With the winter season receding, we have arrived at that time of the year when buying an air conditioner for the swelteringly hot months of summer will soon become imperative. Today, we no longer live at a time when an AC is an aspirational lifestyle product — with reduced prices, a larger number of brands making products locally, and a host of competitive financing options extended by pretty much every retailer and bank, buying an AC is an imperative requirement to deal with the incessant heat that both coastal and mainland India faces for over six months at a stretch. With this in mind, here’s looking at our comprehensive AC buying guide, which will take you through every aspect that you may need to think of, before buying a new air conditioner. From tenants to home owners, students to established professionals, and for residents in any part of the country, we’ve got you covered.
Factors to consider before buying an air conditioner
To begin the AC buying process, the first factor that you need to consider is how hot your area of residence gets. Taking the national average into account (minus the cool temperature of the hills), it is likely that you will face temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius during the peak months of summer. Keep a mental note of your average summer temperature — the hotter your region is, the more powerful your AC needs to be.
The second factor to consider is your room area, the material of the walls, your floor of residence, and material of ceiling. If you live on the top floor of a building, your room is likely to receive more heat through the day, which would require more powerful cooling — and a correspondingly larger AC. In terms of room size, the calculation of AC tonnage required is detailed below. Before you buy an AC, keep your room area (calculated in square feet) at hand.
Finally, picking the right AC will also depend on how you can install it. If your building cannot accommodate window ACs due to structural obstructions, portable or split units could be ideal. Read on to know more.
Types of Air Conditioners
Window AC Units
Pretty much the norm in India before split air conditioners became mainstream, window AC units are generally more affordable. For instance, while the average window AC may cost you around Rs 25,000 in India, the same format for split ACs could cost you around Rs 35,000 (data as per average pricing of ACs on e-commerce platforms, as of March 2023).
Apart from affordability, window ACs are easier to carry and install, since the entire AC comes in one unit. Before proceeding with your AC buying process, ensure how you can install the AC in your room. If you have a window, or an area of a wall that can be spared for roughly 4 square feet, a window AC is ideal for you.
Portable AC Units
Arguably the less popular of the lot, portable ACs are far less common to spot, and are also relatively new in terms of availability. Only a few brands, including Blue Star, today offer portable ACs in India. The latter are mostly useful in very small rooms that are rented, where you have roadblocks in terms of how you can fit the AC. Portable ACs resemble air purifiers, and typically have an outlet that can be easily fit into a window (akin to a chimney outlet), for it to operate efficiently. Unless absolutely necessary, it is wiser to opt for window or split units.
Split AC Units
Presently the most popular and also the most widely available type, split ACs look sleek, and fit without you needing to reconstruct a window. They also need lesser sections of the wall to be drilled in order to be installed, and generally work with lesser noise as well. However, it is important to note that these ACs typically cost more (price difference detailed above).
Apart from this, split AC units also come with the need to place an outer unit beyond your room. If you reside on a higher floor, without access to a balcony or a terrace, doing this could be tricky. Evaluate this well, before proceeding with your AC buying endeavour.
Central AC Units
The most elusive of the lot, central AC units are significantly more expensive, and cannot be bought as standalone units. They are typically custom configured by brands according to the needs of your home, and are generally more difficult to fit in condominiums and apartments. Centrally air-conditioning your home is more expensive in terms of energy consumption, cost of installation and product, servicing and every other aspect, and only makes sense if you have a large number of people and floors — which is why you’d see these units mostly in commercial buildings.
Inverter vs Non-Inverter AC: Which Is Better?
Inverter air conditioners are also a relatively newer breed, and come at a time when more appliances are using inverters in their configurations. To simplify your AC buying process right away, it is the inverter AC that is better for you.
In simple terms, inverter ACs use a compressor that can regulate the speed of an AC’s motor more efficiently, depending on how cool your room is. This can ensure more efficient cooling, less electricity consumption, and lesser noise too, in comparison to non-inverter ACs. The latter can only keep the motor on or off, and as a result, are less recommendable.
However, this comes at a price difference of about 5-10 percent, depending on the brand, size and type of AC you buy. For instance, a Daikin 1.5-ton 3-star split AC costs around Rs 37,900 for the non-inverter variant, and Rs 39,900 for the inverter variant — a difference of Rs 2,000 at the time of purchase. However, this is also a one-time investment, since most maintenance costs will be largely similar (repair costs of inverter ACs can be slightly higher), while the running electricity cost of inverter ACs is lower than non-inverter ones.
Aluminium vs Copper Coil: Which is Better?
Aluminium coils are more commonly found in ACs today, so in your AC buying process, you are likely to find them more. In fact, brands have begun advertising copper coils as a selling point, suggesting that the latter is superior — and they are.
Copper is more durable, resistant to corrosion, easier to repair and more efficient in dealing with severe heat in comparison to aluminium, making ACs that use copper coils the obviously better ones. However, aluminium coils are significantly more affordable, and thus bring down the cost of ACs. That said, aluminium ACs are likely to break down more easily, so if you live in an area with harsh weather conditions, a copper coil AC is a prudent choice to make.
Capacity and Size
The Bureau of Energy Efficiency, or BEE, is a standards body maintained by the Indian government to support consumers with an idea of how efficient (or otherwise) their products are. As a result, the BEE rating, which is given from 0 to 5 stars, gives an indication of how many units of electricity per year would your AC consume. While ACs with 5-star BEE rating generally cost up to 15-20 percent more than those rated between 1-3 stars, the former are also significantly more efficient. If you plan to use your AC for long and continuous hours, ensure that you purchase a 5-star BEE-rated AC, be it split or window.
The room size calculation is extremely important to consider, and is often regarded as the number one metric to decide what AC you should purchase. AC sizes, as you’d find during your AC buying process, is calculated in tonnes — and here is the room size calculation that you need to keep in mind:
- Up to 110 square feet (11 feet x 10 feet walls) = 0.8 ton
- 110 to 170 square feet (14 feet x 12 feet walls) = 1 ton
- 170 to 260 square feet (19 feet x 14 feet walls) = 1.5 ton
- 260 to 450 square feet (22 feet x 20 feet walls) = 2 ton
Do keep in mind that these room sizes are indicative. If you live on the top floor where your room receives extreme heat, it would be prudent to get a larger capacity AC to get more efficient and quicker cooling — a small AC in such rooms would take much longer to cool the room. The reverse also holds true — if your room is generally faced away from the sun and has plenty of shelter, a smaller AC can help you accrue more savings in the long run.
For rooms that are larger in size than what is mentioned above, multiple ACs would be needed.
Energy Efficiency Rating
While this is increasingly rare, some ACs continue to offer their own energy ratings by showcasing how many units of electricity they consume per year. As an extra factor to check before buying, it is always good to check for this rating.
Features and Functionality
ACs typically come with three to five cooling speeds. Note that this is different from cooling modes — the latter can include auto, cool (to be used for overall cooling), dry (to be used to keep the room from getting moist), fan mode (without cooling) and more. Fan speeds for cooling, however, can either be controlled from the number of steps offered through the remote control, or be set to auto mode.
Many ACs today offer a ‘silent’ operation mode, where the motor and the compressor work quieter than in a general mode. This noise level can be controlled through a single button, although this will only work in select modes with low fan speed — for instance, ‘turbo’ modes for powerful cooling will not work in low noise levels.
Modern day ACs have also started using air filters with increasing purifier properties, such as bacterial and fungal filters in order to keep rooms fresh. Many ACs also come with deodorising filters, in order to keep the room smelling fresh, even in damp environments. Check an AC’s packaging for their air filter properties, before purchasing.
The thermostat is what shows what temperature your room is at, and displays it on the AC or the remote unit. Controlling the thermostat lets you decide what temperature you want your room to be at, and can be easily set with buttons on a remote control. The thermostat typically resides on the body of the AC unit, and shows what temperature your room is presently at. You can set it at a certain temperature, which will be maintained until you change it.
The remote control is now a ubiquitous feature that is available across all air conditioners. It is available in all types of modern day ACs, and adds a layer of convenience to operating the devices. Most AC remotes use infrared connections and are always battery operated, and range from about 8 square inches to about double the size. A limited number of smartphones, with infrared connectivity, can also double up as remote controllers. Some modern-day smart ACs with internet connectivity can also use their own apps as Wi-Fi-connected remote controllers.
A dehumidifier is a device that reduces the amount of moisture in a room, and most ACs today offer a dehumidifier as a feature. There is a specific mode for this that is typically denoted by a water-drop and is accessible through the mode button of the remote controller. Using this releases dry air into a room, and using this prior to using the ‘cool’ mode can decrease the overall power consumption of an AC.
Like the other features, timers are also found in most ACs today, and can be used to set a limit to how long an AC would operate for. Timers are typically available in set intervals of 30 minutes or 1 hour each, and are useful to be used at nighttime, if you are unsure about keeping the AC on for the full night.
A feature that you will find in fewer AC, auto restart ensures the lowest power consumption by optimising how it operates. The auto restart feature turns off the AC automatically, when a certain specified temperature condition is reached. The AC will automatically switch on or off subsequently, to make sure that the average target temperature is maintained throughout the time of operation, unless you change the settings. This too is highly useful for night usage.
The most modern of the lot, smart ACs use a chip that allows the device to connect to a home Wi-Fi network. These ACs typically use a companion smartphone app to set-up the initial connection. The advantages include the ability to control the AC through your phone, being able to switch it on before you reach home (and thus return to a pre-cooled or heated room), and pairing the device to smart home hubs and speakers such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa. The disadvantages, meanwhile, include the high price of these ACs, and the fact that smart features still remain largely niche and non-compelling features.
Once you have filtered through all the features and metrics for choosing the AC, it is important to consider installation facilities offered by a brand. Note that most brands typically provide a free installation facility for their product, no matter which retailer you buy it from. In some cases, retailers themselves also provide installation services.
However, before opting for this, ensure that doing so will not void your warranty — after you purchase an AC, it is always prudent to call the brand’s customer centre to confirm this. You will also be most likely required to call the helpline or contact online to schedule your AC installation.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Air Filter Replacement
Replacement of air filters is the easiest part of the maintenance and cleaning procedures of an AC. To do this, simply open the exterior flap of your AC — be it window, split or portable units. Doing this will reveal one or two filters (depending on the size of your AC), which you will then need to clean and wash.
Remove these filters gently by pulling the tab on them, and detaching them from the unit. You can now either clean them with a vacuum cleaner, or even wash them with water to ensure that there is no dirt left on them. Be sure to dry them fully, before plugging them back in again. It is prudent to do this once every month.
Cleaning the Unit
Apart from cleaning out the filters, it is also a good idea to generally clean your AC unit once in a while. Use a clean, dry cloth to remove all dirt from around the filter, as well as the fan flaps. Do not try to disassemble the unit, while cleaning.
A host of third party service providers, such as Urban Company, today offer professional maintenance services that include vacuum cleaning of the filter and all parts, and checking for cooling gas levels in the AC. It is prudent to call for a professional maintenance service once every year, typically after the winter season.
Tips to Ensure Best Cooling from AC
There are a number of ways to ensure that you get just the right level of cooling from your AC. They are:
- Ensure that your AC filters are clean
- During your annual servicing procedure, ensure that your AC’s cooling gas is not running low
- Ensure that there is as little air gap below your doors and windows when using the AC
- Always keep the room door closed when using the AC
- In summer afternoons, try drawing curtains to reduce the amount of heat entering the room
- Set a mean temperature of around 25 degrees Celsius (this ensures that the AC reaches this temperature faster, and thus cools more efficiently)
- Place your room furniture according to the AC (keeping the bed or sofa, where you’ll spend most time, in line of the AC will ensure that you get the cooling effect faster)
- Whenever you can, use the ceiling fan along with the AC to ensure effective cooling
Price in India and Running Cost
For the most part, the initial cost of owning an AC is limited to purchasing the AC, plus the installation cost (which too is mostly free). There are no hidden charges in the initial purchasing and installation of an AC.
The generally accepted running cost formula of an AC is its daily electricity consumption, multiplied by number of hours of running, multiplied by number of days of running of the AC. The electricity consumption can be found on the technical data sheet of an AC, and is often given in annualised format. If the latter is true, divide the figure (noted in kWh unit) by 365 to find daily electricity consumption. The typical average electricity consumption of a 1.5-ton split AC (rated at least 4 stars) is between 1.5 and 2.
Taking 1.75 here as an example, if you typically use this AC for six hours a day, and are home for at least 25 days in a month, your total electricity consumption will be 1.75 x 6 x 25 = 262.5 units. To convert this, multiply this figure by the electricity cost of where you reside. As an example, if your cost of electricity is around Rs 5.5 per unit, you will be spending anywhere between Rs 1,400 and Rs 1,500 per month on the AC every month.
Note that this figure can be lesser depending on the actual usage of your AC.
The average maintenance cost of an AC today is not too high. One servicing session typically costs anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000, and this does not need to be repeated more than once every year. However, do note that servicing technicians may often cite issues with your unit to add costs, which you must be personally aware of.
Any additional repair tasks for ACs would cost you further. Components that are the most commonly replaced, such as the air filter, will cost you between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 to purchase in third-party markets.
Every AC comes with its own set of warranty for different components. For instance, while an AC may have two or three years of warranty on the printed circuit board (PCB) of the unit, they mostly have nearly 10 years of warranty on the compressor. Check and compare warranties at your retailer, before purchasing.
Top AC Brands in India
The air conditioner segment is flooding with options. However, there is only a new of them that deliver an exceptional lineup of products for customers. Here’s a list of top brands in India that you can consider if you are looking to buy your next AC:
Haier is a well-known brand in the home appliances segment. The brand is known for delivering quality products that come with state-of-the-art features and aggressive pricing. The same is the case with its air conditioner lineup. The latest innovation from the brand includes Kinouchi 5 Star Heavy-Duty Pro Air Conditioner series that claims to deliver powerful performance and is light on your budget as well. The series comes with Triple Inverter Plus technology which helps in delivering up to 65 per cent energy savings to the users.
Daikin is a well-known brand in India with a reputation for providing energy-efficient and high-performance cooling solutions. Daikin provides unique features like as inverter technology, air purifiers, and smart controls with a wide range of products accessible, from split ACs to VRV systems, making it a top option for Indian consumers. Moreover, Daikin has a significant presence in India, with a large network of dealers and service facilities scattered throughout the nation, assuring simple availability and prompt after-sales assistance.
This brand is self-explanatory. LG is an established brand in India for its innovative features, trendy looks, and energy-efficient performance. LG provides a wide range of goods, from split air conditioners to window air conditioners, and has recently developed a line of smart air conditioners that can be managed by smartphones. Voice control and interaction with virtual assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are also aspects of smart air conditioners. LG air conditioners are also recognised for their air purification technology, which aids in the removal of hazardous pollutants and allergens from the air.
Voltas is a popular brand in India, noted for its effective cooling solutions, innovative features, and low prices. Voltas provides a wide selection of air conditioners, from window air conditioners to split air conditioners, in a variety of tonnage choices to accommodate varied room sizes. Volta’s air conditioners also include innovative features, including inverter technology, air purifiers, and smart controls. The smart air conditioners can be managed via a smartphone app and are compatible with voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
Samsung has also disrupted the market with its range of air conditioners in India. The brand delivers a plethora of products for split ACs, system ACs, and air purifiers. To provide a comfortable and convenient cooling experience, Samsung air conditioners provide functions such as automatic cleaning, dehumidification, and sleep mode.
Where to Buy
Multi-brand offline retailers, such as Croma, Vijay Sales and Reliance Smart are often the best places to buy ACs since they allow you to see a unit in person. You can also choose to use online destinations such as Amazon or Flipkart, but be sure to check for reviews before purchasing. Do note that products may also face damages in transit, so it is more sensible to buy an AC locally.