Considering Australia’s diverse weather conditions, from scorching summers to bitterly cold winters, the key to maintaining a comfortable living environment is selecting the right air conditioner for your home. On average, operating a standard 2.5kW air conditioning unit costs around 22 cents per hour. The significant energy consumption and associated costs of air conditioning in Australian households underscore the importance of making an informed choice.

Beyond the financial aspect, the environmental impact is noteworthy. While air conditioning provides relief from uncomfortable temperatures, it also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, thereby fuelling climate change. Given these considerations, choosing an energy-efficient air conditioning system is crucial for reducing carbon emissions. To help you simplify the decision-making process, we’ve compiled a quick guide to choosing an energy-efficient air conditioning system for your home.


Split-system air conditioning

Split-system air conditioners are a popular choice for their versatility and energy efficiency. This system consists of an indoor unit that delivers cool air and an outdoor unit that dissipates heat, providing an effective solution for cooling individual rooms or smaller open-plan areas in your home.


The benefits of split systems for energy efficiency

Split systems have various benefits that contribute to their energy efficiency. For example, their ductless design eliminates energy loss associated with traditional ducting, ensuring that cool air reaches its destination directly.

Inverter technology is another key feature, allowing the system to adjust compressor speed based on cooling requirements, ultimately leading to reduced energy consumption. With split systems, you not only gain control over the temperature but also benefit from the unit efficiently managing the overall cooling process.


Factors to consider when choosing a split-system



  1. The Energy Rating or ‘Star Rating’: This metric illustrates the system's energy efficiency and performance, with a higher number of stars indicating that the product will use less energy. You can use the energy rating label to compare the energy efficiency and running costs of different air conditioners.
  2. Cooling Capacity & Sizing: Another important factor to consider is ensuring that the cooling capacity matches the space. An undersized system will struggle to cool the space effectively, leading to increased energy consumption. Conversely, an oversized system may cycle on and off frequently, wasting energy. We recommend consulting with an air conditioning specialist for optimum performance.
  3. Inverter Technology: Units with inverter technology come with variable speed operation. This functionality enables the compressor to adjust its speed based on cooling needs, preventing frequent starts and stops. As a result, this not only leads to energy savings but also ensures a more stable, efficient cooling process.
  4. Smart Features & Programmable Thermostats: These features provide remote control and scheduling options, allowing you to optimise energy usage based on your lifestyle and preferences. With the ability to set temperature settings based on occupancy, you can create personalised cooling schedules, ensuring efficient operation when needed and conserving energy during periods of reduced activity. This contributes to cost savings and a more environmentally conscious approach to home climate control.
  5. Noise Levels & Outdoor Unit Placement: Choose a model that operates quietly to maintain a relaxed atmosphere at home. Also, proper placement of the outdoor unit is crucial for maintaining energy efficiency. Installing it in a well-ventilated area with sufficient airflow and minimal obstructions ensures optimal heat dissipation, preventing energy waste and maximising the system's efficiency.

Tips for maximising energy efficiency of split systems

  • Regular Maintenance & Filter Cleaning: Ensure optimal airflow to improve energy efficiency, as clogged filters restrict airflow, causing the system to work harder and consume more energy. Regular cleaning or replacing air filters will help maintain peak performance for your air conditioner.
  • Proper Insulation & Sealing: Well-insulated spaces play a vital role in preventing cool air from escaping and hot air from entering. This reduces the strain on the air conditioner, minimising energy waste and contributing to enhanced efficiency.
  • Utilising Zoning & Timers: Adopting zoning technique allows for targeted cooling of specific areas or rooms based on need, rather than cooling the entire house. Incorporating timers enables you to schedule the system’s operation when necessary, such as occupied hours, effectively reducing energy waste and optimising overall cooling efficiency.


Evaporative coolers

Evaporative coolers work by drawing in outdoor air and passing it over water-saturated pads, cooling the air through evaporation. They’re effective in hot and dry climates with relatively low humidity, offering an energy-efficient alternative to traditional air conditioners.


The benefits of evaporative coolers for energy efficiency

Evaporative coolers are known for their energy efficiency, making them an excellent alternative to refrigerated air conditioners. Unlike traditional air conditioning units, evaporative coolers don’t rely on compressors or refrigerants for cooling — instead, they depend purely on water and the natural process of evaporation.

In evaporative coolers, water undergoes evaporation within the cooler's pads. As warm air passes through these pads, it cools down through the process of evaporation. Unlike the energy-intensive refrigeration cycle used in conventional air conditioners, this process generates significantly less greenhouse gas emissions.

Evaporative coolers also deliver a refreshing, cool environment. As they operate, they add moisture to the air, creating a comfortable humidity level. This makes them especially well-suited for areas with dry climates. The combination of energy efficiency, affordability, and improved humidity levels positions evaporative coolers as a smart choice for those seeking efficient and eco-friendly cooling solutions.


Factors to consider before taking the plunge with an evaporative cooler



  1. Airflow & Cooling Capacity: Ensure that the unit can deliver an adequate volume of air to cover the designated area, promoting more efficient and effective cooling.
  2. Water Consumption & Water Management Systems: Look for models that offer water-saving features like adjustable water flow controls or water management systems that recycle or minimise water usage. This promotes both environmental sustainability and cost savings.
  3. Size & Installation Considerations: Choose an evaporative cooler that is appropriately sized for your space, considering factors like the room's dimensions and the local climate conditions.
  4. Maintenance Requirements: Look for features that facilitate easy maintenance and cleaning, such as accessible and removable pads, filters, or water reservoirs. These simplify the maintenance process, allowing for hassle-free operation and guaranteeing the longevity and efficient functioning of the cooler.


Tips for maximising energy efficiency of evaporative coolers

  • Utilising Cross-Ventilation & Night Purging: Strategically open windows and doors for cross-ventilation, allowing fresh air to flow throughout the space. Take advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures by implementing night purging, which involves opening windows during the night to expel stale air and bring in cool outdoor air.
  • Regular Cleaning & Maintenance: Regularly clean and maintain the cooling pads and filters to ensure optimal performance. Over time, mineral deposits and debris can accumulate, affecting airflow and cooling efficiency.
  • Proper Adjustment of Fan Speed & Water Flow: Achieving a balance between cooling effectiveness and energy efficiency is essential. Higher fan speeds can increase cooling power but consume more energy, while lower speeds are more energy-efficient but may provide less cooling. Similarly, adjusting water flow to find the right balance is crucial for maintaining optimal cooling performance while minimising water usage. Experimenting to discover the appropriate settings for your needs will help optimise both cooling and energy efficiency.


Star-rated zoned air conditioning units

Star-rated zoned air conditioning units offer a combination of energy efficiency and customisable comfort. These units allow you to independently control the temperature in different zones of your home. Energy-efficient cooling is achieved by dividing your home into separate zones and allowing for precise temperature control in each area.


The benefits of star-rated zoned air conditioning for energy efficiency

Star-rated zoned air conditioning systems allow for customised temperature control, cooling only the required areas. This targeted or “precision cooling” approach reduces energy consumption by avoiding unnecessary cooling. Plus, you have the capability to set the temperature in each zone, ensuring satisfaction for everyone in the family.

By efficiently distributing the cooling load, zoned air conditioning reduces strain on the system, thereby extending its lifespan.


Factors to consider when choosing a star-rated system



  1. Energy Star Rating & Energy Efficiency Features: Prioritise units with high energy star ratings and energy-saving features. These ratings and features indicate the system's energy efficiency, helping you to maximise energy savings and reduce the impact of emissions.
  2. Zoning Capabilities & Flexibility: Ensure the zoned air conditioning system has the necessary zoning capabilities and flexibility to create multiple zones. This allows for personalised temperature control in different areas, optimising comfort, and energy efficiency by only cooling required spaces.
  3. Proper Sizing & Load Calculation: Each zone's cooling load should be accurately calculated to match the system's capacity, ensuring that the right amount of cooling is delivered to each zone without energy waste.
  4. Integration with Smart Thermostats & Home Automation: This integration enables convenient and efficient control, allowing you to adjust temperature settings, create schedules, and monitor energy usage remotely.


Tips for maximising energy efficiency

  • Setting Appropriate Temperature Zones Based on Room Usage: Adjust the temperature settings higher in unoccupied or lesser-used rooms, such as guest bedrooms or storage areas, to avoid unnecessary cooling or heating. This targeted approach ensures that cooling is directed where needed, minimising energy waste.
  • Utilising Timers & Occupancy Sensors: Set timers to adjust temperature settings automatically when everyone is out or asleep. Occupancy sensors can detect activity in a room and adjust the temperature accordingly, ensuring that cooling is provided only when the room is occupied.
  • Regular Maintenance & Airflow Adjustments: Clean or replace air filters regularly, check for any obstructions or blockages, and inspect the condition of the cooling pads or other components. We recommend adjusting airflow settings to ensure balanced and optimal cooling distribution across all zones.


Gateway’s pocket & planet

Amidst growing environmental concerns and escalating energy costs, making a well-informed decision not only ensures personal comfort but also contributes to minimising carbon footprints and reducing operating expenses. Something as simple as energy-efficient air conditioners can help achieve a balance between comfort and sustainability in your home.

To find out more about Gateway’s Pocket & Planet purpose, visit our Pocket & Planet page. Discover more information on Gateway’s range of eco initiatives, products, and blogs, all designed to help our members’ pockets and the planet.