Are Split Systems the Best Option?

Split-system air conditioners are the most popular heating and cooling systems in Australia, but is it the right choice for your home?

The popularity of split systems speaks for itself. There’s no doubt that split-system air conditioners do the job and are a natural go-to choice for many people. The majority of households only need one or two rooms heated or cooled at any given time, making split systems the ideal solution.

However, there’s much more to it than that, because the range of split systems certainly goes beyond being one type of product.

What is a Split System?

This kind of air conditioner is known as a split system because there are two parts to it. There is an outdoor unit, which is also known as a condenser, and an indoor unit. The two units are connected by pipes containing refrigerant gas.

The outdoor unit in a split system is usually directly outside of the indoor unit of the AC, and can be elevated or situated at ground level. Essentially, the term “split system” can refer to various types of air conditioning but primarily refers to the following:

  • Split-system air conditioner – This features one indoor unit and an outdoor unit and is designed to heat or cool one room.
  • Multi-head split system – Multiple indoor units can be connected to one outdoor unit, allowing you to heat or cool two or more rooms.

Modern split-system air conditioners will not only provide purified air but will also reduce humidity in the home. This can have benefits for your health, particularly those with allergies or asthma, as a humid home can become a breeding ground for dust mites, mould and mildew.


What Else is on the Market?

While split-system air conditioners are the most popular on the market, they’re not the only types to choose from. Some systems are heating or cooling only, which you need to take into account when making your decision.

Depending on your climate control needs, you may want to consider the following options:

  • Ducted system –A ducted heating and cooling system will have a central unit, usually located in the roof. This gives you complete climate control, with ducts connected to as many rooms as you desire. Heated or cooled air is delivered through discreet vents. They are more expensive to install than a split system.
  • Cassette air conditioner – This kind of system is more often used in office buildings but is also suitable for homes with large rooms. It’s a ducted system which delivers 360° heated or cooled air through a ceiling unit.
  • Gas heating – These systems are less expensive to run than an electric system but are limited to heating only. Gas heating comes in many different forms, including space heaters, gas log fires, wall furnaces and ducted systems.
  • Hydronic heating – These systems use water to heat your home. This is energy efficient and environmentally friendly, using about 70% less energy than electricity. But it’s limited to heating only.
  • Evaporative cooling – This kind of system filters and cools air using moist cooling pads. It delivers fresh, cooled air through ducts and vents. Once again, this is energy efficient and eco-friendly but limited to cooling only.
  • Wall/window air conditioner – This appears to be a split system but is actually one unit, usually installed in windows. These are usually reverse cycle units. Ideal for those on a tight budget, particularly for people who are renting and might want to take the unit with them.
  • Portable air conditioner – Another option for those on a budget or renters who may want to keep the unit. Not as effective as a split system but has the advantage of being portable. Most units have a duct that must be attached to a window to vent heat outside.

What Size System Do You Need?

If you’re choosing a split-system air conditioner, you can rest assured it will heat and cool a large area if needed. The size of the room(s) you will be heating and cooling will determine the power of the unit you select.

Here’s a basic guide to the air conditioner capacity you might need (according to a Choice article):

  • Up to 20m² – 2-2.5kW (kilowatts)
  • 20-40m² – 2-5.5kW
  • 40-60m² – 4-6kW
  • 60-80m² – 5-7kW
  • 80+m² – 6-9kW

Keep in mind that this is only a rough guide. You will need to be accurate when measuring the room(s) you want to heat and cool. You may encounter problems if you choose units that are either too big or too small for the relevant area.

To do a more accurate calculation, you’ll need to consider all of the space’s details, including the size of the room (length, width and height), location of windows and doors, curtains and/or window coverings, type of room (bedroom, lounge, open-plan kitchen), insulation (on floor, ceiling and walls) and the local climate.

A unit that is too powerful for the room can make the room too cold or hot while not delivering adequate dehumidification, which also increases running costs. A unit that is not powerful enough will be forced to run at maximum output for too long, leading to too much dehumidification and extra wear and tear on the system.

Check the Energy Rating Label

All air conditioners on the market receive a star rating on the government’s Energy Rating system. This means that residential split-system air conditioners have to meet industry standards and are usually reasonably energy efficient.

The star rating is based on test results from the Australian standard for air conditioners. If you’re shopping for an air conditioner, you’ll notice the star-rating label (either in store or online). The more stars it receives, the more energy efficient the model is.

Is It Easy to Install?

One of the advantages of a split-system air conditioner is that it’s relatively easy to install, particularly in comparison to a more invasive ducted air conditioning system.

But while a split-system air conditioner installation is straightforward and shouldn’t be too disruptive to your home, it must always be done by a licensed HVAC professional. The warranty is actually likely to be voided if the system is not installed by a qualified technician. This applies to repairs and maintenance as well.

In Conclusion

Split-system air conditioners are practical and effective, regardless of the rooms involved or the type of home you’re in. These days most people choose a reverse cycle model when it comes to split systems, giving you climate control in all seasons. Looking at all the factors, it’s quite likely that a split system will be the right option for you.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.

Last Edited on: 24th November 2022