What is an inverter air conditioner?

Inverter ACs – Introduction

Lets look at what inverter ACs are, how they work and what are their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to making a choice for your next AC purchase.

Air conditioning as a technology has been around for a long time. The technology is reliable and has worked well for many decades. Inverter Air Conditioners are the latest big innovation to hit the air conditioning market. Sure, there have been other incremental innovations like Smart ACs with WiFi but these have not fundamentally changed cooling technology itself.

Inverter technology is based on traditional air conditioning and is yet radically different in terms of how it operates. Let’s take a look at what inverter air conditioning technology is, what benefits it provides, what are its downsides and also answer some of the common question associated with it.

How do Air Conditioners work

How do air conditioners work?
How do air conditioners work?

Air conditioners work on a scientific principle called phase conversion. According to this principle, when a liquid converts to a gas, heat is absorbed by it. Air conditioners make use of this principle by forcing special chemical compounds called refrigerants to evaporate and absorb heat from a room that needs to be cooled. The same refrigerant is circulated multiple times to cool an indoor space as desired.

Now, if the same refrigerant is being used again and again, there must be a process to convert it from its gaseous form back to its liquid form so that it can be recirculated within the room. This is achieved through a device called the compressor. The compressor forces the evaporated refrigerant back into its liquid form so that it is capable for absorbing heat again when circulated through the area which needs to be cooled.

Now comes the question of how the air conditioner knows when to stop. The air conditioner has a temperature sensor called a thermostat which enables it to cool your room to the right temperature. Once the thermostat detects the incoming air into the air conditioner from the indoor space has reached the desired temperature, it automatically shuts down the compressor and your room is not cooled any further. Similarly, when the indoor temperature is sensed to be higher than what you desire, the compressor switches back on and cooling is resumed until the desired temperature is reached again.

Principle of air conditioning
Principle of air conditioning

Let’s consider this with an example. Suppose you have set the temperature on your air conditioner to be 21C and the outside temperature is 30C. Once you switch the air conditioner on, it runs continuously till the thermostat senses that the indoor temperature has reached 21C. In practical terms, the thermostat takes a bit of time to relay its instructions to the compressor. By this time, the actual temperature is close to 19C in the room. Once the thermostat has relayed its instructions, the compressor is shut down and the temperature in the room begins to rise steadily.

Once the temperature starts to increase beyond 21C, the thermostat again relays this information to the compressor and the compressor switches on again to start cooling your room. Again due to the delay in the thermostat and the time taken for the compressor to start, the internal temperature in your room is close to 23C rather than 21C. This cycle continues as long as you have your air conditioner on. While you may have set your temperature at 21C, the actual temperature in the room fluctuates between 19C and 23C.

This fluctuation is due to the delay in the thermostat and also in the time taken for the compressor to start/stop. The compressor in a non-inverter AC only functions on two settings – full power or off. Now wouldn’t it be nice if the compressor could function at a lower capacity to modulate the temperature in your room better? After all, no one likes to feel too hot and then too cold in their own bedroom.

This is the precise reason why the inverter technology was developed for air conditioners.

Now that we have an idea of how an air conditioning system works, we can begin to discuss what an Inverter air conditioner is and how it is different from a traditional air conditioner.

What is the technology behind an Inverter AC?

As we saw above, the compressor in a a non inverter AC works only in two settings – full power or off. This is due to the way the compressor is designed to function. It works on what is called a fixed speed setting, it can either run on full power or it can be completely off

An inverter AC in contrast can run the compressor at many different speeds, in fact the compressor can be operated at any speed in an inverter air conditioner. This is achieved through the use of a device called an inverter. The inverter is a device that converts the frequency of electrical current. In an inverter AC, the inverter converts the frequency of the incoming current to the desired frequency based on the cooling capacity required.

Let’s look at this with a practical example. Suppose you have set your room temperature to be 21C and the outside temperature is 30C. When you switch your inverter AC on, it operates at full speed initially until the thermostat signals that the internal temperature has reached the desired 21C. Now that the desired temperature has been reached, the inverter slows down the operation of the compressor to ensure that the temperature of the room is maitained at 21C. If the temperature rises, say to 21.5C, the speed of the compressor is increased and the temperature is brought down to 21C again, after which the speed of the compressor is again reduced.

In this way, an inverter air conditioner is much better at regulating the temperature in your room as compared to a non inverter air conditioner. This is the first and most important advantage of the inverter technology. Let’s dive in and see if there are further advantages to this technology as well.

What are the advantages of Inverter AC?

So we have seen so far how inverter ACs provide much better temperature modulation in your room since they have a variable speed drive. Another benefit of inverter ACs is that since the compressor does not have to work at full capacity at all times, the power consumption is lower, especially when your air conditioner has already reached the desired temperature. Also, since there is no frequent shut down and startup of the compressor, these additional energy costs are also avoided. Another benefit due to the variable compressor speed is that inverter ACs are much quieter. There is no sudden startup noise of the compressor and since at most times the compressor operates to just maintain the desired temperature, the noise is low there too.

To summarize, the advantages of inverter air conditioners are

  1. More consistent cooling
  2. Lower temperature variability
  3. Lower power consumption
  4. Quieter operation

What are the disadvantanges of an Inverter AC?

Now that we have discussed the advantages of an inverter air conditioner, it is time to discuss whether there are any disadvantages on an inverter AC. In short, there are not too many disadvantages of an inverter air conditioner. They do cost more for initial purchase and do have higher maintenance costs since there are more delicate components involved. However, this is more than made up for by the cost savings generated due to the improved efficiency and better cooling provided. Don’t forget that an inverter air conditioner uses the same technology as a non-inverter technology. Just that the compressor in an inverter air conditioner is able to operate at variable speeds.

So unless you have a specific budget constraint, we would say there are almost no disadvantages to an inverter air conditioner.

Is it worth buying an Inverter AC?

If you are looking to buy a new air conditioner, there is absolutely no reason not to buy an inverter air conditioner. They provide better cooling, keep you comfortable for longer periods of time, operate with less noise and most importantly – use lesser electricity to reduce your running costs. With all these considerations in mind, it is absolutely worth buying an inverter air conditioner.

Is inverter technology only available for Split ACs?

Split Air Conditioner
Split Air Conditioner

Until recently, the inverter technology was only available for split Air conditioners. However, Voltas has recently launched window air conditioners with inverter technology, making them the first company in India to do so. So in case you have a window AC slot already cut out at home, you can purchase a window inverter air conditioner from Voltas to enjoy better cooling and lower electricity costs.

Do inverter ACs consume more electricity?

Inverter air conditioners provide better cooling than their non inverter counterparts. Using an inverter air conditioner ensures that you will face lower temperature fluctuations over a long period and thus be able to enjoy more restful sleep through the night. Usually improved performance has some sort of costs associated with it. So do inverter air conditioners consume more electricity?

In this case, the improved performance also comes with improved efficiency. Inverter air conditioners will in fact consume lesser electricity than non-inverter air conditioners. This is due to the fact the inverter ACs do not continuously run at full speed and hence the electricty consumption is lower when the compressor is operating at a part load.

Are there any Windows ACs with Inverter technology available?

Window air conditoner
Window air conditoner

Voltas is the first Indian company to introduce window Air Conditioners with inverter technology. They now have window AC models with inverter technology available in various cooling capacities.

What are Inverter Air Conditioners – Conclusion

Inverter technology has been a paradigm shift when it comes to air conditioning technology. They have enabled air conditioners to provide more consistent cooling where the room temperature does not fluctuate. Along with this, they provide the advantage of lower electricity consumption due to their ability to operate on lower load levels. This also means that inverter air conditioners are quieter as compared to non inverter air conditioners. This does come at an increased cost and maintenance of these air conditioners is also dearer as compared to regular air conditioners. However, with multiple benefits, you should strongly making your next air conditioner purchase an inverter AC.

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