Split system air conditioner Finder: Your guide to cooling your home

We’ll explain the different types of split-system air conditioners and help you choose the best model for your space.

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Best Split System Air Conditioners

Best Rated Split System Air Conditioners Brand: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is the clear winner in the split system air conditioning category, with top scores across the board. Consumers said the brand was the best for quietness, performance, features and functions and value for money.

Quick facts about split system air conditioners

  • Split systems can be used in individual rooms and open-plan areas up to 60 square metres.
  • Most split systems have reverse cycling, providing both cooling and heating capabilities.
  • Prices range from around $600 to $5,500 depending on the brand, model and size.

Compare split system air conditioners

Name Product Cooling Capacity Product Dimensions Product More info
TCL 5kW Reverse Cycle Split System Inverter Air Conditioner TCLSS18
202mm x 1,033mm x 313mm
TCL 3.2kW Reverse Cycle Split System Inverter Air Conditioner TCLSS12
182mm x 903mm x 292mm
TCL 2.5kW Reverse Cycle Split System Inverter Air Conditioner TCLSS09
201mm x 806mm x 292mm
Seiki 6.2kW Reverse Cycle Split System Inverter Air Conditioner SC-6200AU6A
220mm x 1,080mm x 302mm
Panasonic 8kW AERO Series Reverse Cycle Split System Inverter Air Conditioner CSCU-Z80TKR
236mm x 1,120mm x 302mm

Compare up to 4 providers

What is a split system air conditioner?

Split system air conditioners are more effective at cooling a home than large air conditioners.

A split system air conditioner consists of two parts: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit connected by ducts holding refrigerant gas. The system works together to cool large rooms or multiple rooms.

Split systems need to be installed by a professions technician so make sure to factor installation costs into your budget.

What types are available?

There are two main types of split system air conditioners: Single-split and multi-split. The right type for you depends on the layout of your home and the area you want to cool.

  • Single-split or single system. The most common type of aircon for both homes and offices, the classic split system is ideal for cooling one room or specific area. There are several mount styles available depending on your room layout and space available, including wall mount, floor console, ceiling cassette and bulkhead styles.
  • Multi-split. A multi-split has an outdoor unit linked to two or more indoor units. They usually have a price range similar to split systems; however, a multi-split is ideal for saving space when two or three rooms are close to each other or when installing a split system or ducted system is unsuitable.

Another way to differentiate air conditioners is by how they are mounted. You can choose a wall mounted, ceiling mounted or floor mounted unit.

Reverse cycle

Most split systems have reverse cycle capability. Reverse cycle refers to the ability to both cool and heat. In cooling mode, a split system removes heat from the inside and transfers it outside using refrigerant gas stored in the pipes that connect the indoor and outdoor units. In heating mode, the reverse occurs: heat is taken from outside and transferred indoors.

While reverse-cycle systems can be one of the cheapest ways to heat your home during winter, if you already have another heating system in place or only experience mild winters, you may want to purchase a cooling-only aircon instead, which will cost you less.

Room size

It's important to pick the right air conditioner size for your room size. If your AC is underpowered, it will run at maximum output too often, which can cause excessively dry air and premature wear. On the other hand, if your AC is overpowered, it will run recurrent short cycles, which will rack up power usage – and your electricity bill – and cause the room to become too cold or hot while causing greater wear and tear.

The right sized air conditioner for a room depends on the local climate, room type, shading and insulation. The size and orientation of the windows or glass panels should also be taken into consideration.

The following general suggestions can help you work out what capacity your room will need:

Room size (sqm)Minimum recommended Kilowatts

If you're unsure, opt for an air conditioner with a capacity on the higher side.

How to compare split system air conditioners

When comparing split systems, consider the following key factors:


Split system air conditioners are generally pretty quiet but some models are loud enough to disrupt sleep or cause neighbours to complain. If you can, test out the noise levels in store or read user reviews before purchasing.

Also, check if there are any local council noise restrictions on air conditioners or strata rules for those living in apartments.

Fan speeds

Look for an AC with multiple fan speeds and a large airflow range. This will help cool down your room quickly when needed and can also keep the fan low once the room is the right temperature.

A wider range of fan speeds will also help reduce noise on low settings.

Demand Response Enabling Device (DRED)

If your AC model comes with DRED (also known as PeakSmart) and your energy provider uses the PeakSmart service, you can automatically switch to economy mode during peak energy periods. This reduces your power usage and saves you money.

Not all energy providers offer this service. If your current provider doesn't, consider switching energy providers.

Operating modes

An auto mode and an energy-saver mode can help you same money on heating energy by ensuring the air conditioner is only on when you need it to be. If you live in a humid area, look for a model with a dry or dehumidify setting.

Wi-Fi and smart controls

Newer models can often connect to your Wi-Fi so your AC can be controlled from your smartphone. This can be handy when you want to turn off your AC when you're out or want to keep an eye on the temperature remotely. While this function is usually built-in, some models require you to install a controller device.

Human presence detector

An aircon that can automatically sense when you're in the room and can lower the AC when you're out could be a big energy saver. While different brands use various terms for this function, such as motion sensor or people detector, they serve essentially the same purposes.

Temperature range

For those living in an area with extreme temperatures, it's important to check the operating range of your chosen aircon before purchase. A typical air conditioner can operate in temperatures from about -10°C up to 45°C.

Air filters and self-cleaning

Choose from a wide range of air filters that could help remove odours, mould, dust, allergens, germs and smoke from the air. For those with asthma or allergies, it may be best to pick a HEPA filter.

Automatic de-icing

If you live in an area with extreme cold, look for a model with automatic de-icing to avoid frost build-up on the heat exchanger coils of your outdoor unit in winter.

Three things to keep in mind

1. There's a right time to buy your AC

It's best to avoid purchasing your aircon during peak season, which will be during summer or mid-winter for colder areas. There could also be a delay getting your aircon installed professionally during these times. Instead, wait for the end of season when you're more likely to grab bargains on old models or buy your AC just before the peak season begins to beat the crowds and get your AC installed quickly.

2. Installation is required

You'll need to have your aircon installed by a professional, licensed air conditioner installer. You should look for one with ARCtick approval and compare quotes before deciding on one. Some installers will package the unit together with the installation service, while for others you'll have to get the unit yourself first.

3. Don't forget about maintenance

You'll need to clean your air conditioner filters regularly and service it from time to time. Keep your outdoor unit out of direct sunlight.

Best rated split system air conditioner brand award breakdown

Total Score Overall rating Value for Money Features & functions Heating/Cooling performance Quietness
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 8.6 4.67 4.4 4.87 4.8 4.87
Daikin 8.31 4.58 4.28 4.42 4.54 4.46
Mitsubishi Electric 8.24 4.5 4.3 4.4 4.48 4.46
LG 8.14 4.37 4.34 4.45 4.42 4.45
Fujitsu 8.02 4.38 4.26 4.28 4.38 4.22
Panasonic 7.72 4.18 4.24 4.04 4.28 4.18
Samsung 7.69 4.24 4.09 3.94 4.15 4.18
Kelvinator 7.42 4.08 3.85 3.77 4.04 4
Other 7.17 3.82 3.86 3.91 4.09 3.73
Data: Finder Retail Brand Survey, 2020, Kantar. Metric out of 5 stars unless indicated. Methodology and more info. Kantar logo

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