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For Consumers

Heating and cooling

Adult operating air conditioner with remote control

Heating and cooling

Space heating and cooling appliances usually use the most energy in households. They account for around 40 percent of household energy use in Australia, and around one-third in New Zealand. So selecting the right heating and cooling system can have a big impact on energy costs.

There are several choices available for heating and cooling your home, including air conditioners, evaporative coolers, ceiling and pedestal fans, electric and wood heaters, gas heaters and hydronic and in-slab heating. Generally speaking, reverse-cycle air conditioners are the most energy-efficient combined heating and cooling system you can buy.

Only air conditioners are covered by mandatory energy efficiency requirements in Australia. 

  • Air conditioners must meet Minimum Energy Performance Standards
  • Non-ducted household air conditioners must carry a Zoned Energy Rating Label.

    The Zoned Energy Rating Label

    The performance of air conditioners is affected by the climate it is operating in. For this reason, new non-ducted household air conditioners must display a new Zoned Energy Rating Label that considers the climate you live in.

    Some appliances may still show the prior Energy Rating Label, which will be phased out by 2025.

      How to read the label

      The label provides an energy rating for three climate zones (hot, average and cold), helping you select an appliance that performs best in your location. To identify which climate zone relates to you visit the Energy Rating Calculator.

      Estimated annual energy use in kilowatt hours (kWh) is provided on the right of the label, for heating (red) and cooling (blue) in each climate zone.

      In addition, it has output capacity for heating at two outdoor temperatures and cooling at one outdoor temperature, as well as noise indicators at the bottom to show the volume in decibels (dB(A)) of the air conditioner.

        Zoned Energy Rating Label for Air Conditioners showing stars 1 to 10 for hot and cold

        Learn more about reading the label and estimating running costs

        Visit Understand the Energy Rating Label

        How to choose the right air conditioner for you

        • Start with size

          When choosing a new air conditioner, pick a size that will meet your needs.

          Air conditioners look similar but come in a wide range of heating and/or cooling capacities. 

          There are many things that affect the size of air conditioner you need, including:

          • the space you are looking to cool – including the size of the space, and whether you are looking to heat/cool a single room, a larger space, or your entire home
          • the building features – the right size depends on your wall material, insulation, and windows
          • the climate – if you live in a cool climate, you need a product that can cope in the cold.

          Because of this complexity, you should get professional advice before deciding on the right size.

          If your appliance is too small, it will work harder to heat or cool the space and may be unable to maintain the right temperature. Appliances that are too big will end up costing you more money, both upfront and in running costs.

          Make sure you select the right size product, so you stay comfortable and don’t use more energy than needed.

        • Know your climate

          Knowing your climate zone helps you find the best air conditioner for your location.

          Look at the map on the Zoned Energy Rating Label to locate the climate zone you live in. The capital cities are listed in the star rating boxes to the right of the map for easy reference.

        • Compare energy efficiency

          The more stars, the more money you save.

          Use the star ratings for your climate zone on the Zoned Energy Rating Label to compare the energy efficiency of similar sized appliances. Remember the more stars there are, the more efficient the air conditioner is, and the more money you will save on running costs each year.

        • Seek professional advice

          Experts can help you make the right choice.

          As with any large purchase, it’s a good idea to discuss your options with several suppliers or installers so they can advise on the air conditioners that may be appropriate for you. They will also be able to advise on running costs and placement of the air conditioner to improve its energy efficiency.

        • What about noise?

          Don't let the air conditioner disturb your peace!

          The house icon on the bottom of the Zoned Energy Rating Label shows how much noise the air conditioners will make when operating at full power. For air conditioners with both internal and external components, such as a split system, there are separate inside and outside noise ratings. The outdoor noise level is important to consider if it will be near a window, bedroom or close to a neighbour’s house.

        Find and compare heating and cooling appliances

        Find and compare the star ratings and running costs for heating and cooling appliances. See how much you can save by choosing an energy-efficient appliance.

        Visit the Energy Rating Calculator
        A copy of the Your Home book laying on a coffee table with a mug of coffee

        Visit Your Home which provides information on designing new homes and home improvements. There is a dedicated sections that support new home design and home renovations. This includes:

        Want to save on air conditioner running costs?

        View our tips for using air conditioners efficiently

        Frequently asked questions

        • What types of air conditioners are not required to carry an Energy Rating Label?

          The following air conditioners are not required to carry an Energy Rating Label.

          • Evaporative air conditioners.
          • Ducted air conditioners (but may have a voluntary label).
          • Three phase air conditioners (but may have a voluntary label).
          • Multi-split air conditioners (units with several separate indoor units each with a separate control).
          • Air conditioners with a rated cooling capacity (or for a heating only product, a rated heating capacity) of more than 30 kilowatts.
          • Water-to-air air conditioners.
        • How does an air conditioner compare to a normal electric heater?

          Reverse cycle air conditioners are much more efficient at heating than standard electric heaters (bar heaters, convection, or radiant heaters).

          Air conditioners heat a room by extracting heat from the outside air and moving the heat into the room. As air conditioners are designed to move heat rather than create heat, they can be more than 100 per cent efficient in the sense that for every unit of electricity they use they can move some three to five units of heat into the room. Standard electric heaters, on the other hand, have an efficiency of approximately 100 per cent – so for every unit of electrical input they can produce around one unit of heat output.

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