How to choose an air conditioner without overpaying

Random fact: “Because of the cool, controllable environment that air conditioning provides, scientists have been able to create important medications and doctors have been able to cure various diseases. Thanks A/C!”

Choosing the best air conditioner can be a challenge. What size do you need? How much will it cost to run and how noisy will it be? We’ll help you find the right model for your home.

What type of air conditioner should I get?
For most homes, a reverse-cycle split-system air conditioner will be the best option. Let’s break down what that means.

Types of air conditioner and their costs
These have two parts: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit, connected by pipes containing refrigerant gas. They are the most common air conditioner type in Australia, and are good for a room or open plan area up to about 60m2. Price range: $600–$5500.

Similar to a split-system, but with one outdoor unit connected to two or more indoor units. Good for two or three rooms that are reasonably close together, especially when separate split-systems or a ducted system aren’t suitable. About the same price range as the equivalent separate split-systems.

These have a discreet central unit, usually located out of sight in your roof, connected by air ducts to air outlets and sensors in each room. Good for cooling and heating a whole house. See our ducted air conditioner buying guide for more details. Price range: $5000+ (can easily be $10,000 or more).

A single box unit, installed in a window or through an external wall. Good for rooms and open-plan areas of up to 50m2. Smaller units can be plugged into a normal power point; larger ones may need additional wiring. Not quite as efficient or effective as split-systems but a reasonable budget option if a split-system isn’t an option (for example if you’re renting). Price range: $400–$1100.

A single unit that can be moved from room to room as needed (but generally not easily). Most have a flexible duct that must be attached to a window to vent the heat outside. Good for rooms in households when a built-in option isn’t feasible (such as if you’re renting). Not as efficient as split-systems. See our portable air conditioner reviews. Price range: $300–$1300.