How To Choose an Energy-Efficient Air Conditioner in South Africa

Choosing the most energy-efficient air conditioner involves more than just looking at the efficiency rating on the unit’s label.

It also involves choosing the right system type and capacity for the area you need to cool.

Why energy efficiency is important

Buying the most energy-efficient air conditioner you can will result in:

  • cost savings, especially with on-going increases in electricity tariffs
  • better unit performance and lifespan
  • less harm to the environment.

Calculate the BTU required for your air conditioning needs

The size, or cooling capacity, of an air conditioner is indicated by its BTU, or British Thermal Unit. This is a measurement of how much heat the unit can add or remove from the air per hour.

The most energy-efficient air conditioner for your needs will have a BTU suited to the size of the space you want to cool.

Other factors also have some effect. For instance, the best BTU for your space depends on climatic conditions.

It’s also affected by the positioning of the building, the type and quality of the insulation, the type and size of your windows and the height of your ceilings.

In general, the recommendation for air conditioners in South Africa is 500 BTU per square metre.

For example, a 20 m² room would require an air conditioner with 10 000 BTU.

Determine the air conditioner’s energy efficiency ratio

Each air conditioner has a specific energy efficiency ratio (EER).

EER is the cooling capacity of a unit – its BTU – divided by the kilowatts per hour (kWh) it uses at full power.

Say a 10 000 BTU air conditioner were to use 1 200 kWh. It’s EER can be calculated as 10 000 / 1 200, which equals 8.3.

A recent market survey of the EER for the most efficient air conditioners all scored above 12.

The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner – and the less it will cost you to run.

Check the air conditioner label for EER score

The good news is that South African legislation requires energy efficiency labels on all air conditioners. These must prominently display BTU, wattage and EER information.

The label is most commonly found on the front of the appliance, in the bottom right-hand corner.

Your starting point is the colour-coded energy performance class for the air conditioner.

This rating ranges from A++ (most efficient) to E (least efficient). Only air conditioners with a rating of B or above can be sold in South Africa.

Below the performance class, you’ll find details of wattage, BTU, EER, heating performance and noise level. All of these help can help you determine the most energy-efficient air conditioner for your needs.

This online calculator on the South African Energy Efficiency website can also help you determine how much energy an air conditioner will use and what it will cost to run.

The Energy Star adds an environmental approval rating

The Energy Star is a global standard for energy efficiency promoted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It’s awarded to appliances and buildings using energy solutions that are cost-effective, improve air quality and protect the climate.

Look out for the Energy Star when purchasing a new air conditioner.

Inverter air conditioners are the most energy efficient

Two main kinds of air conditioners are inverter and non-inverter systems.

The motor in an inverter air conditioner is self-regulating. This means the motor speed varies continually to maintain an even room temperature.

In contrast, non-inverter air conditioners have a single-speed motor that frequently turns off and then on again.

Inverter air conditioners are more expensive, but save on energy costs over time.

Split AC systems consist of an indoor and an outdoor unit. They also user inverter technology, but will save you money due to greater energy efficiency and durability.

Turbovent’s inverter air conditioning range

Turbovent offers a wide range of inverter air conditioners, suitable as energy-efficient systems for residences, businesses and retail spaces.

The Alliance Inverter is ideal for small residential and office spaces, and comes in different models ranging from 9 000 to 24 000 BTU

The Samsung Boracay is one of the most popular air conditioners in South Africa, offering from 9 000 to 24020 BTU models. The Samsung range also features the Maldives Inverter Midwall Split, which incorporates the latest inverter technology, making it a quiet and highly energy-efficient air conditioner for domestic spaces.

The Unitherm Class B Inverter is suitable for residential and office spaces, and boasts maximum energy efficiency and low noise levels.

Contact us for more information about our range or to discuss your air conditioning needs.


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