Choosing Air Conditioner: Guide & Checklist (Download)


Choosing the right air conditioners to buy can be time-consuming especially when there are so many to choose from. Hence, I put up a full guide and checklist to save people's time.

I'll walk through all the necessary things that you should know before buying an air conditioner so that you are informed and able to make a better decision. In addition, I've created a checklist that you can download here (from google drive). With the checklist, I believe you're less likely to miss out on the things that matter. Also, after you've filled it up, you can pass the checklist to the seller for them to offer you the right air conditioners.

1. Determine the Air Conditioning System

There are 3 common air conditioning systems; a) single split, b) multi-split, and c) VRV / VRF. Each system is tailored for different applications and you need to determine which system is suitable for you.

a) Single Split

A single split system consists of one indoor unit and one outdoor unit. It is the most popular system due to its simplicity and lower cost. The single split system is commonly found in residential buildings and small offices.

If you are looking for new air conditioners for your landed terrace house or 3 bedrooms apartment, I will suggest you go for the single split system. It is simple, low cost, easy to maintain, and has good energy efficiency.

Learn about: What is Split Air Conditioner? Differences & Advantages

b) Multi Split

A multi-split system consists of one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units. The outdoor unit of the multi-split system is slightly bigger than the outdoor unit of the single split system. But, the multi-split system has only one outdoor unit compared to 2-3 units of the single split system.

The multi-split system is essentially multiple single split outdoor units combine together. The multi-split system is not very common as its application is very niche. The selling point of the multi-split system is space-saving. I will not recommend you to use the multi-split system unless you really don't have space.

Learn about: What is Multi Split Air Conditioner? (Capacity Sharing)

c) VRF / VRV

A VRF or VRV consists of one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units, similar to the multi-split system but packed with significantly more controls and features. The VRF/VRV system also can connect significantly more indoor units with a single outdoor unit compared with the multi-split unit which usually maxed at 5 indoor units. A typical single VRF/VRV outdoor unit can connect up to 60 indoor units!

As you may have noticed, the sheer scale of the VRF/VRV system means that it is more commonly used in commercial buildings such as offices and hotels. However, there is the mini VRF/VRV system which is suitable for large houses with more than 3-4 bedrooms. The VRF/VRV system is the best in energy efficiency but also the highest cost among the three.

Best ac in USA | The Best Air Condi...
Best ac in USA | The Best Air Conditioner In USA: Complete Guide - See before Purchase

Read about: Ultimate Explanation: What are VRV and VRF?

2. Calculate the Cooling Capacity Required

Calculate the area of each room that requires cooling. You can use the checklist that I've prepared for you to keep it organized. After that, you can use online calculators to get the cooling capacity required. There are tons of cooling capacity calculators online but first, go through the factors that affecting the calculation.

Learn about: What are BTU, Ton, HP and kW in Air Conditioning?

Factors affecting the required cooling capacity:

  • Room size – Bigger rooms contain more heat and thus, required more cooling capacity.
  • Ceiling height – High ceiling rooms contain more air volume and thus, required more cooling capacity.
  • Windows size – Large windows generate more heat and thus, required more cooling capacity.
  • People – More people produce more heat and thus, required more cooling capacity.
  • Equipment – Computer and oven generate heat and thus, required more cooling capacity.
  • Room position – Rooms located where the sun shining for long hours required more cooling capacity.
  • Geographic location – Living in a high humidity and temperature place required more cooling capacity. Read about the effect of outside temperature on air conditioners.

Find out:How Long Does an Air Conditioner Takes to Cool a Room

List of online cooling capacity calculators:

For Southeast Asia

For America

3. Select the Type of Indoor Unit

There are several types of indoor unit you can choose from with each type has its own unique application:

  • Wall Mounted – Most common type. Quiet but is single directional airflow.
  • Ceiling Cassette – Common for living room or square-shaped room. 4-way directional airflow. More expensive than wall mounted.
  • Ceiling Ducted – Concealed above the ceiling. Need ducts and diffusers. Very quiet. For aesthetic interior.
  • Ceiling Exposed – Similar to wall-mounted but higher cooling capacity. More common in commercial applications.
  • Floor Standing – Portable but noisy. Required a hot air discharge hose.
  • Window – Commonly used in America. Compact with low cooling capacity, suitable for smaller rooms. Noisier than wall mounted.

4. Choose between Inverter and Non-Inverter

An inverter air conditioner is higher in price but controls the temperature more precisely by manipulating its compressor's speed. It also uses less power than the non-inverter air conditioner.

A non-inverter air conditioner is not able to manipulate the speed of its compressor. Therefore, unable to control the temperature as precisely as the inverter air conditioner but it is cheaper.

Read about: Buying Air Conditioners: Is Inverter AC Worth the Price?

5. Understand the Features of Air Conditioner

Air conditioners have many features. Every feature is usually marketed differently by manufacturers. Sometimes, it is confusing. It is necessary that you understand all the features so that you can decide whether or not your air conditioner should have it.

a) Mobile App Control

Some newer air conditioners have a built-in WiFi adapter where you can pair it with your mobile phone and use the manufacturer's mobile app to control the air conditioner. Some manufacturers offer the WiFi adapter as an optional accessory. Be sure to ask the seller if the price quoted includes the adaptor or not.

Mobile app control usually allows you to turn on, set the temperature, set the fan speed, and controls others settings remotely. The good thing is you no longer need to use the remote controller and thus, no need to spend on batteries anymore. The bad news is air conditioners with this feature are often more expensive.

b) Filter Grade

A standard air conditioner has a plastic mesh filter to capture dust. Some premium air conditioners have additional filters to improve indoor air quality. Some of them are marketed as green tea filters, PM2.5 filters and etc.

The standard plastic mesh filter is washable. If you opt for air conditioners with a better filter, be sure to check with the seller if the filter is washable or it has a lifespan and needs to be replaced after some time.

For ceiling ducted types, some manufacturers offer an even better filter such as the primary and secondary filter. The primary filter often is only washable for 2-3 times and the secondary filter is one-time usage only. However, they provide much better air filtration performance.

Curious about: Does Air Conditioner Reduce Dust in Your House?

c) Ionizer

Most air conditioners come with ionizer and manufacturers are starting to stop marketing the ionizer function as it is too common nowadays. However, some low-end air conditioners may not have the ionizer. Some of the marketing names for the ionizer are plasma and e-ion.

The ionizer is a function of the air conditioner where it produces negative ions that attracts dust and make the dust fall down. By doing so, the air conditioner effectively reduces the amount of dust in the air. However, the dust is not removed but stays on the floor or bed.

d) Airflow Pattern

These features are mostly applicable to wall-mounted type air conditioners. Most wall-mounted air conditioners don't have any airflow control other than a single direction. However, some high-end air conditioners are designed to keep the cold air away from direct blowing to the users.

Radiant cooling and 3D airflow are examples of the features involving airflow pattern change. An air conditioner with radiant cooling directs the cold air to the ceiling level and lets the cold air sink naturally from a higher level to a lower level. Thereby, provide cooling without the user feeling any airflow.

e) Motion Detector

Air conditioners with motion detector will reduce capacity (and thus, power consumption) whenever it detects there is no movement in the room after a certain period of time. These air conditioners have built-in motion sensors at their indoor unit.

The benefit of this feature is that it can save energy when there are no people in the room or people forget to turn off their air conditioner (it happens). Be cautious not to put tall objects in front of air conditioners with this feature as it may treat the object as people (thus, no movement) and stop the cooling.

Nowadays, many air conditioners, especially the premium range, have motion detectors and some are associated with ECO mode and intelligent mode.

f) Durability

Some air conditioners offer extra anti-corrosion coating on the inside components of their air conditioner, especially for the condenser fins. The purpose is to provide extra durability for the air conditioner and make them long-lasting.

The fins of the coil of the air conditioner are silver in color in nature because they are made of aluminum. You can spot air conditioners with the coating by simply looking for blue color fins. An alternative name for the anti-corrosion coating is seaside coating.

Furthermore, some manufacturers offer enhanced PCB where they claimed that it is more durable.

f) Other Features

  • Turbo mode – The air conditioner operates at maximum capacity for 20 minutes and then switches back to the original setting.
  • Quiet mode – The air conditioner reduces its fan speed to beyond the lowest available fan speed setting to further reduce the sound level.
  • Sleep mode – The air conditioner manipulates the temperature automatically for better sleep. Refer to individual air conditioner's user manual.

6. Pick a Reputable Brand

When deciding which brand to buy, it is very important to pick a reputable brand around your area. Different regions and countries may have different dominant brands. Get the seller to recommend you a few of the popular brands.

Buying air conditioners from reputable brands guarantee the quality of the air conditioners. Besides, popular brands also have more technicians and more spare parts available for service and repair, and the parts are usually faster and cheaper to get.

Check out: Best Air Conditioner Brands Across the World in 2021

Other Things to Consider

  • Controller Type – Wireless remote controller or wired controller. Most air conditioners have a wireless remote controller but not all have a wired controller.
  • Space and Position – Check the space and where you want to place the air conditioners. It might affect some of your decision. Read about the best position for air conditioner in the living room.
  • Budget – Needless to say, make sure you are within your budget. Use the single split system so that you can add more air conditioners later if you're currently out of budget.
  • Color – Color is mostly not selectable. Most air conditioners are white color only. Grey colors do available but for a few models only.
  • Remote Controller Battery – A set of battery usually included but it takes no time to check with your seller just to make sure that you don't go back and forth.
  • Professional Installation – Most likely you'll need a professional to install the air conditioner. However, DIY is possible for wall-mounted and ceiling cassette types. Portable and window type can easily be done by yourself. Get to know the average time to install a split system.

Now, go ahead and buy those air conditioners!


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Yu Chang Zhen

I enjoy working on air conditioners and ventilation fans because Malaysia is a very hot country.

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