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Cost of Ducted Air Conditioning – Running Costs

There are many different forms of air conditioning, with ducted air conditioning being one of the most common.  Commercial ducted systems are commonplace due to the many benefits of ducted aircon for a business.  They are also increasingly popular as home air conditioners due to their discreet look and array of control features.

There are 6 Key Factors that impact the cost of ducted aircon.  In Part One of this topic, we discussed the 3 main points impacting the upfront cost of ducted air conditioning:

  1. The addition of zoned AC control.
  2. The air conditioner installation cost.
  3. The ducted air conditioner price.

Here in Part Two-A, we will discuss one of the main ongoing costs of ducted air conditioning:

  1. The cost to run the air conditioner.
  2. The aircon servicing and maintenance.
  3. The price of air conditioning repairs.

Considering the size of the investment, it is recommended to consider the ongoing cost of ducted aircon before going ahead with any ducted installation.  The cost to run a ducted air conditioner is one of the main ongoing costs.

Interestingly aircon energy efficiency is the number one deciding factor when choosing an air conditioner.  However, the truth is, the cost of running ducted air conditioning varies dramatically depending on many factors such as size, quality, features, and usage.  Your energy provider and tariff will also impact costs involved.

Electric bill charges paper form

These factors have an impact and can even extend standard air conditioner running costs outside of expected ranges.  An ducted air conditioning specialist should be happy to chat about all the specific costs involved and help you along the way.  We will also provide some key points to review here to understand the cost variation and help save wherever possible.

Cost per hour

One of the most common questions when it comes to using ducted aircon is how much does it cost to run?  Specifically, how much does it cost to run ducted air conditioning per hour, per day, per week, per month, per quarter, or per year?

Cooling or heating an indoor space depends on many different factors.  Average costs are:

  • Cool down a room: Between 25 cents to 80 cents per hour. 
  • Warm up a room: Between 13 cents to 36 cents per hour.

On average, this works out to be:

  • ~50 cents per hour to cool down a room.
  • ~25 cents per hour to warm up a room.
  • ~$20 (heating 20hrs/week) – $80 (cooling 40hrs/week) per month per room.

Therefore, for an average 3/4-bedroom home, ducted air conditioning generally costs between $1.00-$3.20 per hour to run in cooling and $0.52-$1.44 on heating.  However, as mentioned, there are many factors at play, which we will explore further.

Size

Sizing of a ducted air conditioner impacts running cost in more ways than one.  This includes the way that it runs and the amount of power it consumes.

kW Rating

When people talk about sizing of air conditioners, this typically refers to kilowatt (kW) rating.  kW is a measure of power that indicates the capacity of an aircon unit.  AC energy efficiency and therefore running costs are largely dependent on capacity.

Ducted AC cooling efficiency is measured using Energy-Efficiency Ratio (EER).  In heating, Coefficient of Performance (COP) is used.  Wall splits have this summarised via a star rating, but unfortunately ducted units do not.

The higher the EER value, the more energy efficient an aircon is.  EER is a ratio of the output (capacity) divided by the power input.  Therefore, as size increases (i.e. output, capacity, or kW rating), energy efficiency automatically decreases.  This means larger AC units will automatically be more costly to run.

Reverse cycle ducted air conditioners have two kW ratings; one for cooling (main figure) and one for heating.  Heating is more energy efficiency, and therefore heating capacity of an air conditioner is usually greater.  This is why an air conditioner costs significantly less to run in heating.

If you access the technical data sheet for your air conditioner, you may be able to work out specific costs involved in running your air conditioner via the SA Government’s appliance running cost calculator.  You can always contact your ducted installer for assistance with such technical information.

Correct sizing

Taking a step back, there are many factors impacting what size aircon you need initially.  However, unfortunately, the correct ducted AC system is not always installed.  This can cause excessive running costs.

If a ducted air conditioner is oversized, it will consume more energy while running, be less efficient, and cost you more in power.  If a ducted aircon is too small, it will have to continually run, work harder, and wear out faster which will cost you more running and replacements costs.

Ducted air conditioning in ceiling

However, there are situations where ducted air conditioner size may be limited.  Common scenarios include physical space in the ceiling and/or single-phase power only available.  A smaller ducted aircon can be used IF set up correctly.  Suitable sets ups include a day/night zoning system or smart zoning option like iZone.

These set ups can save significant money in terms of running cost.  A day/night system means a half-sized ducted AC can be installed and run.  AS discussed, smaller kW rating (assuming suitable for the area served), will automatically be more energy efficient and cost less to run.

Quality

There are many different air conditioning brands to choose from.  They vary in terms of quality, features, technology, and price.  At the end of the day, most of us what value for money;  The highest quality product at the lowest possible price.

Units

Popular ducted AC brands include Daikin, Mitsubishi Electric (ME), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Panasonic, Hitachi, Temperzone, ActronAir, Toshiba, LG, Fujitsu, Samsung, and Carrier, just to name a few.  These name-brands vary dramatically in terms of quality and price, but many represent good value for money upfront.

Technology advancements and additions make higher quality/more energy efficient ducted aircons more expensive to produce.  Examples include larger heat transfer coils, more efficient motors, energy saving modes, and new technologies to result in more efficient operations.

However, price doesn’t always correlate with efficiency.  Sometimes the cost reflects clever marketing and media hype.  It pays to visit reputable sites such as Canstar Blue and Choice to conduct your own research, as well as speaking to reputable AC companies.

On the flipside, some brands and models don’t even advertise all their features.  For example, when looking at Daikin wall split systems, the indoor coil size step up from a Daikin Cora to an Alira isn’t promoted, but increases energy efficiency and reduces running costs.

In the ducted range, Daikin splits their ducted units into Premium inverter and Standard inverter models.  The Premium models have a range of internal features that improves efficiency of the units.  Furthermore, Premium inverters have a greater ability (about 10%) to ramp up or down in response heating/cooling demands.  This makes them about 10% more energy efficient, saving on running costs and electricity usage.

Parts

Some of the cheaper AC brands on the market save you money upfront but then cost you far more over the year due to the cost of replacement parts and repairs.  For example, Samsung ducted units are relatively cheap to purchase, but their replacement parts are relatively expensive compared to other brands.

In comparison, Daikin ducted units might cost a little more upfront than other brands, but their replacement parts tend to be far cheaper compared to their competitors.  This is especially true if you look up Daikin Dealer near me online.

Some brand may be popular through clever marketing and successful advertising, but then start to have poor part availability after about 7 years.  One example is Fujitsu who use familiar faces to promote their brand, but fall short in the customer service and part availability department during the life of a ducted AC system.

Features

There are many features available with modern-day air conditioners, and many of these are designed to save you time, money, or both.

AC Unit

Some air conditioner features are nice to have, such as a coloured touchscreens and quiet mode.  Some are designed to decrease running costs, such as sleep mode, eco mode, timers, and motion sensors.  Meanwhile, some features can be both when used correctly, such as precision control (0.5 degree adjustments rather than 1 degree) and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Wi-Fi control of a ducted air conditioner allows the system to be turned off remotely, usually via a smart phone app.  This could be when you are away from home and have forgotten to turn the AC off, or laying in bed and want to warm it up before stepping out from under the doona.

Man using a smartphone app to control air conditioning

Furthermore, Wi-Fi control can be used to switch on the ducted aircon before anyone gets there.  This allows you to start the heating or cooling process early, rather than overloading the system and causing excessive power draw as soon as you get home.  If there is already a large heat load in the room from the hot summer sun, it will take longer to bring the temperature down to desired levels and cost more for you to do so.

Zoning

Another major feature that can be paired with ducted air conditioning, affecting running costs, is zoning.  A ducted zoning system has a significant impact on overall AC system efficiency.  Firstly, it pays to understand zoned air conditioning and the many options available.

Zoning allows greater control over the heating or cooling demand from an air conditioner by managing each room or zone independently.  Furthermore, you can include a bypass in the zoning system, which means that air recirculates to the indoor unit to control pressure, rather than having to spill out into a constantly open zone in the house.

Another feature that improves efficiency of a ducted system and reduces running costs is the presence of individual room sensors.  These allow more accurate temperature sensing and control, which results in more tightly controlled temperature adjustments.  This not only creates a more comfortable indoor environment, but also reduces demand on the ducted aircon, power consumption, and subsequent running costs.

Usage

Ducted air conditioning can be used in many different ways in a variety of settings and environments.  The way in which the ducted system is used makes a significant difference to the running costs associated with the ducted air conditioner.

Heat load

Air conditioning can be a significant contributor to household and business energy expenses.  In Australia, heating and cooling can contribute up to 40% of the average energy usage.

However, are many other appliances that also contribute to a large degree.  For example, in a home this includes:

  • Cooking devices (ovens, cooktops, grilles, etc.),
  • Cleaning devices (dishwashers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, etc.),
  • Drying devices (clothes dryer, hair dryers, etc.), and,
  • Lighting (florescent, spotlights, feature lighting, etc.)

These other devices also increase the heat load of the indoor space in which they are used.  This increases demand on the ducted air conditioner and subsequent cost of running the AC.  Therefore, it is recommended to run such devices outside of peak ambient temperature times (e.g. avoiding middle of the day in Summer).

Other factors that impact heat load and ducted air con running costs include window treatments, insulation, shading, building orientation, opening/closing of doors, equipment in use, and number of people inside, just to name a few.  A ducted air conditioning specialist can assess all of these factors and help you work out the estimated running costs for your home or business.

Settings

One of the key ways to manage heat or cool load is to turn on or set a timer for the ducted aircon to come on early in the morning before a hot and humid day begins.  Similarly, when you have a cold night ahead, start gentle heating early on to keep the chill off in the most cost-effective way.

Furthermore, many of the ducted aircon features outlined previously play a part in how a ducted system is used and running costs are managed.  Many of the features are outlined by the ducted installer and it pays to understand the full functionality of the system upfront in order to save on costs over the life of the system.  You can also access ducted unit brochures and zoning system information online, if not provided on installation.

One of the main settings that affects the cost of running ducted air conditioning is temperature.  Just 1 degree difference in cooling can make a 10% difference to your air conditioner electricity usage!  This adds up to a significant difference in running cost at the end of the day, and end of the quarter via your power bill.

Hand turning thermostat

In Brisbane and South-East Queensland, the following is recommended:

  • Cooling/Summer:       Set temperature to 24-25 degrees.
  • Heating/Winter: Set temperature to 17-18 degrees.

A small adjustment in temperature makes very little difference to the perceived indoor temperature.  However, it can make a massive difference to the cost of running a ducted air conditioner.  Therefore, it is recommended to make minor setting adjustments over time, to achieve significant saving without noticeable impact to indoor comfort levels.

There are many factors that impact the running cost of a ducted air conditioning system.  Ducted aircon can be a cost-effective heating and cooling solution for a home or business, but only if installed and used correctly.  If you need any help reducing the cost of running your ducted aircon, please don’t hesitate to contact us.