What is Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning? All You Need To Know

We are an amazingly warm country. It’s no surprise then that we are always looking for shelter or cool air.

But, that’s just the thing. Most of our nation dwell in the subtropics. We have long, hot summers, and although temperate by the world’s’ standards, our winters can get pretty darn bitter. At times like that, a good air conditioner isn’t worth spit.

With our seasonal variation being so dramatic, it’s no wonder that more and more people are turning to reverse cycle air conditioning as a method of keeping their homes temperate. But what is reverse cycle air conditioning? Read on to find out!

How Does Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning Work?

When hunting for an air conditioner, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting and how it works, otherwise environmental factors, or the cost to run might overwhelm your system or your wallet. There are two kinds of air conditioning to look at, evaporative, and reverse cycle.

What is evaporative cooling?

You’ve probably seen an evaporative cooler, or at least evidence of one before. If you’ve ever noticed houses that have those big, bulgy cube things on top of their roofs, that’s an evaporative cooler system.

As the name suggests, these coolers work on evaporation principles. Air is drawn into the mechanism from outside, and passed through wet filtration pads, which are kept moist through a pair of water tanks in the bottom of the device. Heat from the air is then evaporated from it through the pads, leaving a reservoir of cold, moist air which is then sent through the home via a duct system.

This produces lovely cool air, but it has a couple of drawbacks. First of all, because it relies on outside air, should the air quality outside be bad, say from a gas leak or smoke from a nearby fire, then the air getting sent into your home will be of like quality. Also since the device only produces cold air, it will leave you high and dry during winter months, though this issue may not affect those in more tropical climates like Queensland to an extensive degree.

What is reverse cycle air conditioning?

Similar to Evaporative Coolers, Reverse Cycle Air Conditioners utilise air from outside the house, the difference is that owing to a certain mechanism these air conditioners are able to either heat or cool the air in your home.

The mechanism in question is called a “heat pump” and uses heat transference to either heat or cool the air it absorbs using a liquid called a “refrigerant”.

A reverse cycle air con system consists of an external coil, expansion device, inside coil, and compressor, all connected in a loop. During hot weather, Air is brought in through the outside coil, where it is transported in the form of a high-pressure, high-temperature liquid through to the expansion device.

When it leaves the expansion device, it has been turned into low-pressure, low-temperature liquid. In the internal coil, this liquid is boiled through the refrigerant, creating a low temperature vapour which is then pumped into the house in the form of cool air. The remaining vapour is then sent back to the outdoor coil, where the refrigerant releases heat to the outside and the vapour is made back into a liquid form, only for the cycle to start again.

So what about cold weather? Well this is where the “reverse cycle” part of the system gets its name from. Using the “heat pump” or “reversing valve”, the above described process is reversed. Low-temperature vapour is turned into high-pressure, high-temperature vapour in the internal coil, which is then exhaled into the room as hot air. The remaining vapour is then pumped forward as a high-pressure, high-temperature liquid, through the expansion device making it a low-pressure, low-temperature liquid, before the refrigerant in the external coil absorbs heat from the air and boils it to a vapour, ready for the reverse cycle to take place again.

How Much Does Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning Cost?

There’s no two ways about it, air conditioning costs. It may cost less per hour to run air conditioning compared to other devices, but chances are (especially in our climate) that you’re going to be running air conditioning for longer periods at a time than other devices. I know that when summer hits, I can’t sleep without a fan on me at all times. And during the day if anyone dares to even think about turning off the air conditioner they are met with scorn, outrage, and possibly violence depending on the strides they make towards it.

In a study by Canstar, on average in 2021, an air conditioner could cost $0.13-$0.36 per hour to run. Reverse cycle systems could fetch up to $1.45-$2.12 per hour. So when someone asks, “is reverse cycle air conditioning expensive to run?” there are a few things to take into consideration:

  • What’s your current energy expenditure like?
  • Would you be okay with extra money going to that expenditure?
  • How well can you tolerate the heat or cold?
  • How long do you think you’d feasibly run the conditioner for?

The truth is some people need air conditioning, as the temperature of a room can exacerbate or relieve certain chronic conditions (arthritis, for example, has terrible pain spikes during the cold.). For these people, reverse cycle air conditioning is a necessity, as controlling the temperature of their space is essential to their quality of life.

However, it’s also handy if you run a business, as these air conditioners will make your retail space more comfortable for your customers, thereby making them more likely to stick around longer and return again another day.

Hot Goss and Cold Hard Facts

There is a fair amount to consider when investing in an air conditioner, but examining your situation should always be the first step. Look at why you want one, and then run some numbers to see if you can afford it. If you believe that the reverse cycle air con will greatly improve your quality of life, then go ahead! Or, if you have any specific questions and want expert advice from refrigeration experts, you can always contact Jacob Refrigeration today.

See also: How Do You Know When It’s Time For An Air Conditioning Replacement?

Author: Jan Yakoob

Jan is the managing director of Jacob Refrigeration, a leading company with more than 35 years of experience in air conditioning and refrigeration installation. We continually exceed client expectations through quality, reliability and efficiency.