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A higher price is no guarantee to better performance in air conditioners - CHOICE # 403

  • 2010.05.14

Is price a reliable indicator of the performance of a room air conditioner?

A Consumer Council test on 15 models of window-type room air conditioners with claimed cooling capacity of 2.05kW to 2.17kW (commonly referred to as 3/4 horsepower), has shown quite otherwise.

Of the 15 models, ranging in price from $1,380 to $2,990, the model with the lowest price turned out to be one of the better performers.

It was one of 4 models awarded with a rating of 4 points on a scale of 5. Even with the addition of a basic installation fee of $210, the price of the model at $1,590 was still the lowest amongst all samples.

The other 3 models with a 4-point rating were in the price range of $1,998 to $2,430 (inclusive of installation).

Only one model ($2,480) out-performed them with the top score of 4.5 points.

The highest-priced model of $2,990 (exclusive of installation) was given a rating of 3 points.

The overall rating was based on: cooling capacity (how close it is to its value claimed) 10%, energy efficiency 45%, noise level 30%, ease of use 10%, enclosure sweat and condensate disposal 5%.

On cooling capacity, 9 of the samples were found to fall slightly below their own claim with the largest discrepancy at 6.8%. The Customs and Excise Department has been notified of the findings on such discrepancy.

On energy efficiency, all but 2 samples were found to qualify for the top Grade 1 rating under the Energy Efficiency Labelling Scheme of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.

The 2 exceptions would be qualified for Grade 2 rating only according to the Council's test results.

Generally, the higher the energy efficiency, the less the energy an air conditioner will consume - and a lower electricity bill to the users.

In terms of annual running cost of electricity, the samples varied from an estimated $909 to $1,082, a difference of 16% or $173 in a year.

Though all samples passed the condensate disposal test, under the extremely humid ambient condition in summer, air conditioners may still produce dripping on the outside as the large amount of condensate water may not evaporate fast enough. Consumers are advised to install a drain hose if dripping occurs.

All samples passed a series of safety tests (with reference to IEC 60335-2-40) including cord anchorage, leakage current and earthing continuity.

As air conditioners are heavy in electricity consumption, some tips for energy saving are useful:

  • Do not set too low a temperature.
  • Use curtains to block direct sunlight into the room.
  • Clean the air filters regularly to ensure best operation.

For full details of the test results, consumers can refer to the report in the latest (May) issue of CHOICE.

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