How Does a Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner Work?

Reverse cycle air conditioning is the process of removing heat from a confined space and replacing it with cool, filtered air.

In this article, we’ll explore how reverse cycle air conditioning works and the benefits. Plus, we’ll help you decide how to choose the right system for your house.

Benefits Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner Systems

Reverse cycle air conditioner units transform hot air into cool air. The process is fairly simple with a refrigerant being passed through an external coil that absorbs the heat from the outside.

The refrigerant is then pumped through a compressor, into a fan coil, and cool air is transferred throughout the home.

Advantages of reverse cycle air conditioners include:

  • Economical form of heating within the home or office
  • Able to provide heating and cooling in the one central unit
  • Cool to touch at all times
  • No exposure to elements
  • The average life span of 20 years
  • Works to filter and dehumidify the air

Types of Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner Units

The various types of reverse cycle air conditioners include:

  • Portable units: Portable units are usually on wheels and can be rolled around to wherever heating or cooling is located. These units are connected to a powerpoint and are especially helpful for renters.
  • Window and wall units: These are often found attached to the walls of units or small homes and are a cheap form of reverse cycle air conditioning. There is an external unit outside the window or wall that pushes out the heat and conditions the air. The installation requires cutting a hole in the wall for the unit to be installed and these systems work for rooms up to 70msq. These systems are not too popular and are quite noisy when running.
  • Split systems: Split systems are permanently mounted to walls and have an exterior condenser unit, which is located outside the home. The units are far quieter and suit rooms up to 100msq. There are also multi-split systems available that work in a number of rooms at the one time.
  • Ducted air conditioning systems: These are designed to climate control an environment and are suitable for larger properties. Heating and cooling are distributed through internal ducts in the ceiling, and there is a centralised controlled in one part of the property.

Reverse cycle air conditioner in action

How to Choose the Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner for Your Property

The best way to choose your reverse cycle air conditioner for your property is to focus on the size and the energy rating of the system.


It is important to work out what size reverse cycle air conditioner you will need. Whether you live in a house, a unit or if you are installing air conditioning for a commercial property will determine the kW you need. If you install a system that is too big you will have wasted energy and higher bills. Install unit that is too small you will never get the cooling or heating power you’re looking for. Take the time to get a correct size of your space will allow you to find out the kilowatts you need for your system.

Energy Rating Labels

Another way to choose the right reverse cycle air conditioner is to get one with the best energy rating. All reverse cycle air conditioners, particularly of the single-phase variety, need to have an energy rating label. The more stars on the unit, the more efficient, which means you can save hundreds of dollars per year. Having an energy efficient system means your performance is higher and your running costs lower. That’s a win-win when it comes to air conditioning a property.

How Does a Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner Work?

Reverse cycle gets its name due to their ability to remove heat from inside a room to the outdoors, then reverse the process to bring the heat in from the outdoors and inside (when heating is required).

Reverse cycle air conditioning units are efficient and work to use less energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The heat pumps in reverse cycle air conditioning extract air from the outside and transfers it inside.

The systems use refrigerant to warm or cool a property and work on the air inside a property to ensure it is perfectly climate controlled to meet the needs of the occupants. The systems can also filter and remove humidity from the air and are far more efficient that electric heaters.

Be aware that reverse cycle air conditioners won’t work in areas that are less than 5 degrees, which is pretty safe for most areas of Australia. It is also important to note ahead of installation that you have the correct size system for your needs, this can be measured in kW by a trained professional air conditioning expert.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • An effective form of electric heating in the home or commercial space
  • Easy to install small units
  • Can be installed anywhere
  • Safer than stand-alone heaters including bar heaters
  • Single systems can heat and cool spaces


  • The fluctuating cost of electricity increases running costs
  • Ducted systems are expensive to install and run
  • If you lose power, you lose heating or cooling
  • If you have an existing property, the cost of a ducted system is expensive and difficult to install

Whether you choose a portable system or a ducted reverse cycle air conditioning system for your entire home, there are plenty of options for heating and cooling if you do the research.

For more information on exploring reverse cycle air conditioner options for your property, speak with your local Air Con Repair Near Me air conditioning expert.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.