Summer is a season most people find themselves in love-hate relationship with. While some absolutely love the fact that they no longer need to wear layers of clothes to keep themselves warm and they can wear their favorite T-Shirt and shorts to almost every place except their workplace. Others, on the other hand, hate summer with all their being. They can’t stand being constantly drenched in sweat and/or get skin rashes due to it.
No matter on which side of the spectrum a person belongs to, when the temperature rises above 40 degree Celsius, even the most cool headed person finds himself in distress and looks out for ways to keep himself and his home cool and that is when an Air Conditioner comes to the rescue.
Now, if you are a frequent visitor to the posts on this blog, you might be probably aware that we take each topic from the grass root level and we will do the same with this post as well. We will begin with the basics first, understand how the Air Conditioner works, after that we will discuss about the various types of air conditioners available in the market with their pros and cons, then we will move on to discuss how some brands cut costs and manufacture below par products that are very inefficient in keeping the temperatures down and hence you always find yourself soaked in sweat even when the air conditioner is running and then we will proceed onto deciding which type of air conditioner would be the best for you, according to your needs.
You might be glad to know that my father works at a company that manufactures home appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners, kitchen chimneys, washing machines etc. So at home, we frequently have a conversation about commercial appliances, what goes into making them, how brands try to do cost cutting etc.
Today, I’ll try my best to pass on the knowledge that I have acquired from my father over the years, to you so as to help you make a good buying decision.
So without further a do, let’s begin…
An Air conditioner works on a law of physics, which states that when a liquid converts into a gas, it absorbs heat. This process is also known by the term Phase Conversion. The air conditioner uses chemicals known as refrigerant that converts from liquid state to gaseous state quickly. The refrigerant is responsible for transferring the inside heat of the house to outside.
The air conditioner unit comprises of three parts, namely,
- The Compressor
- The Condenser
- The Evaporator
While the evaporator of the air conditioner unit is inside your room, the compressor and the condenser lie in the outer part of the unit and hence outside the room.
The evaporator contains the refrigerant that absorbs the heat from the surroundings and turn into vapor state. The vaporized refrigerant then passes from the evaporator to the compressor which compresses the vapor to a state of higher temperature and pressure. From the compressor, the pressurized gas flows into the condenser which rapidly cools off the pressurized gas back into liquid state that flows back into the evaporator. A blower pushes air past the cold evaporator to chill the air and blow it back into the room.
This process is repeated over and over until the desired set temperature is reached after which the thermostat turns off the process of air conditioning until the room temperature rises beyond the desired temperature and the thermostat starts the air conditioning process once again.
(Image of Working of an Air Conditioner)
Having learnt how an air conditioner unit works, let’s proceed to learn the different types of air conditioners that are available in the market along with the Pros and Cons of each type.
- Window Air Conditioner
- Split Air Conditioner
- Central Air Conditioner
Out of these three, the Window and the Split air conditioners are the most widely used air conditioners for home and small offices.
Window Air Conditioner
These are the most common and popular air conditioners for cooling single rooms. In this type of air conditioners, all the three components i.e the evaporator, the compressor and the condenser are enclosed in a single box and the entire unit is installed in a window.
- Lesser cost. As compared to the split and central air conditioning units, the window air conditioning unit costs less and thus is the preferred choice for majority of buyers who require to cool single rooms.
- Lesser energy consumption. Since these air conditioners are designed to cool single rooms, only the room that needs to be cooled needs to have the air conditioner turned on, thus saving electricity and hence lesser electricity bills.
- Ease of installation and portability. These air conditioners are manufactured as a single unit and hence are easy to install and remove. When changing homes, all the window air conditioners of the home can be transported to the new place just in a mini-loading vehicle.
- Uneven cooling. Window air conditioners don’t circulate the air inside the room with as much efficiency as the split or central air conditioners do. What this results in is, some areas of the room get freezing cold, some remain warm and some are just appropriately cool.
- Gap between the air conditioner and the window. There are always some minute gaps that remain uncovered after installation of the unit in the window which lead to the inlet of the outside heat thus impacting the cooling efficiency of the air conditioner.
- Operating noise. The compressor and the condenser unit generates noise when in operation. Since the entire air conditioning unit comes in a single box, the noise generated is imparted to the room in which the unit is installed.
(Image of Window Air Conditioner)
Split Air Conditioner
Unlike the window air conditioners that are manufactured as a single unit, the split air conditioners comprise of two units, the outdoor unit and the indoor unit.
The outdoor unit, fitted outside the home comprises of the compressor and the condenser while the indoor unit comprises of the evaporator.
- No restriction on place of installation. This is probably the biggest selling point of split air conditioners. Unlike the window air conditioners, split air conditioners do not require a window or a hole in the wall to be installed. The outdoor unit can be placed a long way from the indoor unit and require just a small hole in the wall to connect the outdoor and the indoor unit through a tube.
- Low operating noise. Since the compressor and the condenser unit that generate noise while operating are installed away from the indoor unit, the noise levels inside the room are extremely low and hence one can have a sound sleep.
- Energy efficient. Split air conditioners are more energy efficient than window air conditioners as there are no gaps or crevices that occur during the installation through which the outside hot air can seep inside the room and hence they cool the room faster and the coolness is maintained for longer.
- Higher initial cost. The upfront cost of split air conditioners is higher than that of window air conditioners, though the running cost and cost over the long run of split air conditioners is lesser than window air conditioners as they are more energy efficient than the window air conditioners.
- Require professionals for installation. Unlike the window air conditioners, split air conditioners need to be installed by the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) professionals for validation of warranty and ensuring safe installation.
(Image of Split Air Conditioner)
Inverter technology in Split Air Conditioner
Nowadays, most manufacturers of split air conditioners make use of inverter technology (DC) in their high end products. In traditional air conditioners, the compressor runs for as long as the user’s desired temperature is not reached and once that temperature is reached, the compressor completely stops until the temperature of the room rises by a few degrees. Once the temperature of the room rises, the compressor once again comes into action.
However, in an inverter air conditioner, the compressor does not run at full blast as soon as the air conditioner is turned on, rather it runs at varied speeds to bring down the temperature of the room. The speed of the compressor depends upon the existing temperature of the room and the desired temperature set by the user. Since the compressor runs at varied speeds and runs for the entire time the air conditioner is turned on, it does not use a lot of power at once. Hence the inverter technology helps to reduce the electricity bills.
On the down side, the split air conditioners that come with inverter technology tend to have a higher initial cost than the regular ones. Therefore, if the air conditioner running time is greater than three to four hours per day, then it would be wise to invest in an inverter air conditioner. For lesser running times, the regular air conditioners do the job just fine.
Central Air Conditioner
These type of air conditioners finds its use in cooling large places, to name them :- movie halls, large office buildings, hotels etc.
Central air conditioners are the preferred choice in these places as installing individual units in each room would be extremely expensive and even the cooling would be uneven. Central air conditioners comprise of a high capacity compressor that has the capacity to cool several rooms at once.
- Temperature is maintained all year long. This is the biggest positive aspect of centralized cooling. These air conditioners can be used both in summer for cooling and in winter for heating the space.
- Purified air. Central air conditioning also ensures that the air that is circulated inside the building is filtered and free of any allergens and harmful gases, though for purification to efficiently take place, filters need to be changes regularly and the ducts need to be cleaned at least twice a year.
- Very high installation and maintenance cost . Central air conditioners are costly to own and use. Also, they require frequent maintenance and cleaning to ensure that mold and fungus do not form inside the ducts and lead to health issues and allergies.
- Higher electricity bills. Central air conditioners are heavy on electricity consumption and thus their running cost is higher than the window and split air conditioners.
(Image of the outdoor unit of Central Air Conditioner)
In general, if one is looking for cooling homes and individual rooms, window and split air conditioners offer the most value for money. Central air conditioners, on the other hand are best for large spaces.
Having analyzed the various types of air conditioners, let’s proceed to decide what cooling capacity should you look for in an air conditioner depending upon the room size in which the air conditioner needs to be installed.
- For a room of area between 120 to 160 square feet, 1 ton air conditioner will sufficiently cool the room.
- For a room of area between 160 to 200 square feet, one should go for a 1.5 ton air conditioner for adequate cooling.
- For a room of area between 200 to 260 square feet, a 2 ton air conditioner would meet all your room cooling needs. If your room size demands to have a 2 ton air conditioner, split air conditioner should be your preferred choice as window air conditioners are inefficient in cooling a room of such a large size.
Now let’s proceed to discuss the ways by which some manufacturers cut manufacturing costs to maximize their profits and in turn deliver a sub-standard product to the customers which are inefficient in cooling and have a short shelf life.
- Installing a poor quality condenser. The condenser unit of the air conditioner covers 60% cost of the entire unit and hence is the favorite area where the manufacturers cut costs. Installing a low quality condenser does not adequately cool the pressurized gas and hence the effectiveness of the air conditioner in cooling the room is impacted. The air conditioner needs to run for longer duration to sufficiently cool the room and hence consumes more electricity.
- Installing inefficient filters. Filters are an important aspect of air conditioners. The filters are responsible for trapping pollen grains, dust, wood particles, bacteria and microorganisms. Therefore, if high quality air filters are not used, the air supplied through them could contain these contaminants and could cause health and breathing disorders.
Now, having learnt how some air conditioner manufacturers cut costs, let’s proceed to zero down on some of the best built air conditioners available in the market that are not only the best in cooling but are also energy efficient in their working and offer the most value for money.