Inverter air conditioner vs regular air conditioner

This is only peripherally related to hosting, but I thought I would ask for opinions here, because there does not seem to be much information on the net about this, and I also don’t have many people to ask about this.

I have an air conditioner in my room. It’s a conventional air conditioner. It’s now around 6 years old, doesn’t work that well anymore, and at some point I’ll have to replace it. So, I was wondering whether it would be better to replace it with an A/C inverter or another conventional A/C.

Relevant information: inverter consume far less electricity than conventional A/Cs if they are working properly. One sees this written everywhere, and I see no reason to doubt this.

This is the major pro.

Possible cons: I know that the circuitry is far more complex than that of a regular air conditioner. A regular one has maybe one PCB, an inverter has quite a number of them. And PCB can corrode in corrosive environments. We’re near the sea; it’s hot and humid. I think this is a fairly bad environment for electronics, though my computers have mostly survived ok. But it’s possible computer motherboards are better built that A/C PCBs. Also, computers don’t sit outside in the rain, as the external units of split A/Cs often do.

Another thing is that in India people generally don’t know what they are doing. So service/repair of complex devices can be a problem. And the more complex the device, the more of a problem.

I was just talking to a A/C service person who was here to repair my current A/C, which was having internal PCB problems, and he agreed with most of this. He said inverters are much harder to fix once they go wrong, and more expensive.

I could not find much information about these issues online.

Further note: there are quite large parts of the world where electricity is cheap enough that inverters are not used. This may include the United States. I was chatting to an American recently; very smart well informed guy. To my surprise, he wasn’t familiar with A/C inverters.

To bring this back to topic, the A/C that I have in my guest room, which is fairly new and was purchased for the rental, is a conventional A/C. I was thinking of an inverter, but the issues above made me eventually buy a conventional one.

Anyway, I was wondering if any of you can offer feedback, experience, and opinions about this.

@faheem - Our place (vacation home) is in the Caribbean very close to the sea, with electricity almost 4 times the price of the US. We recently added the split A/C units to bedrooms, and considered the inverter technology, too, for the same reasons as you.

We decided against it. My husband is great at fixing things and is an electrical engineer, but was concerned about the newer technology needing to be fixed when he wasn’t around. Most of our guests don’t even use the air conditioning (good breezes keep most people cool), so the potential savings just did not seem to outweigh the higher purchase price and the repair risk.

Hi @PitonView,

Thanks, that’s very helpful. I was recently chatting online (the U&L SE chat) with someone in VA, US, and I asked him about A/C inverters. I’ve never met him, but we’ve chatted online, mostly on that forum, for years. It’s a Strange Brave New World we live in. Anyway, he’s the kind of chap who immediately goes and digs up data when the discussion permits it. So, he sent me a link for VA electricity prices. It was immediately obvious that our prices, just in dollar terms were much higher, maybe 3 or 4 times over the course of the year.

Anyway, it sounds like we are in a not dissimilar situation to you. As regards the inverters, I’m not too concerned about the higher purchase price, but am quite concerned about things going wrong. Do you have any data about the probability of things going wrong with the inverter system, frequency of repairs, costs, that kind of thing? As I mentioned in my original message, I wasn’t able to find anything useful on the net. The people who have the data, namely A/C companies, and their dealers, are obviously not interested in releasing it.

And does your husband feel up to repairing inverter A/Cs himself? If so, I’m impressed.

Hello, @faheem -
No, we never found any reliability data on the inverter-type A/C. But it was really hard to find even copper tubing elbows on the island, and we realized repairing almost anything will be challenging, and we didn’t want to take that risk.

Yes, my hubby would not be afraid to repair the inverter system himself. He is a brilliant guy and a great handy-man. He’s in the process of designing a solar-powered water pumping system to hook into the local water supply to pump up the hill to fill our rainwater cisterns. It would be frightfully expensive to run electrical power to the main water lines closest to us, and the water pressure is not high enough to get up to our elevation.

Hi @PitonView,

I’m not quite in the same situation as you are - I think we can get what materials and replacement parts we need here. But that doesn’t really help if expensive parts break down.

Also, unlike your guests, I run this A/C pretty much night and day. I basically live in this room, and don’t get out much.

I’ve thought of checking if extended warranties are available. But these are only a solution if the vendor honors them.

I wish I had something like him here. Have you thought of Solar panels for your A/Cs?
Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of space here, or I’d consider it. I’m also not sure how long it would take to pay off the Solar panels.

We have solar panels for hot water (backup is electric but I don’t think we’ve ever turned it on). We have the space (5,000 square foot roof), so we’re looking into solar panels to generate electricity and getting a quote. Unfortunately, I think it will take a lot of years to pay off the panels, even with our high electricity costs, so I am not sure we’ll go forward with it.

Wow. that’s a lot of roof space. Presumably flat roof space.

Yes, unfortunately, solar panels are still very expensive. I haven’t priced it, because there isn’t much point, but I’m sure they are expensive here too.

I’ve considered a heat pump system for water heating, which I think makes more sense, but I haven’t proceeded with that either. It’s hard to get an idea of how much energy our water heaters are using, which would really help with the decision. I suppose to could put sub-meters on each of the water heaters and see what readings they give. I think heat pump water heaters are nice because you get always hot water, and it’s much cheaper than using electric. But then all the hot water has to route through the heat pump, so there is a non-trivial amount of plumbing involved.

I live by the sea, in mediterranean climate I have several Samsung Inverter units, have run without problems other than cleaning for the best part of 6 years. Power saving is quite high, and less noisy.

Hi @pendragon,

Thanks for the feedback.

You’ve not had any annoying circuitry problems with any of those machines? What model do you have? And what is your location?

It just says “Samsung smart Inverter” some are 12 and some 18 Btu / hr . I live in Capetown.

Well, they must have model numbers. Ironically, Samsung A/Cs are not considered the best internationally. I assume that is Cape Town, South Africa.

Looks like the R410a, but they are 5 or 6 years old.

I would need a ladder to get up and look at the model number. I go mostly with samsung, phones tv’s wash machines etc.

Ah, brand loyalty.

I suppose after 6 years it would be difficult to get hold of sales receipts/warranty cards etc, but those would have that information. I think I could find the sales receipt for my A/C, which coincidentally is around 6 years old. I would only have to rummage through like a thousand pieces of paper.

Its also a matter of value for money and service support locally. When out of warranty I mostly fix my own, never needed anything for spares. Except a remote control unit a guest managed to break. However, I don’t know how long these things last.

If you mean A/C inverters, 5 or 6 years without major issues is pretty good.

I’m pinging this thread, since it’s been some months since it was active. I’d be interested in further data about people’s experiences with inverters, if they have any to offer. They seem comparatively rare in the developed world, at least in North America, where (I suppose) electricity prices are comparatively cheap. They certainly are in the United Stated.

My room A/C continues to age. I’ll probably need to replace it within the next six months, if not sooner. Once I’ve replaced this A/C, I’ll move the current A/C to a larger room where we do yoga. We only need to put that A/C on occasionally. Currently we have an even older window unit in there, which isn’t up to the task of cooling the room.

Thanks in advance.

To begin with I am surprised that your current air conditioning unit is having serious problems after six years perhaps it just needs some cleaning or maintenance but then you say you have them running for very long periods, my 10 year old Sharp air conditioning units when I replaced them recently had no problems. Similarly other people I know have air conditioning units for longer time without any problems.

Nonetheless I advise you to change them for recent inverter technology because they are much more economical and quieter. The ones I bought are of 2017 digital inverter technology and use 2.5 less energy than the previous ones the guests can have the 9000 BTU ones (in bedrooms of 12 square metres) on all day, 24 hours, and will use only 12 kW units which in this country costs 2 Euro (17 cents per kW). This is for cooling from an ambient temperature of 32 degrees Celsius to 24 degrees. For this reason the electricity costs have gone down greatly and I don’t really worry even if they have it on for 24 hours which they don’t do anyway. They can also be controlled remotely just the same as with the remote control unit. Of course the space area but also some other parameters will determine which unit you need 9, 12, 18 or 24 thousand BTU. Their energy ratings for cooling is A++ for heating A+. For the old Sharp units it was four stages lower at C and D. Technology has moved a long way since 2007. Surely the higher the BTU value the greater the running costs but I don’t have any above 9000 BTU so I can’t give any data.

In this country and I suppose everywhere in the EU non inverter air conditioning units no longer even exist in the shops.

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Hi @Nicolas,

Thank you for your detailed answer. My main concern about inverter units is their reliability. I’ve heard mixed and confusing things about them, but I’ve not taken the time to research it. The issues I’ve heard that inverters have are mostly with the PCBs present in the unit, which are more in number than the regular A/Cs and apparently harder to repair if they go bad. I haven’t talked to anyone who really seems like an expert on it, though. One specific issue is that in India people (including A/C repairmen) don’t really know what they are doing, which exacerbates the problem.

My current A/C is still working, though periodically it clogs up, and then starts spraying water all over the place, necessitating a panicked phone call to my A/C support people. The air is very dirty here, and I run it a lot. I don’t know if there are A/Cs out there which are immune to this issue. In any case, I don’t think this A/C will last indefinitely. It’s showing its age. And I’m planning to put it in another room for occasional use. We are currently using a window A/C in that room, which is even older and less efficient than my split A/C.

I was also told that there is also a hybrid type A/C available, but I don’t have a clear idea how that differs from an inverter, though I gather an inverter is more efficient than a hybrid.

If you know about this stuff (and it sounds like you do) comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your answer again.