$$$ KPO and CZM $$$: BTO Guide - Tips on Selecting Air Con

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

BTO Guide - Tips on Selecting Air Con

KPO and I have collected our keys about 2-3 months ago (see BTO HDB Key Collection & Door Opening Ceremony) and we have taken quite some time to select and shortlist our interior designer (ID). Now that we have locked down our ID and began our renovation, it is time to do some shopping for the house.

One of the initial items after we kick-start our renovation process was to check out the air con as the wiring/piping installation needed to be done almost the same time as the electrical wiring. We googled quite a bit on the different types of air-con and things to look out for. Over the course of a weekend air-con shopping, we learnt how to read air-con models and also noted some of the key features to look out for when purchasing an air-con.

How to read an air-con model?
Taking the latest Samsung 5 Ticks Multi-Split Inverter System 4 model AJ038RCJ4EC-3XAJ009MBADEC-1XAJ024RBADEC example, the first few numbers you see in the model (i.e. "038" represents the maximum capacity of the air-con. This means that the air con can operate at a maximum of 38k BTU. I will be explaining BTU shortly below. The next one after the first dash "-" represents the number of split air-con that comes with it, i.e. "3" air-con with "9"k BTU and "1" air-con "24"k BTU.

Similarly, for the LG ArtCool+ model A4UQ30GFA0-3X09GDJR0-1X24GDKR0, this means that this is a system 4 air con with a maximum capacity of 30k BTU combined, with 3 split air-con of 9k BTU and 1 split air-con of 24k BTU.

So below are some of the items we looked out for:

1. BTU (British Thermal Unit)
This represents the measurement of how much energy is required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree. In the case of air-con, the bigger the room, the more BTU it requires to cool the room. In addition, you will probably need more BTU for a room with many windows (i.e. more sunlight) or people. There are many BTU charts and calculators online, one of such can be found here.

2. Air Con Capacity
Looking at BTU itself is insufficient as the ability to cool a room depends on the maximum capacity of the air-con as well. Taking the same Samsung example above, the model AJ038RCJ4EC-3XAJ038RCJ4EC-1XAK024RBADEC comes with a maximum capacity of 38k BTU. This means that at any one point in time, I can either switch on all the rooms which utilises about 9k x 3 rooms = 27k BTU, or 1 living room + 1 bedroom which utilises about 24k + 9k = 33k BTU. Otherwise, the rooms will be less cold.

On the other hand, the same LG model above with a capacity of 30k would mean that if I want to switch on the living room's air-con, I will not be able to sufficiently cool any other room.

3. System 3 + 1 or System 4?
KPO and I were deciding between getting a system 3 + 1 or system 4 for our entire house, including the living room. It will ultimately depend on your needs. Referring back to item 2, if you think that it is likely that you will switch on the air con for the entire house at any given point in time, then it will make sense to get system 3 + 1. This means that the air-con comes with 2 compressors i.e. more BTU capacity. However, this also means you require more space on your air-con ledge and more money involved as well.

4. 2 Ticks or 5 Ticks?

Taken from NEA Energy Label website
It really depends on what you think will be your usage level. At one glance, one may think that the energy/electricity cost is a lot higher for 2 ticks model based on the energy label. However, it is an annual cost with certain assumptions - Based on 27 cents per kWh electricity cost, 8 hours daily usage and 16 hours standby energy consumption. We know the cost of electricity has decreased significantly since Open Electricity Market (OEM) happened and will you really use your air con daily?

KPO and I were initially thinking of 2 ticks because (1) initial outlay is a lot lower; (2) I doubt we will use the air-con often, hence electricity savings will not be substantial. However, we eventually bought the 5 ticks one because we eventually managed to get a good deal from Gain City.

By the way, 2 ticks is the minimum number of ticks allowed in the market currently and 5 ticks is the maximum number of ticks available in the air-con market for now. You can read more about it here - NEA Energy Label.

5. Air Con Piping
The type of air con piping used is important as well because an inferior quality pipe will result in leakages. Ideally, the insulation used should be 3/8 inches for piping in trunking or 1/2 inches for piping that is hidden by false ceiling. Do check out if your air con provider provides a free upgrade of the piping.

6. Other Considerations
Some other considerations when selecting air con include:
- The looks of the air con (see the above LG model. It really looks so aesthetically pleasing)
- The brand reliability / after sales service
- Other features such as wifi (for smart homes)

In the end, we bought Samsung 5 Ticks System 4 (3 x 9k and 1 x 24k + 38k outdoor compressor) from Gain City for $4199 (actual $4599) with upgraded piping. Gain City was giving $400 voucher for next purchase but we went down to the store in IMM which just sells air con and the staff deducted it from our purchase immediately. In addition, he was still able to give us an additional $80 voucher for the next purchase + a few $50 furniture vouchers (with a minimum purchase of $700).

We also opted for 2 separate installations at an additional fee of $85 (first to run/do the piping and only mount/install the air con once the renovation is completed). This is to prevent the renovation workers from using/switching on the air con... Last but not least, do sign up for their membership program as you will be able to get 1% cashback/points for next purchase.

Hope this list would help the new homeowners in purchasing their dream air-con. Let me know if I missed out any other important air-con attributes to look out for!

You might be interested in these other BTO Guides:
BTO Guide - Tips on Selecting Air Con
BTO Guide - 4 Things To Look Out For When Selecting Your Kitchen Sink

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  1. Never knew the serial numbers in air con units contained this much information. Thanks a lot!

  2. do note that piping for 9k is usually different from 12k/18k piping which is larger.

    the 9k unit is usually exactly the same size as a 12k unit. 3 x 12k, 1 x 18k is a better config.

    I've always gone for Mitsubishi for their absolute reliability. I have 3 outdoor compressors and they last for years without needing to get any maintenance - with 3 compressors I save a lot from not needing to buy service packages. I buy water flossers and do my own DIY spraying of the room units once in a while.

    1. I didn't know about the piping. Will check out the water flossers too. Thanks for sharing!