Split System Air Conditioning: What You Need to Know!

December 30th, 2022
Cartoon of heating and cooling technicians working on indoor and outdoor split system unit

If you’re looking to add heating and cooling to your home, you’ve probably considered split systems! 

Split system air conditioners are among the most popular type of HVAC nationwide. They are a great way to complement your existing ducted systems and they can also be used as the main form of climate control in your home.

As the experts in split systems in Melbourne, we’ve put together a list of what you need to know about split system air conditioning. By the end of this post, you will know if split systems are right for you.

What Is Split System Air Conditioning?

Split system air conditioning is a form of space heating and cooling, meaning it’s designed to control the climate of a single space. These HVAC systems get their name from their unique design. Unlike old-school window units, these systems split the air conditioner into an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The indoor unit is typically located high on the wall inside your home while the outdoor unit is located in a corresponding position on the wall outside your home.

Some of the best spaces to install split systems include living rooms, studies, home offices, and bedrooms.

How Do Split Air Conditioners Work?

Split systems contain a range of parts, including an evaporator and filters in the indoor unit, a condenser coil, compressor, and refrigerant in the outdoor unit, and fans in both units. All these components work together to cool your home.

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Without getting too far into the weeds, here’s how split systems work:

The refrigerant is moved between the outdoor and indoor units. As the refrigerant moves around, it also changes form between liquid, gas, and vapour. This allows the refrigerant to absorb heat. To cool your home, a split system will absorb hot air from the room and pass refrigerant over the evaporator coil. The refrigerant absorbs the heat in the air, resulting in cool air. The cold air is then blown out into your room and the process repeats to reach the temperature you set on your thermostat.

Many modern split system air conditioners are reverse cycle air conditioners. This means they can also reverse the process and heat the room. 

In heating mode, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the outdoor air and warms it up further before it is blown out into your room as toasty warm air. The process repeats to reach the target temperature.

For further information, read our article on how reverse cycle air conditioning works.

How Do You Install a Split System?

When compared to central heating and cooling options like ducted refrigerated cooling or gas ducted heating, split systems are easy to install. The process can usually be completed within a day, and it involves connecting the indoor and outdoor units by installing some copper pipes and electrical wires. This involves making one small hole in the wall, with no major structural changes needed.

The ease of installation is one reason people choose split systems over ducted systems. There is no ductwork to be installed above the ceiling or below the wall, meaning the whole process can be completed without any major disruptions.

Split system installations may be easier, but you still need to invest in professional installation. Not only is it illegal to do it yourself, but it could also result in a range of complications, including performance and energy efficiency issues as well as void warranties and insurance problems.

To install split systems in Templestowe and the surrounds, you can trust the team at Australian Climate Systems.

What Is the Price to Supply and Install a Split System?

Supply and installation prices will depend on a range of factors, including the brand you choose, the specific model you select, and any installation complications you may encounter. 

Generally speaking, smaller split systems from certain brands can be supplied and installed for less than $2000 or just over $2000 in some cases. Higher capacity systems from leading brands will start from $3000 or more!

Talk to Australian Climate Systems for a free quote.

Split Systems Vs Ducted Systems – What’s the Difference?

Here are the main differences to help you choose between split and ducted ACs.

    • Ease of installation: As we just mentioned, ducted installations are much more involved because concealed ductwork needs to be installed under the floor or in the ceiling cavity. This involves significant time and effort. Split systems can be installed within a day by installing two units on either side of a wall using just high-pressure pipes and electrical wires.
      • Central or Space: Split systems offer space heating and cooling. They are designed to heat and cool a single room. Ducted systems can be designed to deliver hot or cold air to ducts in every room of your house, offering whole-home heating and cooling (also known as central heating and cooling).
        • Size of space: Do you have a larger home that requires significant climate control? Choose a ducted system and central heating and cooling. If you want to heat or cool a few main rooms in a smaller home, split systems are perfect for you.
          • Zoning: Ducted systems offer zoning, which allows you to heat or cool certain areas while “switching” others off. You would need multiple standalone split systems or a multi-split system to achieve the same effect.
            • Control: Ducted systems are usually controlled via a central wall-mounted control unit while split systems are usually controlled using a remote control. Many ducted and split systems have Wi-Fi compatibility, allowing them to be controlled via smart devices.
              • Visuals: If you want the most visually discreet type of air conditioning, choose ducted. These units do not have an indoor unit, replacing this with a series of sleek ducts in the ceiling or floor of each room. The indoor units of split systems come in various shapes, sizes, and colours, but you will still need to have an indoor unit of some kind.

              Are Split Systems Heaters and Air Conditioners?

              Yes! As mentioned above, many split systems are reverse cycle air conditioners (also known as heat pump air conditioners). This allows them to offer cooling in summer and heating in winter. Some split systems are cooling-only, so make sure you check your model prior to buying. It’s also worth noting that you can also get ducted reverse cycle heating and cooling.

              Contact Us Today
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              Call us now to schedule your air conditioning service and enjoy uninterrupted comfort all year round!

              How Do I Determine the Right Size for My Split AC?

              A professional HVAC technician can help you choose the right size air conditioner. Size refers to the physical dimensions of the units, but more importantly, it refers to the heating and cooling capacity of the system.

              To find the right size AC, a professional will consider:

              • How large the room is
              • How well insulated and sealed the space is
              • The orientation of the room – north-facing and west-facing spaces generally get hotter in summer, meaning you will need a more powerful unit
              • Where you live – we are experts when it comes to Melbourne’s climate and local split system requirements

              A unit that is oversized or overpowered will use too much energy, resulting in higher electricity bills and swelling running costs. An undersized or underpowered unit will overwork to try and reach your target temperature, but it will still provide insufficient performance. Additionally, an undersized unit will drive up your power bills and running costs, all while accelerating system wear and tear. 

              Heating and cooling capacity is measured in kWh (kilowatt-hours). Generally speaking, rooms up to 20m2 can be heated or cooled effectively with a 2.5kWh system. On the other side of the spectrum, rooms that are 60m2 may need one of the highest capacity split systems – rated 7kWh or higher!

              This advice is general only and all the factors above and more will play a part. It’s also worth considering a central cooling and heating option if you want climate control in multiple larger rooms. Consulting with a professional makes it easy to find the right type of system and the right size.

              What Are Multi-Head Split System Air Conditioners?

              The indoor unit of a split system is also known as the head unit. Multi-head systems, also known as multi-splits, refer to systems with multiple indoor units all running off a single outdoor unit. This is one way to achieve a solution that’s closer to a central air conditioning unit without having to clutter up your garden with multiple outdoor units. Each system can be controlled independently, and the multi-split option is also more energy efficient than running multiple standalone split systems.

              Multi-head split installations are more complicated, but they are still a breeze compared to everything that’s involved in ducted installations.

              You can learn more about multi-head systems here.

              What Are Air Conditioner Inverters?

              You may have heard the term “inverter split system” before. This refers to inverter technology, which is present in most modern air conditioning systems, not just split ACs.

              If you have an AC without an inverter, the compressor in your system can run at full speed until it reaches the target temperature or it can be switched off completely. This is like having your foot completely on the brake or completely on the accelerator until reaching the target speed.

              If you have an AC with an inverter, the compressor can power up and power down gradually to reach and maintain the target temperature. This is like gradually pressing the accelerator in your car.

              Inverter split systems offer increased energy efficiency without sacrificing heating and cooling performance. They also result in more comfortable and consistent temperatures, quieter operation, less wear and tear on components, and more time in between services and repairs.

              For a more efficient, comfy, and hassle-free HVAC system, make sure your new unit comes with an inverter!

              Where Exactly Does the Indoor Unit Go? What about the Outdoor Unit?

              The indoor unit is generally mounted high on the wall near the ceiling, about 2 metres off the ground. The unit is usually placed in the centre of the wall with adequate clearance above and on either side of the system (15 cm or more).

              Ideally, the wall you choose to mount the unit on will be an exterior wall (i.e. the other side of that wall is the outside of your property, not another room in your home).

              Many people position indoor units so they can distribute air throughout the room without blowing in anyone’s face. For example, above the bed in the bedroom or above the main couch in the living area. Other people prefer to have the indoor unit facing them. For example, above the TV or above the foot of the bed.

              Other things to consider for the indoor unit location include ease of cleaning and servicing and keeping the system away from heat-generating appliances. 

              Outdoor units will ideally be placed on the other side of the same wall that the indoor unit is mounted on. Try to choose a strong, structurally sound wall in a shaded area away from direct sunlight. Ensure the sides of the unit have plenty of clearance and are not too close to any greenery. Generally speaking, the closer together the two units are the better. Outdoor units may be mounted partway up the wall or on/near the ground.

              These are a few “best practices” for positioning each unit, but the final position may vary depending on the features of your property, installation limitations, and your preferences.

              Contact Us Today
              Call Us for Your Air Conditioning Service
              Call us now to schedule your air conditioning service and enjoy uninterrupted comfort all year round!

              What Are the DIY Cleaning and Maintenance Requirements for Split Systems?

              When it comes to DIY cleaning and maintenance, there are a few steps you can take:

              • Indoor unit: Give it a wipe-down when it gets dusty. The front panel may also be removable for cleaning. Air filters should be cleaned every few weeks to every few months depending on how heavily you’re using the system. Your system may have various filters that need cleaning at different frequencies. Refer to your manual for further advice.
              • Outdoor unit: Ensure plants and greenery aren’t growing too close to the unit, and trim them back if necessary. Sweep and brush away debris, leaves, dust, cobwebs, etc. from the exterior of the unit. 

              Other than this, you can keep an eye out for signs of damage like smoke, liquid leaking from the system, cracks and physical damage, and exposed electrical wires. You can also listen for strange noises or abnormal sounds, including loud banging, persistent buzzing or rattling, or increasingly loud squealing or whistling. Foul smells are another warning sign to look out for.

              Apart from this basic cleaning and maintenance, it’s best to leave the rest to a professional. Do not attempt any cleaning or maintenance that involves opening up any part of the system apart from basic filter changes. If you notice any warning signs, call a heating and cooling technician for AC repairs.

              How Long Is the Average Life of an Air Conditioner?

              You can easily get 10 or more years out of a top-brand split system if you use it wisely and treat it well. The DIY cleaning and maintenance advice listed above will extend the life of your system, while repairs and maintenance services every 2-3 years are also important.

              You can get 14 more tips on extending the life of your air conditioner here.

              What Brands Should I Consider When Buying a Split AC? 

              Some of the best names for split systems in Australia include Daikin, LG, Panasonic and Rinnai. In the eyes of many industry experts, Daikin is considered the number one air conditioning brand overall.

              You can turn to our team for top-brand split systems in Blackburn and surrounding areas!

              Top 10 Features to Look for in Split Systems

              1. Wi-Fi control to switch your system on or off from anywhere using your mobile phone.

              2. Air purification systems, such as the Nanoe X solution available with Panasonic systems

              3. Smart motion sensors, such as the Intelligent Eye Sensor available with Daikin systems

              4. Advanced inverters for more energy-efficient operation

              5. Auto cleaning functionality

              6. Multiple fan speeds

              7. Humidity control, including humidification and dehumidification modes

              8. High energy ratings, such as Daikin’s US7 Super Efficiency system

              9. A wide range of modes, including Auto Mode, Eco Mode, Cool Mode, Heat Mode, and Dry Mode

              10. Self-diagnosis functionality for trouble-free operation

              Main Advantages and Drawbacks of Split Systems (Pros & Cons)


              • Easy and affordable to install – no need for ductwork
              • Energy-efficient, affordable, and quiet to run
              • Can be perfectly positioned for heating and cooling in any single room
              • Low maintenance
              • You can add extra units in the future
              • Available in a range of shapes, sizes, colours, and heating/cooling capacities
              • Multi-split air conditioner setups available for added versatility 
              • Cooling-only or heating and cooling (reverse cycle split system) options


              • Systems may struggle in larger rooms
              • Space heating and cooling – designed for a single room only
              • Poorly maintained outdoor units may be noisy 
              • Need to have dedicated space outside for the outdoor unit
              • Installations can become more expensive if complications are encountered

              Are Split System Air Conditioners Right for You?

              Have you decided that you want to install split systems in Box Hill? Maybe you’re still unsure about the right type of air conditioner and you want advice on the best system for your needs.

              From recommendations and installations to split system services and repairs, Australian Climate Systems can help you.

              For tailored advice and free quotes on split systems and other HVAC solutions in Melbourne, contact us today or view our specials here.

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