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Reverse-cycle air conditioners to avoid

The small-size models that rate lowest for heating and cooling efficiency in our air con review.

air conditioner thumbs down
Last updated: 08 April 2024

Need to know

  • We compared 320+ air conditioners from LG, Mitsubishi, Daikin, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Hitachi, Samsung and more
  • Our experts assessed key factors such as heating and cooling performance, airflow, noise, features and more
  • Consider joining CHOICE to access full reviews and top-rated air conditioners

With household bills rising and the mercury dropping, reverse-cycle air conditioners are a smart move for heating your home this winter, as they can be cheaper to run than gas or electric heaters.  

But between the big upfront and installation costs, absurdly long model numbers and confusing sizing advice, it can be hard to tell which is the best option for your particular needs. 

Reverse-cycle air conditioners are a smart move for heating your home, as they can be cheaper to run than gas or electric heaters

To help make choosing easier, our air conditioning experts review more than 300 models each year, covering all the major brands on the market, including Daikin, Mitsubishi Electric, Fujitsu, LG and more. 

In our most recent air conditioning reviews, we encountered some excellent units and some poor performers. 

For this list, we've focused on small-size air conditioners (up to 4kW) as they're the most popular type in Australia. If you're after medium or large models, check out our full reviews. 

(Note: it's unfair to compare large against small units – they aren't as energy-efficient, but they can heat or cool a much bigger space.)

"All these models have passed minimum energy performance standards to be registered and sold in Australia, so their cooling and heating energy efficiency scores are OK, but there are much better models out there to look for," says CHOICE household appliance expert Chris Barnes.

Good brands, ordinary products

Interestingly, the same brands that delivered air conditioners with the lowest heating and cooling efficiency also produced some of our review's top scorers – a result we often see across product reviews. 

"The brands in this list aren't bad brands," says Chris.

"It just goes to show that even a good brand can sometimes make some pretty ordinary products. In some cases these air conditioners are older models that may be overdue to be phased out or replaced with more efficient lines."

We don't want you to end up with a dud buy, so here are the products that scored lowest in our review. Consider becoming a CHOICE member to see the best performers.

reverse cycle air conditioner two women

Small air conditioners are popular in Australia.

Poor performers for heating

Reverse-cycle air conditioning is actually a very cost-effective way to heat your home.

However, if you're dreaming of a toasty warm home this winter, these models might leave you a bit cold. 

Here are the air conditioners that scored the lowest for heating efficiency in our review: 

  • Mitsubishi Electric MFZKW35KIT (Heating efficiency score: 55%)
  • Haier AS35TB4HRA / 1U35MA4ERA (55%)
  • Samsung F-AR12BXECNWK1 (56%)
  • Fujitsu AUTH12KVLA (56%)
  • Haier AS26TB4HRA / 1U26MA4ERA (56%)

Poor performers for cooling

These are the air conditioners that scored the lowest for cooling efficiency in our lastest review: 

  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries DXK12ZTLA-W (Cooling efficiency score: 55%)
  • Haier AS35TB4HRA / 1U35MA4ERA (56%)
  • Fujitsu AUTG12LVLB (56%)
  • Samsung F-AR12BXECNWK1 (57%)
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries SRR35ZS-W (57%)
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries DXK07ZTLA-W (57%)
  • LG WS12TWS (57%)
  • Haier AS26TB4HRA / 1U26MA4ERA (57%)
  • Braemar WSHV35D1T/WCH325D1T (57%)

Of course, cooling efficiency is just one criteria for a great air conditioner. Our air conditioner reviews also assess heating efficiency, airflow, noise, key features and more.

person installing ceiling insulation

Insulation improves both heating and cooling.

What to do before you buy a reverse-cycle air conditioner

Insulate your home

Make sure your home is insulated – particularly the ceiling. This will help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer, with or without air conditioning. 

Do your research

Before you buy, check out our expert air conditioner reviews and check the stars on the rating label – the more stars the better. 

And make sure the unit is suitable for where you live. A home in Tasmania is going to have different requirements to a home in Perth, so find out how the unit will perform in your region. 

A home in Tasmania is going to have different requirements to a home in Perth

"The zoned star-rating label gives more information about how the air conditioner performs in different parts of Australia and New Zealand, so you can pick a model to suit the region you live in," says Chris.

Buy the right capacity

It's important to find the right size air conditioner for the space you need to heat and cool. 

Don't be tempted to undersize to save on the upfront cost, or to go for the biggest available unit in the hope that it will work better – they're both false economies.

"Try to size the air conditioner's heating and cooling capacity correctly for the room where it will be installed," says Chris. "Models that are too powerful or too underpowered won't run as effectively or efficiently." 

Here's how to find the right size air conditioner for your space

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.