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Ducted air conditioning, or air-con, is a heating-cooling solution using a refrigerant gas. The gas heats up when it is compressed and cools down when it expands. In a reverse cycle system the refrigerant can be used to either heat or cool air. This heating/cooling technique has become a popular choice, especially when paired with solar power for reduced energy bills. The systems are designed at different levels of power output depending on the total size of the space to be serviced. Smaller systems (17.0kw and under) can run on a regular dedicated power circuit, whereas larger systems (18.0kw and over) require three-phase power. In some circumstances a property is too large for one single system to handle it, or can’t get three-phase power. In those situations a house may require multiple separate systems to operate effectively.
Ducted air conditioners maintain temperature by a technology called an inverter that can vary the speed of the fan. If the temperature starts to go outside of the required temperature, the system speeds the fan up. Once it reaches temperature, it slows down again. This allows the system to accommodate doors opening and closing, eliminate extreme cooling and heating, and saves drawing excessive power. Ducted air conditioners can even regulate the humidity intensity in a room when the outside air is uncomfortably humid.
An air-con system comprises two units; the indoor unit (commonly referred to as the coil) and the outdoor unit (condenser). Indoor units are situated in easily accessible places, either under the flooring or in the roof of the building. The outdoor unit generally sits on the ground alongside an external wall but in some cases can be wall-mounted. Pipelines and wires are used to connect the indoor and outdoor units. Ducting is run from an intake air vent (return) and connected to the coil. More ducting then runs out from the coil (supply) and branches out to the desired locations, with vents (registers) located in the floor, walls or ceiling.
Ducted air-con can allow people to regulate several areas in a building through the use of zoning. A zone damper is a motorised valve that opens and closes airflow in a duct. Zoned systems can be set up with a common zone that is always on when the system is on, and then separate zones for different rooms. E.g. A lounge room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom may be set as a common zone and bedrooms as individual zones that can be turned on or off from the controller. Another way to set zones can be referred to as “day/night” zoning, where the system has two zones and Zone 1 can be on with Zone 2 off, Zone 2 on and Zone 1 off, both Zones on or both Zones off. This is a popular set up to zone the living areas and bedrooms separately.
Zoning can also help reduce the power consumption of an air-con system. It allows you to focus the heating/cooling on the areas you’re using and seal-off the other areas. This can also be done with manual vent closures in each room, for example a guest room that doesn’t get used often.
A ducted air-con system’s power connection runs through an isolator. This is more secure than a regular power switch and allows the system to be disconnected from power in the same manner as turning off the circuit breaker or pulling a fuse. It is not recommended for users to turn off the system from the isolator as the system has a recording of error codes that aid technicians in servicing or repairing a unit.