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Old 22-05-2010, 04:32 AM   #1375
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The guide to air conditioning
Life in a tropical country will never be the same without air conditioning
Posted Date: Dec 15, 2009
By: Simon Phun Keeping cool
Life in a tropical country will never be the same without air conditioning. It keeps us cool from sweltering heat, make us less sticky by keeping humidity in check, and envelop us in continuous comfort. defrosts the glitz behind cool-looking air-conditioners to identify cool technology behind them and point out how they will make you feel great.
Behind the shiny, mirror, glowing, etc, façade of home air-conditioners lie technology that pampers us all. Masked behind names like ‘nano’, ‘ion’, ‘inverter’ and other variations, these technology actually do a fair bit to make our lives feel better.
For regular household consumers, all these technology name-dropping really boils down to two benefits that are easier to understand – energy saving and cleaner air.

Feel Good #1: Fatter wallet from energy saved

For some parts of Asia, air-conditioners have long migrated from them being a luxury to become a necessity. Some households even have them turned on daily which usually results in higher energy bills.
As we do not change air conditioners often, investing more money into their technological functionalities can be good for the wallet in the long run and energy saving features should be at the top of everyone’s list. After all, frequent use of air conditioners result in higher energy usage which directly translates into expensive energy bills.
Lucky for consumers is that it is really easy to tell one category of energy saving air conditioners from another. In general, inverter air conditioners tend to use less energy due to their technology compared to conventional non-inverter types.
Air conditioners have motors that drive the revolution of compressors to determine the level of cooling. The motors in inverter type air conditioners are capable of handling variable speeds that automatically adjusts to meet an ideal set temperature. This means that should the room condition reach a desired temperature, the motor speed reduces thus requiring lesser power, thus, resulting in lesser energy used.
Conversely, non-inverter air conditioners have motors that only operate in two modes, off or on. Once a desired temperature is met, the motor shuts off. The motor then turns on again when the room temperature falls below the desired level. Accordingly, this frequent off/on state is not as energy efficient as inverter technology.
Mr Wong Lee Tieng of Group Associated (C&L) Sdn Bhd, the distributor of York air conditioners in Malaysia says, “Inverter has variable capacity whereby the compressor speed can be regulated according to the room load requirements. Non-inverter has fix capacity whereby compressor speed is fixed at one speed only. It either runs at full capacity or stop.”
While it sounds all rosy for inverter air conditioners as they are generally more energy efficient than non inverter ones, there is a report1 that prolonged usage of inverter air conditioning at full load might result in potentially higher energy bills than non-inverter models. According to the report, savings from the use of inverter air conditioners could be seen when only some units are turned on for eight hours or less in a day.
Wong says, “If the room is oversized, both inverter and non-inverter will consume energy as well. Therefore, it is important to select an air conditioner which 100 percent suits your room load requirements in order to save energy. Once you have selected an air conditioner which fulfills your room load requirements, inverter plays an important role to save energy as it does not need to operate at full load all the time to cool down the oversized room load requirements. Once the temperature setting is met, the compressor will slow down and operate in low speed to maintain the room temperature. That is why you will enjoy a constant room temperature when you use inverter.
“But if you opt for non-inverter air conditioner, the compressor will stop operating when the temperature setting is met, and it will operate again when the room temperature rises, the power consumption requires to start-up compressor operation is five to six times more compared to it being in operation. Nonetheless, the inverter may operate at full load or non-inverter may operate non-stop all the time if the outdoor unit was installed at the area with high outdoor ambience and the indoor temperature was set at the minimum with high fan speed.”
Little things that lead to big things
While technology in air conditioners help in saving energy resulting in money saved, there are some things that you can do to allow your air conditioner to be more energy efficient. Here they are:
#1: Lower the room’s temperature
A hotter room makes the air conditioner work harder. Therefore, try cutting exterior heat by using drapes or heat-reflective window coatings to naturally bring the room’s temperature down. Even heat reflective paint on the exteriors can help.
#2: Control the room temperature with a thermostat
Setting the air conditioner to regulate a room’s temperature at a comfortable level will suffice and doing so will use less energy. If it is unnecessary to set the temperature to its coldest, then don’t.
#3: Regular maintenance
Regular cleaning of the air conditioner air filter will help. Doing so will not only make the air conditioner work better, but it will also ensure that you are breathing in cleaner air. Furthermore, get a serviceman to do regular maintenance on the air conditioners. The frequency required depends on the usage.
#4: Ensure sufficient cooling capacity
It is unfair to expect a 1hp air conditioner to cool the living room, kitchen and dining area without running itself into the ground. Depending on the size of the room to be cooled, its exposure to heat, and primary function of the room, the cooling capacity of the air conditioner needed varies. To achieve better energy efficiency, it is better to match the cooling capacity to the size of the room. Try this website to roughly determine the cooling capacity required.
Apart from inverter/non inverter technology, air conditioners in some countries have energy labels that can help consumers decide on a more energy efficient model to select. In the United States, Energy Star is their label for energy efficient products. Air conditioners that are Energy Star qualified are at least 10 percent more energy efficient than the minimum U.S. federal government standards.
In Singapore, energy labelling is mandatory for what they deem as ‘registrable goods’ and this list includes air conditioners and refrigerators. To determine their energy efficiency, consumers in Singapore just have to look out for the number of ‘green ticks’ a product has. Four green ticks is the highest rating and there is even an online database of rated energy efficient products on their website (
For Malaysia, there is a voluntary energy labelling scheme but so far its reach is quite limited. That said, savvy consumers today can easily do a search online for air conditioner models that carry energy labels from other countries and see if the models are sold here. After all, putting in a little more effort and money in shopping for energy efficient will result in long term savings.
Feel Good #2: Breath better, live happier
Air purifying features are perhaps one of the hottest technologies for air conditioners today due to greater awareness on general health issues. Called many names in the market by various manufacturers like LG’s ‘Neo Plasma Plus Ion’, York’s ‘Bio Shield’ or ‘Titanium Apatite’, Samsung’s ‘Micro Plasma Ion’, and such, what the technology does is that it purifies the air as well as combats odour. This translates into cleaner and fresher air, and according to some manufacturers, their technology eliminates virus and bacteria.
In the market
A quick browse of air conditioner offerings in the Malaysian market shows that most of them have air purifying technology of sorts. As for energy saving models, there are still a lot of non-inverter models in the market of which most of them are generally priced lower than inverter models. This is where you as a consumer need to decide on your air conditioning usage patterns before you buy.
1 ‘Why no savings from inverter air-conditioner?’ Source: MyPaper, Singapore, 22 April 2008
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