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Air Conditioner

Heating and cooling typically combine to be a home’s biggest energy use and its biggest contributor to greenhouse gases.  With super-efficient heat pump technology, however, you can stay comfortable and still tame your carbon footprint.  A bonus is that some heat pumps can also cool your home when it gets too hot.

Cost Range

S$4,000 - S$8,000

(for typical flat)

About the technology

Is it New?: Heat pumps have been used for heating and cooling for decades in some areas.  However, with improved technology (such as low-temperature heat pumps), they’re becoming more popular than ever and expanding into new regions.

How it Works: Heat pumps use electricity to move heat from one place to another, instead of creating the heat directly, as in a gas furnace or boiler. This is what makes them so efficient when compared to conventional heating systems.  

Applicable Types of Heat Pumps: Various types of heat pumps are available to match a home’s particular needs.  For example, air-to-air heat pumps (which can also provide cooling) can be used in many types of homes, including those with forced-air ventilation systems.  Air-to-water heat pumps are more compatible with homes containing hydronic heating systems that employ radiators or underfloor heating.  

Economics: Heat pumps are generally more expensive to install than a conventional space conditioning system, but incentives are sometimes available that can help with this higher cost. Also, you can sometimes save money on your energy bills going forward, especially if you’re switching from heating with electricity, propane/LPG, or oil.   If you combine a heat pump with rooftop solar, the economics can improve even more.

Environment: Heat pumps almost always help to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. This is because they use electricity, and in a very efficient way.  Also, as grid-supplied electricity becomes cleaner over time, heat pumps will have an increasing environmental advantage over conventional heating systems.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is a device that moves heat from one place to another but does not generate any heat of its own. Usually the flow of heat follows the temperature gradient from higher to lower temperature. However, a heat pump uses a compressor, heat exchangers, and other components to evaporate and condense a refrigerant at selective places to move the heat against a temperature gradient, much like a water pump moves water against the force of gravity. 

2. What are some everyday uses of heat pumps?

A refrigerator uses a small heat pump to move heat from the inside of the refrigerator to the surroundings, cooling your food. An air conditioner (AC), which moves heat from inside a home to the outside against a temperature gradient, is another example. So, an AC system is a type of air source heat pump (ASHP) that moves heat from inside to outside during the summer.  Some types of ASHPs also have mechanisms to reverse the flow of heat and move heat from the cold outside to the warm inside, acting as a space heater during the winter.

3. What are the major components?

A system has various components, including a compressor, outside and indoor heat exchangers, refrigerant (with associated piping), valves, and controls/wiring. These components work with a forced-air system, such as a blower that transfers the heat/cool to the interior of your home.  Some heat pumps have integrated blowers and some rely on separate blowers and ducting.

4. What types of air conditioners are available?

The most common forms of air conditioners are: 1. ducted systems that use air ducts inside the home and a central heat exchanger to condition the air flowing through the ducts, and 2. split systems that use one or more units inside the home (indoor units) to condition the space directly without using air ducts. 

5. Are split systems more efficient than ducted systems?

In general, split systems are more efficient than ducted systems.  This is partly because they avoid the energy losses associated with ducting, which can be substantial in some cases. Also, the temperature setting of each unit inside the home can be controlled separately, so the heating or cooling of the home can be more easily fine-tuned, thereby saving energy. 

1. How expensive are air conditioners?

The installed costs of air source heat pumps depend on a variety of factors, such as the type of air conditioner, home size, location, etc.  In general, however, the installed cost of an AC system is likely to fall within the range of S$4,000 and S$8,000 for a typical flat. Numerous site-specific factors affect the installed costs of an AC system, so it’s always a good idea to get cost estimates from local professionals.

1. What kind of regular maintenance is needed?

Maintaining the efficient operation of your air conditioning system generally involves activities like periodic cleaning of any debris or dust that has collected in and around coils and cleaning/replacement of filters. Some experts suggest annual maintenance visits by a professional to identify issues before they become full-blown problems.

1. Do certain types of air conditioners help to reduce greenhouse gases?

Yes, inverter-based systems can help to reduce GHG emissions. An inverter allows the air conditioner’s compressor to operate at various speeds, depending on the temperature, instead of operating full-blast all the time it’s on.  This increases the system’s efficiency and also makes for quieter operation.  Inverter-based systems cost more to purchase, but they will save you money on your monthly electricity bills. 

1. Should I get a ducted system or a split system?

Split systems are normally recommended if the home does not already have air ducts, or if extensive rework would be needed on the ducts.  If existing ducts can be used, then a ducted system is often recommended.

2. How many indoor units are needed with a split system?

In answering this question, a number of factors come into play such as home construction/orientation, number of rooms, and specific heating/cooling needs associated with each room. In some cases, an indoor will be needed in each room, but this is not always the case. Multiple registers (as many as four or fine) can be linked to an outside unit, and in larger homes, two outside units are sometimes employed.