How does a reverse cycle air conditioning system work?

Most electric heaters create heat directly, using elements which heat up when an electric current passes through them. These direct element heaters include portable heaters, panel convection heaters and off peak storage heaters.

Reverse cycle air conditioning extracts heat from the outside air, even on mid winter nights and transfers it inside. A refrigerant is passed through an external coil, absorbing heat from the outside air. This refrigerant is then pumped by a compressor into the fan coil unit, inside the home, releasing heat into the room.

Up to three or more units of heat can be transferred for every unit of electricity used to run the reverse cycle air conditioning.  Therefore, running costs can be as low as one third of those for direct element heaters.

By reversing the flow of this refrigerant, reverse cycle air conditioners also provide efficient refrigerative cooling in summer.

The advantage of these systems is that they are able to provide cooling, one of the most economical forms of heating and also filter and dehumidify the air

Types of systems

Split systems are permanently mounted systems with the condenser/compressor unit located externally and a separate evaporator/fan coil unit located inside the home. These are joined together by insulated piping, which carries the refrigerant.

The remote location of the compressor makes these units significantly quieter than window or wall units.

The internal unit of a split system is most commonly installed on a wall. However, units can be installed at floor level, ideal for heating, in the ceiling as a cassette or ducted system.

Multi-systems are split systems with more than one internal unit connected to an external compressor. There are multiple indoor styles and capacity combinations available. These systems have individual on, off and temperature control.

Ducted systems are designed to centrally heat and cool a large number of rooms or an entire home. They can be suitable if you have an open plan house and prefer heating or cooling in all or most of the rooms in your house simultaneously.

All these systems should have inverter technology which enables the compressor to operate at variable speeds depending on the output required. Inverter air conditioners have a faster heat up time and maintain a more comfortable room temperature. Inverters can reduce running costs, particularly over longer operating periods