How to buy the right air conditioner for your home

Interior Designer: Dasha Osadcha

With the hot weather that we are “blessed” with all year round, it’s little wonder why most of our homes need an air conditioner. But given the huge variety of options available in the market, choosing a good air conditioner for yourself can get bombarding, especially if it is your first time buying one.

So, here’s a quick 3-step guide to get you started on your air conditioner shopping.

Step 1: Know the types of air conditioners available

In general, there are 2 types of air conditioners available in the market — those that are permanently built-in v.s. those that are portable.

Portable air conditioners

As you might have guessed, portable ones are cheaper, more flexible and easier to install. But, they are limited in their air cooling capacity and also consume more floor space. So, if you’re intending to use the air conditioner for cooling a big room, you might want to avoid portable ones as they usually take longer to cool a place down. But, if you’re looking for a short-term commitment to combat the sweltering heat, then portable air conditioners might just be the answer for you.

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Built-in air conditioners

As the name suggests, built-in air conditioners are installed permanently either by the windows, at the top of a wall or through the ceiling. Due to the special installation works involved, built-in air conditioners are usually more expensive than the portable ones. However, many residential homes still prefer these as they look not only sturdier and neater, but also have a higher capacity to cool the place down faster.

Among the various types of built-in air conditioners available, split air conditioning systems are a hot favourite for homeowners. These systems comprise of one or more indoor air con units that are mounted onto the walls inside the house and are supported by an outdoor compressor unit. They are usually labelled and priced according to the number of indoor units (‘systems’) that the outdoor unit can support. So, if you buy a System 3 air conditioner, it means there will be one outdoor unit that will be supporting 3 indoor air con units.

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Step 2: Buy a good air conditioner that suits your needs

To buy a good air conditioner, simply ask yourself these questions:

Qn 1. How big is your space?

If the space that you want to cool down is a small room, portable air conditioners alone should work fine. Otherwise, you could go for split air conditioners, or even built-in central units to cool bigger spaces.

Qn 2. For how many rooms do you need air con?

The next thing to consider is the number of rooms that need air conditioning. For most residential homes where more than one room need air conditioning, split air con systems are hugely popular, mainly because you only need one outdoor unit to support and separately control as many indoor units as you like.

Qn 3. What’s your budget?

If you’re tight on budget or just simply need a quick temporary fix, then go for portable air conditioners, which typically costs between $500 to $1,000.  But, if you would rather spend on good quality and a longer lasting solution, built-in air conditioners like the split air con would work great. These air conditioners typically cost between $800 to $1,000 per system. i.e. if you need air conditioning in 3 bedrooms, you will need a System 3 air conditioner, which typically costs around $2,400 to $3,000.

Besides looking at the absolute cost of the air con, you should also consider:

  • Installation costs: Do check that the price quoted by the retailer includes installation fees. Installation fees may vary depending on the type of built-in air con as well i.e. window vs split vs centralised air con.
  • Warranty: Each individual air con units come with its own warranty terms. However, some air con retailers do offer additional warranty for the air cons they sell.
  • Serviceability: Uncommon and outdated air con brands may not be easy to repair, even for just minor fixes. So, before buying your air conditioner, check that maintenance services are readily available for your air con.
Interior Designer: Tamara Gavric

Qn 4. What are the air con specifications?

And of course, when buying your air conditioners, do check out its specifications: 

  • Energy efficiency rating
    The better the rating, the more you save on electricity bills. Find out more on how you can save with energy efficient appliances here.
  • Efficient distance
    This determines how far your air conditioning can work its wonders. This is particularly important if you are planning to use the air con to cool bigger spaces.
  • Air con insulation thickness
    Insulation pipes absorb water droplets that are formed due to condensation. The thicker the pipe insulation, the more resistant your air con is towards future leakages that occur due to condensation.
  • Noise level
    If you’re not a fan of noisy air cons, go for those with lower aircon sound pressure. The lower the decibels, the softer the noise the air con will create.

Aside from these basic specifications, also look out for other value adding features that many air conditioners offer e.g. dust-proofing, cooling retention effects. 

Interior Designer: Mahinaz Soliman

Step 3: Have your air con installed without issues

For all built-in air conditioners, you will need an air con specialist to have your air con installed for you. 

Before getting your air con installer down, finalise exactly where you want to install your air conditioner in each room, based on:

  • Your room’s space planning and your own lifestyle needs
    E.g. Ensure that the tall wardrobes are not blocking the flow of air from the air con.
  • The structure of your house
    For HDB flat dwellers, remember that HDB does not permit any drilling onto RC beams or walls. So, do not mount air con on walls that are marked as solid blocks / marked in dark colours on your floor plan. 
Plan your space before you call your air con installer down to set your air con up.

During the air con installation process, walls will get drilled. And, there will be debris and chunks of wall cement falling onto the floor. So, ensure that your air con specialist has either laid floor protection covers, or taken cautionary measures to protect the floors from the impact of the falling debris.

At the end of the air con installation, check that the walls are repaired nicely and that all the wires and pipes are concealed neatly. 

If you found this article useful, you may also like to find out how to choose the right flooring, lighting, sofa, and mattress for your home.

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