Australia isn't exactly known for lacking heat, but heating systems are still an important installation in many homes to stave off the chilly winter nights, particularly in cooler parts of the country such as the southern coasts and Tasmania. However, actually choosing a heating system that suits you needs can be challenging — conventional gas and electric boilers and heaters have their advantages, but can both be inefficient and expensive to run.
Consequently, many Australian homes do not have a dedicated heating system at all. Instead, these homes are heated by their air conditioning system; reverse-cycle air conditioners are capable of both cooling and heating homes by altering the directions of their air and refrigerant flows.
Choosing one of these integrated heating-and-cooling systems for your home can be tremendously efficient and has a number of advantages over more conventional home heating methods. However, there are a few drawbacks you must also consider, so take stock of the pros and cons of reverse-cycle air conditioning before deciding whether it is right for your home.
What are the advantages of heating your home with reverse cycle air conditioning?
- Energy efficient: Reverse-cycle air conditioners do not create their own heat as such. Instead, they draw in warm air from outside your home, using it to heat refrigerant fluid, which is subsequently used to heat the air within your home. This is essentially a reversal of the process air conditioners use to cool rooms, and is tremendously energy efficient. Many reverse-cycle systems will offer substantial savings in running costs compared to conventional heaters, especially over the long term.
- Low emissions: High energy efficiency also makes for lower levels of harmful emissions required to heat your home, and the air conditioner itself does not vent any emissions at all. Installing a reverse-cycle air conditioner can therefore significantly reduce your home's carbon footprint.
- Safe: This unique heat generation process eliminates the need for flames and hot heating elements, and reverse-cycle units will remain cool to the touch even after long periods of use. They also present no danger of emitting carbon monoxide, the deadly, odourless gas that can be emitted by faulty or damaged gas boilers.
- Filtered air: Reverse-cycle air conditioning is unique among home heating systems in that the hot air vented into your home is passed through air filtration devices beforehand. This helps to prevent dust and detritus from spreading around your home and accumulating in your ducts and is particularly valuable to people who suffer from allergies or respiratory problems.
- Simplicity: Integrating your heating and cooling systems into a single, all-encompassing unit makes keeping track of your thermostats and energy usage far easier and reduces the amount of modifications you have to make to your home during heating and cooling installation.
What about the disadvantages?
- Cost: Reverse-cycle air conditioners might be cheap to run, but they are rarely cheap to buy. They tend to cost far more than conventional air conditioners and can be more expensive than the combined cost of separate heating and cooling systems for your home.
- Limited effectiveness without ducting: Small reverse-cycle air conditioning units can be found, but these wall- and window-mounted units are only capable of servicing one or two rooms at a time and can be less efficient than their larger cousins. Ducting systems are generally required to get the most from your reverse-cycle air conditioner, and these ducts require time, money and space to install.