Inverter vs Non-Inverter AC: The Ultimate Comparison

If you’re looking to buy a new air conditioner, you might be thinking about whether you should get the inverter or the non-inverter type. So, here is the ultimate comparison between the two types to hopefully help you make a decision.

The main differences between an inverter AC and a non-inverter AC are:

QUICK COMPAREINVERTER ACNON-INVERTER AC
Price🏆
Energy Efficiency🏆
Performance🏆
Noise🏆
Functions & Features🏆
Maintenance🏆
Lifespan🏆
Inverter vs Non-Inverter AC Comparison

The one that has the winning cup means that it is better in that aspect. For instance, non-inverter ACs are cheaper than inverter ACs and therefore, the winning cup goes to non-inverter ACs.

Following are the details of each comparison and why I suggest the above table:

Price

The price of an inverter AC is usually about 20-30% more than a non-inverter AC of the same capacity. For instance, Daikin non-inverter FTV35P [1.5HP] costs RM 1,530.00 while Daikin inverter FTKF35C [1.5HP] costs RM 1,810.00 as of writing (18.3% difference).

Currently, brands sell many more inverter models. So, there is a good chance that you’ll be introduced to a higher-end inverter AC which causes the price difference to be greater.

Based on my experience, manufacturers usually offer a flagship model, a premium model, a deluxe model and a standard model for their inverter ACs. For their non-inverter ACs, they usually offer just a standard model.

The price of a flagship model can go up to double the price of the same capacity but non-inverter model. For instance, the Daikin inverter FTKM35T [1.5HP] costs RM 3,630.00 as of writing (237% difference compared to FTV35P).

The premium and deluxe inverter models are also significantly more expensive than the standard inverter model.

So, it is true that inverter ACs are more expensive but they’re not as expensive as some people think. However, if you need 3-4 units, then the additional cost can quickly add up to a significant extra expense.

Energy Efficiency

Inverter ACs are much more energy efficient than non-inverter ACs. Fundamentally, the working principle of inverter ACs allows them to save a lot of energy required to repeatedly start their compressor.

In Malaysia, inverter ACs are mostly 5 out of 5 stars for their energy efficiency rating. Meanwhile, non-inverter ACs are usually only 3 out of 5 stars.

Generally speaking, inverter ACs are about 30% more energy efficient than non-inverter ACs. Daikin claimed that their inverter ACs save 58% on energy consumption and LG claimed to even save up to 70%!

However, to realize such a significant saving, inverter ACs must operate for a prolonged period as I outlined in my post about whether inverter air conditioners save electricity.

What’s more, ACs made with higher efficiency in mind are only available in the inverter lineup, making the standard inverter ACs not only more efficient than non-inverter ACs but the gaps are even wider with the premium and flagship inverter models.

Performance

Inverter ACs provide a more consistent temperature control thanks to their inverter technology that keeps the compressor running at a steady speed.

On the other hand, non-inverter ACs control the room temperature by shutting off their compressor when the temperature setpoint is reached and turning it back on when the room gets hot. This causes the room temperature to fluctuate, usually between 1-2°C which is quite easy to notice.

Although inverter ACs give us a more consistent temperature, some people prefer non-inverter ACs because they like the cold air that the non-inverter ACs produce.

Whenever the compressor of a non-inverter AC kicks in, it cools the air at full capacity. As a result, the air coming out of the AC is often in the range of 9-10°C which is very cold.

On the other hand, inverter ACs only do that during initial startup. After that, the air coming out of the AC slowly rises and stabilizes at around 13-14°C. This led to some people complaining inverter ACs “not enough cold”.

Both inverter and non-inverter ACs are capable of cooling down the room but every time the non-inverter AC runs, it gives a cold breeze of air which is preferred by some people.

Noise

If you own a non-inverter AC, you’ll know that each time the compressor kicks in, there is a loud rattling noise. This compressor on and off action could go on for like 20-30 times over a night. If the compressor is just next to your bed, imagine how annoying it’ll be.

On the flip side, inverter ACs don’t even do that during initial startup. Due to their inverter drive, the compressor gradually speeds up. So, there won’t be any rattling noise but a slowly getting louder noise.

Some people don’t like the noise produced by the inverter compressor because it sounds like a groaning underpowered car. Additionally, inverter ACs change their compressor speed according to the cooling requirement. So, the groaning sound is more noticeable as it changes frequently.

Non-inverter ACs don’t change their compressor speed. Whenever their compressor runs, it’ll always be at full speed. Although the noise is greater, it is consistent. So, our brain can quickly adapt and forget about it as if it was never there.

Functions & Features

Both inverter and non-inverter ACs offer equally useful functions and good features. Most of them are equipped with standard operation modes like Turbo, Sleep, Dry, Fan and Cool.

Check out my post explaining different air conditioner modes.

However, one major difference is that non-inverter ACs don’t have the ECO mode which is a function that improves energy efficiency by limiting the compressor power. Without the inverter drive, they simply can’t do it.

Conversely, inverter ACs have ECO mode. When you don’t need so much cooling, you can limit the compressor power to save energy.

As mentioned earlier, inverter ACs have more premium models. As a result, some of the high-tech functions such as self-diagnosis and 24-hour timer are only available on inverter ACs.

Maintenance

Technicians often prefer to sell you non-inverter ACs because they’re more reliable and less prone to fault. Inverter ACs are usually the one that gets a bad rep when it comes to service and maintenance.

Non-inverter ACs have fewer electronic parts. They don’t have the inverter drive that controls the compressor speed and the PCB (printed circuit board) required for communication between the indoor and outdoor units.

The PCB of the indoor unit is the one that gets more complaints. Many people say it is sensitive to dust, water vapor and even lizards can spoil the control board. Replacement for the PCB is not cheap either.

Non-inverter ACs normally don’t give out a lot of error codes. Inverter ACs, on the other hand, often display error codes for small issues like signal cable faulty, wrong wiring connections and malfunctioning control boards. Although these are issues that aren’t supposed to happen, some people find inverter ACs are prone to malfunction.

From my experience, inverter ACs require good installation as they involve a certain degree of electronics and electrical work. That said, my inverter ACs still going strong after 6 years in service and I have yet to see any sign of degradation even though I’d say the installation is not world-class standard.

Lifespan

In theory, an inverter compressor doesn’t run as harshly as the on/off compressor of a non-inverter AC and therefore, inverter ACs should last longer. However, it is often the electronics that fail before the compressor.

A well-made compressor can cycle on and off thousand of times before failure, lasting 10 years or more. An inverter-driven compressor should last even longer since it doesn’t cycle on/off and therefore, less wear and tear.

However, as a whole, inverter ACs have more electronic parts and these electronics are sensitive and more prone to faulty. Nonetheless, a well-taken care inverter AC should last as long as a non-inverter AC.

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

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