How to save money on aircon prices in Singapore

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Choosing and buying the right air conditioning (aircon) unit in Singapore can save you big money on your monthly utilities bills.

With Singapore's hot and humid weather, some would argue that air conditioning at home is a necessity.

These days, the cost of installing an aircon has decreased, but you can always get a better deal and save money on your monthly utility bills.

Here's a quick guide on how to save money on aircon prices in Singapore:

1. COMPARE AIRCON PRICES FROM DIFFERENT BRANDS

Home contractors often receive a commission from selling a particular brand. This is as true for some brands of furniture as it is for air-conditioning. This isn't always bad: just because they get a commission, it doesn't mean the contractor is just out for your money (their reputation is also at stake).

Nonetheless, it pays to look around. Don't just take the contractor's recommendation at face value - visit different distributors, and see if there are cheaper options on aircon prices in Singapore.

Also, remember that not all contractors are equally fair - some may choose to recommend a brand for which they receive a higher commission.

2. MATCH THE BTU RATING TO THE ROOM SIZE

Air conditioners come with a British Thermal Unit (BTU) rating. The larger the size of the room, the higher the BTU of the air-conditioner should be.

Small rooms (150 square feet or below) will require a unit with around 6,000 BTUs. This is generally appropriate for a single bedroom. For larger rooms (up to 350 square feet), you will need a unit with around 9,000 BTUs. This is typical for most living rooms.

Very large rooms (500 square feet or above) will require something between 10,000 to 15,000 BTUs.

If you use a powerful air-conditioner in a small room (e.g. 14,000 BTUs for a 150 square foot bedroom), it will cool the room much faster. But the temperature will fall much faster than the humidity levels, causing the walls to feel damp, and it can damage wallpaper or warp wooden floors over time.

If you use an underpowered air-conditioner, you will run up higher bills by having to set the air-conditioner on full power, for a longer time. You will also wear out the unit faster.

If you intend to install air conditioning in a kitchen, increase the required BTU by 4,000. Note that it is not advisable to install air conditioning in a kitchen - this will trap smells, and the unit will require more constant servicing.

Of course, the higher the BTU the more expensive the unit tends to be. So match the BTU of the unit to the room size, in order to save cost on air con prices.

3. DON'T BOTHER USING SILENCED UNITS FOR LARGE ROOMS

Some air-conditioners are more expensive because you don't hear the signature "drone" when it's switched on.

This is only a feature worth paying for if you are air-conditioning a small bedroom. For master bedrooms (200 square feet or more) or living rooms, the silent running is irrelevant. In large spaces, you will probably not notice the sound anyway.

4. MATCH YOUR USAGE TO THE RIGHT ENERGY EFFICIENCY

The air-conditioner's Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) measures how efficiently it uses electricity. The base number is 10 - this is a legal requirement.

For every point above 10, the power cost will be about 10 per cent lower over a month of use. This translates to lower electricity bills, but often a higher initial cost. Is it worth the trade-off?

That depends on how often you use the air-conditioner.

If you only turn on the air-conditioner two or three times a week, you are not likely to see much savings from a higher EER. You might be able to save on cost by getting a cheaper, less efficient unit.

If you use the air-conditioner every night however, you will probably save more with an efficient unit in the long run.

Alternatively, you may want a higher EER to be more eco-friendly.

5. MAKE USE OF THE DIFFERENT AIRCON MODES

Most aircon units these days come with a wide variety of functions and controls. Familiarising yourself with different operational modes can help you make better use of your unit and save you money by reducing your electricity bills and maintenance costs.

Besides choosing the right temperature, setting the right fan speed is also important.

You want to find the right balance between coolness and airflow, which will prevent your room from having chilly or warm spots. Rather than lowering the temperature setting, increasing the fan speed and using the automatic louvres to properly circulate the cool air throughout is all that's needed to make a room feel comfortable.

Another tip is to switch to Dry Mode (usually denoted by a water droplet sign) for an hour or two. Humidity can make a room feel stuffy, so setting your unit on Dry Mode to reduce humidity can help cool your room.

Most aircons also run Dry Mode on low fan settings only, which further reduces your energy consumption.

6. GET AN EXTENDED WARRANTY FOR BEDROOM UNITS

If you will use the air conditioner every night, it's a good idea to buy the extended warranty. This normally costs under S$200. A leaking air-conditioner can cost you almost that much to fix anyway, and a damaged compressor can run up costs of around S$600.

You may want to skip extended warranties on living room units if you use them less frequently (and can live without them if they spoil).

Note that the warranty is almost always from the seller, not the manufacturer. So if the seller closes shop, you may be left in the lurch. Get extended warranties only from proven companies.

7. CHOOSE THE BEST OEM RETAILER FOR YOUR AIRCON USAGE HABITS

Aircon bills have a big say in your monthly electricity bills, especially if you have multiple aircon units in the home, and they're all switched on throughout the night (or worse, during the day too!).

Before choosing an OEM retailer, you need to understand how quarterly tariff prices are set by SP Power, and what factors contribute to price fluctuations. Then you can pick the plan that best suits how your household consumes electricity. There is also no pressure to switch to a new retailer if you're undecided or are happy with the incumbent provider, SP Group.

There are three main types of OEM plans:

  • Fixed Price Plans
  • Discount Off Regulated Tariff Plans
  • Peak/Off-Peak Plans

The "best" electricity retailer really depends on your household's electricity consumption. For example, if your household consumes electricity mostly during non-peak hours, you can take advantage of Peak/Off-Peak Price Plans. If your consumption is lower than the national average, check out the Discount Off Regulated Tariff Plan.

Here's more on how to compare and choose the best open electricity market retailer based on your aircon usage habits.

8. USE THE RIGHT CREDIT CARD TO BUY AIRCON UNITS

Buying an aircon unit costs several thousand dollars at least, so use the right cashback or rewards credit card to earn cashback, rewards or air miles. Assuming the aircon costs S$3,000, here is an example of the perks you might get with three different credit cards:

 
 

Amex True Cashback Card

Citi PremierMiles Card

HSBC Advance Credit Card

Reward Type 3% cashback on up to total of S$5,000 spend for first 6 months 1.2 Citi miles for S$1 spent locally Up to 3.5% cashback for Advance banking customers
Rewards Earned from S$3,000 Aircon Purchase S$90 cashback 3,600 Citi miles Up to S$105 cashback for Advance banking customers

Just remember to pay in full, or else you cannot claim rewards or cashback if your account is in bad standing. You'll also end up accumulating interest on unpaid balances on your card.

If you use a 0 per cent instalment plan, you will not be eligible for any rewards, so if you need to break up large payments, try applying for a 0 per cent balance transfer instead. Note that there will be a nominal processing fee charged for balance transfer loans, so be sure to calculate it against the interest you would have been charged if you had left the unpaid balance on your credit card.

9. USE THE RIGHT CREDIT CARD FOR AIRCON BILLS

OCBC 365 Credit Card       POSB Everyday Card - SingSaver

Credit Card Rebate Eligible Partners Min. Spend Required Monthly Cashback Cap

OCBC 365
3% SingTel, M1, StarHub, My Republic, Circles.Life, and power service providers such as Senoko Energy, Sembcorp Power, and Keppel Electric $800/month (less get flat 0.3% cashback) S$80 per calendar month

POSB Everyday
1% StarHub and power service providers such as SP Group, Best Electricity, Geneco, Ohm Energy, iSwitch, Tuas Power, and Union Power None No cash rebates beyond monthly spend of S$100

The OCBC 365 card offers 3 per cent rebate on electricity bills from providers such as Senoko Energy, Sembcorp Power and Keppel Electric. You'll need to spend a minimum of S$800 per month on your card to qualify, otherwise cashback rate falls to 0.3 per cent.

Note that the rebate is capped at $80 a month but that still means a hefty savings of S$960/year. Besides monthly utility bills, you can also earn rebates of 6 per cent on dining and online delivery, 3 per cent on telco bills, grocery shopping and online groceries and 5 per cent on fuel.

The POSB Everyday Card earns you 1 per cent rebate on recurring utilities bills from a big selection of electricity providers. The big plus about this card is that there's no minimum monthly spend required so you don't need to worry you can't meet the target spend. But take note no cash rebates will awarded beyond the maximum spend of $100 per month.

This article was first published in SingSaver.

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