Reverse-cycle air conditioning has become a complete game-changer in both the residential and commercial HVAC scene.


Why? Because it’s a versatile and efficient solution that offers both comfort and savings to homeowners and business-owners alike. However, it’s important to recognise that getting the most from your high-quality, high-efficiency reverse cycle aircon requires more than just purchasing the product.

In fact, you’ll get the most out of this cutting-edge technology when you pair it with proper building insulation practices. In this article, our amazing HVAC team dives into the world of reverse-cycle air conditioning, exploring just why and how insulation plays a vital role in maximising its potential.

Ready? Let’s get started with the basics!

How Does Reverse-cycle Air Conditioning Work?

Put simply, reverse-cycle air conditioners are a different breed compared to more traditional, legacy heating and cooling methods.

Key to a reverse-cycle air conditioner’s appeal is that it is installed in two parts: an inside unit (installed high on an interior wall) plus an exterior unit (installed outside your property). This makes it a compact, low-profile and aesthetically appealing solution for a variety of applications, both residential and commercial, including apartments.

Are There Any Problems with Reverse-cycle Air Conditioning?

While this setup is excellent for cooling, heating can be another story – depending on the quality of your chosen reverse-cycle aircon.

When in cooling mode, the reverse-cycle air conditioner’s output cools the warm air near the ceiling, creating a pleasant breeze within the space. However, during heating mode, the warm air can lose its temperature as it flows along various surfaces in the room, mixing with cooler air. This is unlike the case with hydronic or ducted systems which help minimise heat loss through specialised design.

Conversely, a well-insulated building ensures warmer surfaces, significantly reducing heat loss. When the heated air circulates within this kind of environment, it remains relatively warm, reducing the “wind chill” effect. Moreover, because insulated walls and windows have higher surface temperatures, they absorb less heat from your body, ensuring you feel much more comfortable and warm overall.

One recent American by The Conversation conducted computer modelling to compare scenarios in a living room of a typical 1960s home, also typical in Australia. In Case 1, the room had no insulation and single-glazed windows, while Case 2 featured insulated walls, ceiling, floor, and double glazing.

Both scenarios had an outdoor temperature of 10°C, and the air conditioner delivered 287 litres of heated air per second at a constant 30°C. Despite these consistent heat supply conditions, there was a substantial difference in room temperatures between the two cases.

In Case 1, with poor insulation and single glazing, the average room temperature was 23.5°C. In Case 2, with proper insulation and double glazing, the average room temperature rose to a more comfortable 26.5°C. This dramatic temperature difference can be attributed to the insulation’s impact on heat loss and the “wind chill” effect, proving the importance of good insulation in ensuring your reverse-cycle air con is working most effectively.

So if I’m Considering Reverse-cycle Sircon, I Should be Thinking About Insulation too?

In short, yes – if you want the most out of your aircon system!

It’s clear that the quality of insulation significantly affects how reverse-cycle air conditioning systems perform. Proper insulation in your home or workplace not only ensures superior comfort but also reduces energy consumption and the costs associated with running your aircon, even if it’s a high-efficiency model.

As the above modelling suggests, air conditioners in well-insulated spaces require less energy to maintain the desired temperature. The implications for policy and technology are profound, but our recommendations are clear – and you can even achieve better results by DIYing solutions at home!

Speaking of which:

What Does Good Insulation Look like for Home and Office?

To enhance both the comfort and energy usage-related benefits of your reverse-cycle air conditioning system, reverse-cycle air conditioners should be coupled with properly thought-out insulation and draught sealing retrofit programs.

Steps you can take to increase the insulation of your home or workplace include:

Key elements include:

  • Wall insulation: Insulating walls, especially external walls, significantly reduces heat loss. Common materials include fibreglass and foam boards.
  • Ceiling insulation: Adequate insulation in the ceiling space is essential for maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature. Common materials include fibreglass batts, cellulose, and reflective foil.
  • Floor insulation: In some cases, insulating the floor can be beneficial, especially in homes with suspended floors or over unconditioned spaces.
  • Window insulation: Double glazing or secondary glazing can help improve window insulation, reducing heat transfer.

Apart from traditional insulation, you can also employ a range of trusted passive techniques to enhance your home’s insulation, including:

  • Curtains and blinds: Installing heavy curtains or blinds can significantly reduce heat transfer through windows.
  • Sealing gaps: Seal any gaps, cracks, or holes in walls, floors, and ceilings to prevent drafts and heat loss.
  • Stopping drafts: Use draft stoppers on doors and windows to prevent cold air from seeping in.

The long and the short of it?

To unlock the full potential of your high-efficiency reverse-cycle aircon, it’s important to ensure that your building is properly insulated. The best thing? Better insulation doesn’t have to cost you big bucks.

Wrapping up

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