Best Caravan Air Conditioners

Most people choose to travel with an air conditioner and many modern day caravans include an air conditioner as standard. Not only is an air conditioner is a great way to keep cool on a hot summer day, but a reverse cycle unit also provides heating capacity when required. There are still many models that do not have an air conditioning unit, including older caravans. Fortunately, it is easy to retrofit an air conditioning unit to your caravan or recreational vehicle. The following is a guide to help you choose the best caravan air conditioner for your needs.

Heating and Cooling Capacity

The heating and cooling capacity is the most important factor when choosing an air conditioner. Choosing the correct power can be difficult, but in general it is better to choose a slightly more powerful model than required. An underpowered unit may not perform to your satisfaction and will have to work harder to achieve the desired results (using more energy to do it). The cooling and heating capacity should be measured in kilowatts and the most common sizes range from 1.0 to 3.2 kW. If you are unsure about the capacity you require then it is best to speak with an expert. It is also important to ensure your air conditioner offers reverse cycle heating capacity. This is very effective and much more efficient than a traditional electrical element heater.

Roof Top Air Conditioner

A roof top air conditionerA roof top air conditioner is most popular option for a caravan. These are low profile and do not take up much internal space. There are two main sizes of roof top air conditioner units: 360mm (European style) and 400mm (US style). These units are efficient because warm air is drawn into the unit and then the cool air sinks into the van. The most important considerations when installing a roof top air conditioner is ensuring you have enough space available and ensuring your roof is thick/strong enough to accommodate the weight of the air conditioning unit. The main downsides of this type of unit are the increase in height of your van and the running noise.

Split System

split system caravan air conditionerA split system is another great option for installation in your caravan. These units are similar to the standard split systems that are installed in homes and offices. They consist of a compressor unit, which can be installed in a hidden location, and a cooling unit. They are very efficient and provide high quality heating and cooling for your caravan. They are quiet and can be completely built in to the van or motorhome. These units are more suitable than roof top air conditioners when the roof cannot take the weight. However, the downside of a split system is that it will take up valuable cupboard space, where the air handler is installed.

Other Options

Underbunk ducted systems are the main alternative option, but these are relatively rare. One of the past alternatives was to install a built in box air conditioner, but these are no longer sold on the Australian market and there are better options available. If your van remains in a fixed position then it may be cheaper and more suitable to install a home quality air conditioner unit.

Solar Options

Many caravaners choose to run solar power to charge batteries and power appliances. This means that you can take advantage of this by choosing an air conditioner that will run from the solar panels or battery unit. A 12 volt air conditioner is a great option for a caravan and will run from a solar panel or battery. If you decide on this option then it is a good idea to choose an air con with the best energy efficiency possible.

Installation

A worker installing a roof top air conditioning system in a caravan.You can have your air conditioner installed by a professional or simply choose to do-it-yourself. There are many installation guides on the internet, including this great guide for installing a roof mounted air conditioner to a caravan. If you take the DIY option then you need to make sure that you use a qualified electrician for the 240 V wiring. A professional installation is not cheap, but it is the recommended option if you have little DIY experience.

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The Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners

If you are unable to install an air conditioner in your home or office then a portable air conditioner is a great alternative cooling (and even heating) option. There are many reasons that people are unable to install an air conditioner in their residence, but the most common reason is renting a property. Renting a house or office building without air conditioning can be uncomfortable during the hottest months and a portable air conditioner really is the best way to solve this problem if you can’t install a split system or central air conditioning system. This guide will help you choose the best portable air conditioning unit for your budget.

Advantages of a Portable AC Unit

A Soleus evaporative portable air conditioner

  • A portable air conditioner requires no installation and is suitable for a rental property/office.
  • A portable air conditioner can be moved around inside your home/office and can be used to cool/heat any area.
  • This type of cooling device is far more effective than a simple fan on a hot summers day.
  • Available with many features such as build in fan and air filer/purifier, which cleans the air for you.
  • Available in reverse cycle, which means they can be used as a heater in winter.

Disadvantages

  • Are less efficient and effective at cooling/heating when compared with a fixed air conditioner.
  • Some portable units require constant maintenance and care, such as removing water from a drain bucket or cleaning filters.
  • Portable AC units are usually nosier than a fixed air conditioner.

Types of Portable Air Conditioners

There are three main types of portable air conditioners and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

TypeDescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantagesCost
Evaporative cooling An evaporative cooler draws warm air through a filter into the unit where it is water cooled and then blown back out into the room. These are the cheapest type of portable air conditioning unit.The least effective cooling option. Increase humidity in the air. Must empty the water and clean the filter often (although self evaporating models are available).Between $70-400
CondenserA condenser air conditioner is often mounted in a window frame and works in a similar way to a standard split system.They are efficient at cooling and are the best portable model for cooling.Expensive. They must be placed in a window frame or have a duct that expels the unwanted hot air outside.$400+
Reverse cycleReverse cycle simply means that the unit can be used for heating and cooling.Good for summer and winter. Don't need to purchase a separate heater and air conditioner.More expensive.$500+

Choosing the Right Size Air Conditioner

Understanding kW and BTU

A portable condenser air conditionerIn Australia you will find that most air conditioners are rated in term of kilowatts (kW). However, some sellers still quote a BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating, which is used in Britain and the US. In this case you can convert the figure by following the one watt equals approximately 3.41 BTUs rule.

Calculating the size

It is essential that you choose the right size for the area that you intend to cool. If you air conditioner is underpowered it will have to work harder and will not cool effectively. Alternatively, an air conditioner that is too powerful comes with an unnecessary initial cost and it could leave your room damp and humid. Getting the balance right is essential and you should carefully consider your needs before making a purchase. A larger area will require a more powerful air conditioner and the general rule that you should follow is 80-125 watts per square meter, but this calculation assumes a standard roof height. If you are unsure about the size of air conditioner that you require then you should seek the advice of a specialist.

Considering Energy Efficiency

Delonghi reverse cycle PAC W160HPAs a general rule portable air conditioners are not very efficient, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider energy efficiency when making your decision. The government energy rating scheme makes this decision easier and it is a good idea to check the labels for the star rating. Try to choose an energy efficient model that will have enough cooling power for your needs. It is also important to remember that a reverse cycle unit will have two star ratings: one for cooling and one for heating. You can also run your own rough energy calculations by multiplying the kW rating of the air conditioner by the cost of your power per kilowatt hour. This will give you the cost of running the unit for one hour.

Other Factors To Consider

Noise

Portable air conditioning units can be quite noisy and, if possible, it is a good idea to test the noise level of the unit before making a purchase. This is especially important if you are going to be sleeping in the same room as a running unit!

Filter

Some portable units require constant filter changes or regular cleaning. Other units have air filter/purifier systems that also require cleaning from time to time. With regular use you should inspect the filters once a month.

Heating

Do you need a unit that is capable of heating as well? This will cost extra, but save you from buying a separate heater.

Maintenance

You need to know if the unit requires regular maintenance and how easy it is to maintain.

Warranty

Although the failure rate for portable air conditioners is fairly low, you should always try to find a unit with a 3 year+ warranty.

Drip or non-drip

Condensation is a factor with any type of air conditioner. A drip model expels all of the excess water into a bucket, which you will have to empty each time you use the air conditioner. Non-drip models recycle the moisture and it is evaporated into the air, but they are far more expensive to purchase.

Solar power

Some portable air conditioners are designed to run on solar power, while most models can be adapted to run on solar power if you choose to do this. Always consult with an expert before making any modifications to your unit.

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Panasonic Air Conditioner Reviews

Panasonic have been manufacturing air conditioners for many years and they produced their first room air conditioner in 1958. Technology has changed much since this time and Panasonic has becoming one of the leading names in air conditioning. The current range of Panasonic air conditioning systems includes cooling only and reverse cycle inverter split systems, ducted and cassette air conditioners. There are 33 different models on the market, but many of these are simply variations in capacity/cooling ability (rated in kW). We are going to take a close look at the current range and share our thoughts about each model.

Split Systems

A Panasonic split systemSplit systems make up the largest proportion of Panasonic’s air conditioner range. There are currently 17 split system models on the Australian market. The current range features five cooling only models, five reverse cycle models and seven new energy efficient reverse cycle models. All Panasonic split systems in Australia use inverter technology, which makes them more efficient that the older style split systems.

Review

We were very impressed with the new Panasonic split system air conditioners. They were whisper quiet and very efficient at cooling out test environment. The settings allowed for many adjustments to the running and operation and the remote control was very responsive. The main downside was found in the reverse cycle models, which were not as effective at heating a room as we would have liked. Overall the products we tested were very good with only minor flaws, but if heating is important to you it might be worth considering a different brand.

Ducted

Panasonic ducted air conditionerThere are eight models in the ducted range, including three models that feature three phase operation. All of these air conditioners feature inverter technology. The smallest unit is the 60PE1R5, which is a 6kW system, and the largest model is the 140PE1R5, which is a 14kW system. A ducted system is a good choice because it can cool a whole house and air outlets can be placed where needed. The outside unit can be placed almost anywhere and provides whisper quiet operation.

Review

The ducted system that we had the opportunity to test was very efficient at cooling both the smaller rooms and larger living areas. It was quiet and any operating noise quickly blends into the other household background noises. The energy use of the new inverter ducted system was phenomenal and Panasonic told us that the inverter technology saves more than 50% of the total energy usage. We have nothing negative to say about the ducted systems and if you are searching for a total house air cooling and heating system then you should consider this model!

Cassette

Panasonic Cassette Air ConditionerThere are eight cassette air conditioner systems in the current Panasonic Australia range. Three of these models are three phase operation. They are available in the same kW ratings as the ducted systems and all models feature inverter technology. They offer high airflow and can be installed in almost any ceiling height. These have a maximum pipe length of 75 m, which means that they can be used in almost any building!

Review

Cassette systems are best known for their ability to pump out some serious airflow and the test model that we had access to didn’t disappoint. Again, noise was minimal and under normal operation the sound was not an issue. The inverter technology helps save 50% for cooling and 64% for heating. The heating and cooling both performed adequately. This would be a great option for those needing high airflow and/or with high ceilings.

Suitability for Solar Operation

Panasonic have also recently introduced reverse cycle inverter split systems with patented ECONAVI technology. This is a system of dedicated intelligent sensors that cooperate to reduce energy usage. The manufacturer states that as much as 38% (cooling) and 45% (heating) of energy can be saved with this technology. This means that the ECONAVI range of Panasonic air conditioning systems would be perfect to operate with a whole house solar install. Many standard Panasonic air conditioners can be converted to full solar or hybrid solar, but this is almost certainly going to void any warranty.

Warranty

Panasonic offers a generous 5 year warranty on their air conditioners from the date of purchase (not from the date it was installed). Panasonic offers a home service warranty, which means that an authorised and qualified repairer will come to your home to make repairs. However, it is worth noting that you may be charged a travelling fee if your home is outside the operating area of a Panasonic Authorised Service Centre. As with any warranty there are some restrictions and you should carefully read the conditions of warranty before making a claim. You can make a warranty claim by calling Panasonic on 132600.

Wrap-Up

Pricing

The MRRP for the various split system models ranges from $1154 for the 2.6kW cooling only model through to $3487 for the 8kW ECONAVI reverse cycle. This pricing does vary and discounts are offered by large retailers from time to time. Pricing on the ducted and cassette systems vary depending on the type of install and should be confirmed with your local dealer.

Pros

  • Inverter technology throughout the range.
  • Many models to choose from.
  • Eco focused model (great for those with a solar system).
  • Whisper quiet.
  • Long 5 year warranty.

Cons

  • Priced at the more expensive end of the market.
  • Heating capability of the reverse cycle split systems could be better.

Final Thoughts

Panasonic is offering a great range of air conditioners in the Australian market. The quality and long warranty mean that most buyers are satisfied with their purchases. The Panasonic reverse cycle air conditioner was awarded the best Air Conditioning Product of the Year at the Product of the Year Awards 2014. It just goes to show that almost 50 years experience in the market has made Panasonic a top name in air conditioning. If you are searching for a new or replacement air conditioner then the Panasonic range should feature in your considerations!

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Gas Powered Split System Air Conditioning

Are you looking for an alternative to standard air conditioning systems, but solar power isn’t an option? Maybe a gas powered air conditioning system would suit your needs and work towards lowering your power bill. This is a great option for homes and businesses with access to natural gas because this cooling option is far cheaper to run than a standard electric air conditioner. These air conditioners are also very effective and have virtually the same cooling (and heating) ability as the electric powered models. Read on to find out if this type of air conditioner is right for your needs.

Gas Powered Split Systems

A gas powered split system.A gas powered air conditioner is virtually identical to an electric split system air conditioner. However, in the gas powered model a small gas engine drives the compressor in the outdoor unit instead of an electric motor. The gas motor can automatically change speed to regulate the temperature inside the room. The outside unit is sometimes called a gas heat pump and are commonly used in other parts of the world.

Gas powered split systems are extremely efficient and are available in multi-room configurations. This means that a single outside unit can run a number of indoor units. This is a perfect way to cool and heat a family home, office, school or other type of building with multiple rooms. For example, an 85kW gas powered outdoor unit can easily cool 8 separate rooms while using minimal electricity. The efficiency to power usage ratio of these units is unmatched. The added benefit to this is that the inside units are standard split system models, which means that the cost is comparable to the standard split system install.

Installation

A tradesman installing a split system air conditioner.Installation of a gas powered split system is no more complex than a standard split system. However, the gas fittings must be installed be a qualified and licensed installer. Installation costs vary with the installer, but it should cost about the same as an electric air conditioner installation. Some parts of the installation, such as mounting the air conditioner units, are suitable for DIY, but we always recommend a fully qualified and experienced installer.

Benefits of a Gas Powered Air Conditioner

Long Servicing PeriodA gas powered split system only needs to be serviced once every 5 years (or every 10,000 hours)!
Reduced Energy Bills and Environmental ImpactUsing a gas heat pump system cuts the amount of electricity the unit uses by up to 90%! You can even combine solar power and gas to remove the need for mains power at all. It is estimated that a gas powered unit is 30-50% cheaper to run. Government rebates may be available in certain states and territories.
Multiple Room Cooling AbilityA single gas outdoor unit can be used to run a number of inside heating and cooling units.
Mostly Off the ShelfThe inside unit/s used in a gas powered air conditioning system are standard units.
Work in Extreme ColdA gas heat pump uses waste heat from the unit to remove ice from the condenser coils. An electric system needs to run de-icing cycles before it can begin heating.
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What is the Most Efficient Air Conditioner?

Air conditioning is not known for being overly energy efficient, but air conditioners are the most effective way of cooling a space down. There are many different types of air conditioning systems and each type has a different efficient rating. Due to the increases in the cost of electricity, the energy efficiency of an air conditioning system is becoming an important purchasing consideration. This means that manufacturers are attempting to improve the efficiency of their products and this means that there are more low energy models to choose from. In addition to this, solar powered air conditioners are providing a genuine air conditioning alternative for homeowners.

Choosing the Most Efficient Air Conditioner

An inverter air conditioner modified to run on solar power.Choosing a new air conditioner can be confusing because there are so many different models on the market. The most efficient air conditioner for your usage will depend on a number of factors such as:

  • where you live (including the climate)
  • the size/area that you are cooling
  • how many rooms you are trying to cool
  • your budget
  • the energy usage and cooling capacity of the air conditioner
  • the temperature the air conditioner is set at
  • if you require heating as well

It is important to consider each factor before making a purchase. It is a good idea to conduct an energy audit of your home so that you can work out the added costs of running an air conditioner. You will then be able to decide which type and model to install in your house/commercial building. The government energy rating system, also known as the star rating system, is one way that can help you work out the most efficient air conditioner. However, it is still important to complete you own calculations because your situation may not be the same as the testing scenario. For example, if you purchase a smaller capacity air conditioner than required then it will be working harder to cool the larger space and it will use more energy.

Split System Air Conditioners

Traditionally this type of air conditioner is one of the least efficient. However, recent developments have led to a decrease in energy usage. They are now very efficient at cooling and also also one of the best ways to quickly heat an area in winter. These factors mean that split systems are now becoming more popular with homeowners. Inverter technology split systems, which feature a variable speed compressor, are much more effective at regulating the temperature in a room. This not only keeps you more comfortable, but it also means that you will be using less power as well! Ultra low energy split systems have also been developed and many of these are designed to be used with solar power. An alternative hybrid solar split system has also been developed and this uses a thermal collector to heat and pressurise the gas in the unit.

Ducted Air Conditioners

A vent installed with a ducted air conditioner.These air conditioners are considered to be one of the most efficient ways of cooling a large home. This system is made up of the standard unit, usually installed on the roof, and a series of ducts that run throughout the roof space with vents (pictured) entering each room. Most ducted air conditioners used in residential premises use evaporative cooling technology. This is relatively energy efficient and provides adequate cooling in most cases. The downside to this type of air conditioning system is that evaporative cooling does not work well in high humidity. Solar ducted air conditioners are also available and these are extremely efficient. The main downside to a solar system is that they are expensive to install.

Commercial Air Conditioners

Commercial air conditioning falls into two main categories; small spaces and large buildings. Small spaces, such as a stand alone office space, can use many of the same cooling systems that are used in the home. Larger buildings, such as an office tower, require large air conditioning systems. Traditionally these have not been overly efficient, but some manufacturers are now producing more efficient models. It is important to compare the systems to find the most efficient model for your commercial buildings.

Tips for Maintaining Air Conditioner Efficiency

A workman cleaning and servicing a split system air conditioner.There are a number of things that you can do to make sure that your air conditioner is performing as efficiently as it possibly can. It is important that an air conditioner is properly maintained at all times.

Clean The UnitKeeping the air conditioner clean is a key way to maintain efficiency. Ideally, you want to remove unwanted dust and moisture from the unit. If you are unsure how to clean your unit then you should consult the user manual or hire a professional air conditioning cleaning company. Cleaning the unit also prevents a build up of bacteria or mould, which can be harmful to your health.
Gas/Coolant/Refrigerant LevelsCertain air conditions require regassing, refrigerant or coolant replacement at specified intervals. If your unit is not serviced then it may become less efficient and have to work harder to cool your home. This not only uses more energy, but it can also cause damage to your air conditioner. Servicing should be completed by a certified air conditioning specialist.
Set the Temperature HigherYou can increase efficiency by setting a slightly higher temperature on the thermostat. Your air conditioner will not have to work as hard and this not only saves energy, but also increases the life span of the unit.
Use a TimerA timer is a great way to increase efficiency. For example, you can set the air conditioner to begin cool the house before you arrive home from work so that you don’t need to rapidly cool your house to a comfortable temperature.
Use FansElectric fans are cheap to run and are fantastic at distributing the cool air from the air conditioner into a room.

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