Do Inverter Air Conditioners REALLY Save Electricity?

More and more shops are selling inverter air conditioners only while ditching the traditional non-inverter models. People always say that inverter air conditioners save energy. But, is it true?

Generally, an inverter air conditioner saves about 30% of electricity compared to a standard (non-inverter) air conditioner. Inverter air conditioners eliminate the need to repeatedly start and stop their compressor which saves energy while providing you a more consistent room temperature.

A lot of people are in doubt about the energy saving of inverter air conditioners. Some suspect it is just a gimmick from the seller to trick them into buying a more expensive air conditioner. Well, I’m here to provide an unbiased answer.

What are Inverter Air Conditioners?

Air conditioners are separated into non-inverter and inverter types. Previously (like 10+ years ago), air conditioners were all “non-inverter”. In fact, the term “inverter” was not even known.

The problem with standard or non-inverter air conditioners is the compressor keeps turning on and off. First, it produces noise every time it starts and secondly, the room is sometimes hot, sometimes cold (temperature fluctuation).

Then, the inverter technology was invented.

Essentially, an inverter drive is added to the standard air conditioner. The inverter drive can manipulate the speed of the compressor which allows the compressor to change its rotational speed based on how much cooling is actually needed. It is sometimes known as inverter compressor.

See my post about DC inverter air conditioners to understand the technicals of it.

As a result, the compressor of an inverter air conditioner never stops running. It always runs at a certain percentage of its maximum speed according to the temperature of the room.

For example, you set the room temperature to 24°C. If you were using a standard air conditioner, the compressor will kick in at about 25°C and shut off at about 23°C. Whereas if you have an inverter air conditioner, the compressor will initially run at 100% to cool the room down to 24°C and then stay at a lower percentage (eg: 40-70%) to maintain that temperature.

As you can see, inverter air conditioners eliminate the compressor on/off characteristic and therefore are quieter. They also maintain a consistent temperature which gives us a more comfortable environment.

How Inverter Air Conditioners Save Energy?

After learning about inverter air conditioners, here comes the question: do inverter air conditioners save electricity? If so, how do they achieve that?

As mentioned earlier, standard (non-inverter) air conditioners control the room temperature by repeatedly shutting off and turning on their compressor. This causes a significant amount of energy loss.

Imagine you’re riding a bicycle. Would you prefer riding at full power for a short distance, rest a while, and then repeat? Or, do you prefer riding smoothly at a steady pace but lower speed?

I bet the latter is less tiring.

The same goes for inverter air conditioners. Because inverter air conditioners don’t start and stop their compressor, a lot of the momentum of the rotating motor is not wasted. On the other hand, standard air conditioners draw a lot of power just to get the compressor to start from a complete stop.

Non-Inverter vs Inverter AC

That said, you’ll only notice a meaningful saving in electricity with an inverter air conditioner when you use it for long hours.

How Much Money Does an Inverter Air Conditioner Save?

Now we know inverter air conditioners do use less electricity. But, just how much money can an inverter air conditioner save compared to a non-inverter one?

Let’s start with some official numbers.

Daikin calculated the energy saving of their inverter air conditioners and compared it to other equivalent non-inverter types complying with JIS B8616:2016 standard, and found that the saving was 58%.

LG also tested their inverter air conditioners for 8 hours and found that the saving was up to 70% compared to their own non-inverter air conditioners at the same outdoor temperature and room temperature setting.

Of course, these saving claims may be exaggerated and biased since they came from the sellers (manufacturers) themselves.

Now, let’s look at some independent research.

A group of university students/professors conducted research to compare the energy saving between a non-inverter and an inverter air conditioner. The result was the inverter air conditioner save energy consumption up to 44%.

All claims and research aside, in general, inverter air conditioners are expected to save about 30% of energy compared to non-inverter air conditioners.

There’s no exact answer to how much money or electricity an inverter air conditioner can save because it heavily depends on the operating conditions (eg: outdoor temperature, indoor heat, temperature setting, airflow, etc.). There are just too many factors involved.

Let me share a story of mine:

I used to live in a small house with 3 non-inverter air conditioners running at night (6-8 hours). Our total electricity bill was about RM 280-320 per month. When we moved to a bigger house, we installed inverter air conditioners. With the same running hours, our total electricity bill was about the same. Of course, there are other factors such as a new refrigerator, new LED lamps and so on, but the air conditioner is a major power user. To maintain the same electricity cost while cooling a much larger floor area, I’d say the savings are there.

What’s more, the government often implements the energy star-rating system to show how energy-efficient various home appliances are. Most of the time, inverter air conditioners get a 5 out of 5 stars rating while non-inverter air conditioners get only 3 out of 5 stars.

The bottom line is, that inverter air conditioners are indeed more energy efficient and they do save electricity. But, how much it actually saves depends on the environment it operates in and how long it operates.

Should You Buy an Inverter Air Conditioner?

If you’re like most people who use the air conditioner for about 6 to 8 hours or more, I’d say an inverter air conditioner would save you money and give you a more comfortable environment.

However, if you’re someone who rarely uses the air conditioner, or you’re planning to get an air conditioner for a room that is rarely occupied (eg: guest room), an inverter air conditioner may not save you that much money considering that inverter air conditioners are about 20-30% more expensive.

If you’re a property investor and you’re looking for 2-3 air conditioners for your entire rental apartment, then choosing between the two types would depend on your personal preference:

  • If you want to maximize rental yield, the cheaper non-inverter air conditioners will reduce your initial renovation cost (assuming the renter will pay for the electricity cost later).
  • If you want to provide a more comfortable environment for your guests (especially when you’re managing an AIRBNB property), then inverter air conditioners are worth the investment.
  • If you’re paying for the electricity cost, then inverter air conditioners will save you money in the long run.

See my post for the 9 reasons to buy inverter air conditioners.

There you have it. I hope my article is helpful for you to make a more informed decision.

If you have anything to add (or ask) about this topic, leave a comment down below!

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