wall units can actually add to the interior decor of a room or home. Some home owners leverage these designs wisely to create a elegant look and feel for their homes.
Reverse Cycle Heating & Cooling
Split System air conditioners come with Reverse Cycle function. This means that it can produce both hot and cold air. This is an important feature as it becomes an all-in-one climate control system for a home.
Reverse cycle split system air conditioners can keep your home warm in winter, and cold in summer.
A benefit to having reverse cycle is that it negates the need to install a separate gas heating system for your home. This represents significant cost savings for home owners.
Plasma Filter & Air Purifiers
Multi-layered Plasma filters and built-in air purifiers have also become a much demanding feature in Split System air conditioning. The reason for this is that home owners are becoming more health conscious, and demand better quality air for their homes.
Air conditioning manufacturers like Samsung, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, all have their unique complement of in-built air quality systems.
From multi-layered air filtration, to plasma filters to air ionisers, newer models of split system air conditioners are able to produce better quality air that’s cleaner and healthier to breathe.
These high quality air filtration and purifying systems remove contaminants from the air. Including common allergens, viruses, bacteria and even odours.
Intelligent 3D Sensors
This is another feature that only comes with Split System air conditioners. 3D sensors are installed into the wall units to detect ambient temperatures in a room.
These intelligent sensors determine where the people in a room usually position themselves, and the temperature in that area. If it detects that the temperature is colder then preset level, it will scale down the cooling power. Conversely, if it detects that more cooling is required, it will cause the air conditioner to scale up the cooling power.
This makes for a very comfortable experience as the air conditioner detects and responds according to the climate settings chosen by the user.
Advanced Diagnostics & Self Maintenance
Quite a few models of split system air conditioners come with advanced diagnostics and maintenance features. These allow an air conditioner to provide useful trouble-shooting indicators that help a service technician more efficiently identify any problems.
Trouble-shooting has often been cited as the most time consuming and costly component in the service and repair of air conditioners. Erroneously defining a problem can lead to repeat service calls, unnecessary expenses and prolonged frustrations for home owners.
Brands like Toshiba and Carrier have advanced self diagnostics features that makes repairs much easier.
Many models of split system air conditioners now also come with self cleaning and self maintenance features. The fan grille is constantly cleaned during use to minimise the build up of grime, which clogs up the grilles. These self cleaning features prolong the life cycle of air conditioners and make maintenance much easier.
All leading brands and models of split system air conditioners also come with advanced WiFi controls. Most manufacturers has downloadable iphone (iOS) and android apps, that allow a user to control almost every aspect of their air conditioning – remotely.
With these apps, users can configure the climate of their homes from anywhere, as long as there is an internet/wifi connection.
From power modes to temperature settings, timer functions and air flow controls, the wifi app allows full control over the air conditioning of a home.
Imagine being able to turn on the air conditioner in your living room 10 minutes before you reach home – on a hot summer day.
Split System Air Conditioner – Suitable For Your Home?
So is split system air conditioner a suitable choice for your home? It really depends on what you are after as a home owner. Some home owners are more concerned about features. Some, are more concerned about power efficiency. Depending on your own usage pattern and key considerations, your air conditioning needs will vary.
Having reviewed the common features of Split System Air Conditioners, let’s now evaluate them against other forms of air conditioners.
Split System Air Conditioner Review – Are They A Good Option?
There are certain scenarios whereby split system air conditioners are a better option than other types of air conditioning. And there are situations when a ducted reverse cycle or evaporative may be more suited.
Below are some considerations that may help you decide if split system air conditioners are ideal for your home.
The type of floor plan or layout of your home is an important consideration in determining the best type of air conditioning to install.
Since Split System Air Conditioners typically come with a compressor that serves 2-3 wall units, it is more suited for standard sized homes with say 2 or 3 bedrooms. You could order higher kW split systems that come with larger compressors and that are able to support more wall units. However, it is highly recommended not to overwork a compressor as it will decrease it’s lifecycle.
So there is a limitation to split system air conditioning. If you have a larger home, especially a multi-storeyed home, you may need to install multiple split systems. Maybe one to serve each level of your home. This means you will have more than one outdoor compressor, and 6 or more wall units installed.
In this scenario, installing split system may become cost prohibitive, as the upfront cost of installing multiple systems will be quite high.
Hence, for larger homes, central or ducted air conditioning may be more ideal. Ducted air conditioners distribute conditioned air via ducts which can be laid out easily throughout a home. Since these ducts are usually hidden in the roof or wall spaces, they are not visible and can reach the remote spaces in a home.
Ducted or central air conditioning only requires an external and an internal unit, and can serve an unlimited number of rooms through it’s network of ducts. You do not need to install wall units into each room.
Hence, if you have a large multi-storey home, the Ducted Reverse Cycle or Evaporative Air Conditioner may be more ideal. However, if you have a standard 3 bedroom home, Split System air conditioning may be an easy and more suitable option to install.
Is air quality important for you and your family? If so, Split System offers many air quality features and may hence be a good choice. You may even wish to consider an Evaporative System that produces more natural air that’s easier to breathe and gentler on the skin.
Many home owners nowadays have prioritised air quality above other features. This is especially true if there are family members who require cleaner air for health reasons. For instance, families with newborn babies, young children, or family members with respiratory sensitivities, may value better air quality.
Ducted Air Conditioning lack some of the more advanced air purification/ioniser features found in Split Systems. Many split system models now come with not just multi-layered filtration, but plasma and electronic air ionisers that produce much cleaner, healthier air.
Evaporative air conditioners take it a step further as it produces more natural air with higher moisture content. Since it does not use refrigeration to cool air, it produces air that’s like a natural breeze. Easier to breather and gentler on the skin.
So depending on your family’s requirements for air quality, you may decide that a split system is more suitable. Or even an evaporative system.
Upfront & Running Costs
If budget is your concern, then you will want to evaluate and compare the upfront and running costs between the various types of air conditioning.
Split System air conditioners take the middle ground in terms of costs. For a standard sized home, it is usually cheaper to install than ducted air conditioning.
With inverter technology and advanced power saving features, split system air conditioners have also achieved high levels of energy efficiency. Hence, in terms of running costs, it is usually slightly lower than central air conditioning.
While ducted air conditioning is more suited for larger homes and more complex layout, the upfront cost is also usually higher.
Depending on the kW size of the required system, and the extent of ducting, this upfront cost could be much higher than installing a split system. In terms of running costs, it again depends on your usage model and the number of zones you typically turn on concurrently. The more zones you use concurrently, the quicker the costs escalates.
The Evaporative air conditioner is comparative or slightly lower in cost to install, as compared to a ducted air conditioner. However, it has the lowest running cost of the three. In fact, running costs are a fraction of what you would pay to operate a ducted reverse cycle air conditioner. The lower cost is due to the use of evaporation, as opposed to a refrigerative process which uses much more power.
Split System Air Conditioner Review – Summary
Installing air conditioning, whether for your new or an existing home, is a big decision. Doing your own due diligence in researching and comparing your options prior to purchase will save you a lot of heartaches and unnecessary costs.
As you have seen above, there are many considerations involved in determining if Split System air conditioning is ideal for your home.
You will first need to consider your budget and how much you are willing to invest – both in terms of upfront and running costs. If budget is a key concern, a simple split system or evaporative air conditioner may go easier on your budget. Especially if you are going for the lowest running costs possible.
Sometimes, your home layout will dictate which type of air conditioning is required. Even ruling out certain types as it would just not be cost effective or possible to provide proper coverage for your entire home.
Performance and consumer features also have a big part to play in the decision making process. Factors such as air quality, comfort and maintenance will also vary your choices. A split system air conditioners typically offers a much wider spectrum of features and if you are feature-oriented, that may seem like a good option.
And finally, even interior decor may tip your scales in favor of a ducted air conditioner. Many home owners do not like the idea of bulky wall units on an otherwise minimalist looking home. For such owners, a ducted reverse cycle air conditioner will definitely be more suitable.
Before you decide whether to purchase a Split System Air Conditioner, make sure you consider all the above factors. And consult with a reputable air conditioning company.
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