Air conditioning system on a building rooftop.

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Requirements for air conditioners above 65kW are changing from 1 October 2022.

Overview

Air conditioners provide a space conditioning (cooling only or heating and cooling) service to improve the thermal comfort of an indoor space (such as a room, entire home or larger complex).

Residential air conditioners (also referred to as heat pumps particularly in New Zealand), were first required to carry an energy label in 1987 and have been subject to Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) since 2004.

About air conditioner labels

You can compare the efficiency of different products using the stars, however:

  • you must compare products of the same or similar size
  • due to the different methods of calculating the star ratings you should not compare the star rating on the old label versus Zoned Energy Rating Labels.

You can find the “size” of the air conditioner in the middle of the old label, in the capacity output box.

Old label capacity output and power input

The old capacity output and power input labels.

ZERL capacity output and power input

On the Zoned Energy Rating Label you can find the size/capacity in a strip near the top of the label

The Zoned Energy Rating Label

The capacity output figures on an air conditioner label will let you know the amount of cooling and heating the model can produce. These are the figures you should check are of similar value when comparing star ratings. 

Zoned Energy Rating Label

If you are a manufacturer or supplier of air conditioners, new air conditioner models that are imported, supplied or offered for supply after 1 April 2020 must register to the new determination and must display the Zoned Energy Rating Label (ZERL). The new label will be generated automatically by the online registration portal, when a product is registered: https://reg.energyrating.gov.au/accounts/login/

The Old Energy Rating Label and the New Zoned Energy Rating Label.
Old Energy Rating Label                                           New Zoned Energy Rating Label

The Zoned Energy Rating Label provides a seasonal efficiency rating for three distinct climate zones across Australia and New Zealand, which provides consumers with better information, enabling them to select a product that would perform better and save energy.

Labels on ducted systems are voluntary, so not all products will have one. You can still view their energy efficiency performance on the GEMS Registration Database

Key Features

Current Energy Rating Label New Zoned Energy Rating Label
- Easier to read ratings up to 10 stars for heating and cooling
Capacity and power in kilowatts (kW) Capacity in kilowatts (kW)
Performance provided does not take into account climate Performance provided for three climate zones (hot, average, cold) across Australia and New Zealand
Output capacity for heating and cooling at one outdoor temperature Output capacity for heating at two outdoor temperatures and cooling at one outdoor temperature
Input power for heating and cooling in kilowatts (kW) Annual energy use for heating and cooling (for each zone) in kilowatt hours (kWh)
- Noise indicators to show the volume in decibels (dB(A)) of the internal and external units
No Energy Rating Labels on portable air conditioners Portable air conditioners must display the Zoned Energy Rating Label

Performance Calculations

Current Energy Rating Label New Zoned Energy Rating Label

Star ratings for heating (or cooling) are based on the efficiency of the air conditioner at one outside temperature of 7°C (35°C for cooling).

Capacity in kilowatts (kW)

The calculation takes into account standby power, and assumes standby time of 6760 hours a year

The calculation takes into account standby power, and time at standby is dependent on zone.

The calculation assumes that the air conditioner is heating (or cooling) for 2000 hours a year, and does not take into account the climate in which the air conditioner may be operating.

Uses climate data (dependent on zone) to estimate the number of hours the air conditioner will be on for heating (or cooling) across a range of climate temperatures.
- Shows annual energy use based on certain conditions.

How to read and use the label

The changes have been introduced to provide consumers with more information and expected energy use for air conditioners, based on where they live.  The new labels will help consumers buying an air conditioner to save money on their household energy bill. Use our fact sheet to help read and use the ZERL when choosing a new air conditioner.

Some types of air conditioners will be required to display the ZERL when they are on display in store.  Current models for sale or display in stores may have registrations that run through to 2025 and can continue to use the old Energy Rating Label (ERL) until their registration expires.  Over time, the old label for air conditioners will be replaced by the ZERL.

1. Select your Climate Zone

To make best use of the new label, look at the map to see which climate zone you live in. The new label has three climate zones (hot, average, and cold). Some major cities are near the edges of their zones, but all capital cities are listed in the star rating boxes to the right of the map, with Brisbane in the hot zone, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney in the average zone and Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra in the cold zone.

The three climate zones shown on the label are underpinned by the 69 Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) zones for Australia. More information on the detail underlying the development of the three zones for the label can be found at www.nathers.gov.au.

2. Check Energy Use

The kWh per year figures at the right hand edge of the star rating box give an indication of how much electricity the air conditioner will use for heating and cooling in that zone. They are only an indication, because air conditioner use will vary by household.

When considering purchasing a new air conditioner, the most important initial step is to select a suitably sized unit. Unlike other products such as televisions, where the size of the product is obvious, air conditioners typically look similar despite having wide ranges of heating and/or cooling capacities. Sizing for air conditioners is provided as a kilowatt (kW) capacity output figure (not to be confused with the power input, which is the amount of power required to produce the listed cooling and/or heating output) and this can be found on the energy rating label, as well as on the manufacturer’s product literature.

To get an idea of how much it would cost to run a particular air conditioner in a year, add the blue and red kWh figures of your zone together, then multiply by their electricity tariff.  An average electricity tariff in Australia is $0.29 per kWh.

3. Size and placement of the product 

Take into account the size of the space to be heated or cooled. Consider other aspects of the space the air conditioner will be placed in, such as the size and orientation of the windows, insulation in the home and shading of the windows and walls. Using a correctly sized unit will make heating and cooling more efficient, comfortable and affordable.

See Purchasing considerations for more information.

4. Noise Information  

The house icon on the bottom of the label indicates 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 noise level may be important, if the outdoor unit is near a window, bedrooms or close to a neighbour’s house (particularly in a body corporate situation, where there may be specific requirements).

Choosing the right product

When considering purchasing a new air conditioner, the most important initial step is to ensure you select a suitably sized unit. Unlike other products such as televisions, where the size of the product is obvious, air conditioners typically look similar despite having wide ranges of heating and/or cooling capacities. Sizing for air conditioners is provided as a kilowatt (kW) capacity output figure (not to be confused with the power input, which is the amount of power required to produce the listed cooling and/or heating output) and you can find this on the energy rating label, as well as on the manufacturer’s product literature.

There are many different elements within your home that will impact on the size air conditioner you’ll require. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Whether you are looking to heat/cool a single room, a larger space or your entire home;
  • Size of room/home (including ceiling height);
  • External wall materials;
  • Insulation levels; and
  • How many windows you have, their glazing, shading and orientation.

Because of all these factors, it’s best to have a professional advise you on the size air conditioner to look for. 

Another element to consider is where you live. If you live in a cool climate, or where in winter temperatures are regularly below 5 degrees Celsius, it’s important that the unit you choose is able to cope in these conditions. Some models’ capacity will reduce at these times so you may find it unable to heat your space sufficiently, while others are able to continue to meet or exceed their capacity. Some manufacturers will test their products at a colder temperature and provide the capacity output for 2 degrees Celsius. This information isn’t always easy to find though, so check with your retailer or installer to see if they can assist.

Undersized units will have to work harder to heat or cool your room, and may be unable to reach and maintain your preferred temperature. Oversized products will typically be less energy efficient and they’re likely to cost more upfront as well.

Ensuring the product you have selected is an appropriate size will mean you’ll remain comfortable in your home and not use more energy than necessary.

FAQs

Regulatory requirements

In Australia, air conditioners are regulated under the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act 2012 (GEMS Act).

Up to 65kW

Air conditioners up to 65 kW have been regulated since 1 April 2020. Requirements include:

  • a new Zoned Energy Rating Label (ZERL), which gives consumers and installers more information about which air conditioner will perform best in their climate zone
  • minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for portable air conditioners
  • portable air conditioners to meet and display the new label. You can find further information about Portable Air Conditioning and registration requirements on the Portable Air Conditioners.

Above 65kW

From 1 October 2022, air conditioners above 65 kw will need to meet minimum energy performance standards. The commencement date has been postponed by six months from 1 April 2022 to 1 October 2022.

The Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (Air Conditioners above 65kW) Determination 2022:

  • introduces minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for air conditioners greater than 65kW
  • requires registrants to provide Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) information when registering models of these products.

Registrants must register all product models through the Energy Rating Product Registration System by 1 October 2022.

At a glance ...

Product 

MEPS

Energy
Rating
Label

Australia

New Zealand

Air conditioners – single phase Yes Yes GEMS Determination Requirements & Guidance
Air conditioners – three phase Yes Yes
(Voluntary)
GEMS Determination Requirements & Guidance
Air Conditioners – Single Duct & Portable 

Yes

(from 1 April 2020)

Yes

(from 1 April 2020)

GEMS Determination Requirements & Guidance
Air conditioners (above 65 kW) Yes No GEMS Determination  (1 October 2022) Requirements & Guidance

Air Conditioners - Evaporative

No

No

 

 

No requirements 

Close control air conditioners (computer rooms)

Yes

No

2012 GEMS Determination

Requirements

Technical considerations 

Up to 65kW

From 1 April 2020 requirements for air conditioners up to 65kW used in residential and small business include:

  • a Zoned Energy Rating Label (ZERL), which gives consumers and installers more information about which air conditioner will perform best in their climate zone
  • meeting Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) against testing requirements as specified by Standards.
  • minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for portable air conditioners
  • portable air conditioners to meet and display the new label. See Portable Air Conditioners for more information.
  • a registration fee, and
  • a registration period of 5 years.

Above 65kW

The new requirements for air conditioners above 65 kW used in commercial settings include:

  • being registered by 1 October 2022
  • meeting Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) against testing requirements as specified in Australian and International Standards
  • providing Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) information when registering product models
  • a registration fee of $670 for one model or a family of no more than ten models, and
  • a registration period of 5 years. If you choose to register product models before 1 October 2022 you will receive a registration period of 5 years plus the period from now until 1 October 2022.

Registration information

Energy Rating Product Registration system

Resources For Retailers And Installers

In late 2019, the GEMS Regulator ran a series of information sessions on the ZERL for air conditioner retailers and installers around Australia. The sessions covered:

  • why there has been a change to the label
  • how to read the new label and explain it to customers
  • the transition arrangements between the old and the new labels
  • how retailers should display the label in store, including regulated responsibilities; and
  • some questions that might be asked about the new label.

Resources to help explain the new Zoned Energy Rating Label, and information on how to comply with the regulations are on our Resources for Retailers and Installers.