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Note: The following information is intended as a general guide only. Seek specialist advice before making any change to your home.

Decent cooling in your home makes all the difference on a scorching hot New Zealand day. Are you in the process of buying equipment to cool the house down? Read this guide first!

On this page, you'll learn things like:

  • The benefit of an installed heat pump/AC.
  • When a pedestal fan is a good choice.
  • How combining cooling can get the job done better, faster.

Be cool – you’ve got choices

When a heatwave or cold snap hits, homewares stores are positively stripped of all their temperature control equipment, especially the affordable options. The best way to combat swings in temperature over the year is to be well-prepared and get something in place in the ‘off-season’. Cooling is possible at all budgets and situations – so don’t worry if a heat pump isn’t possible. In this guide we’ll cover some of the main cooling solutions, providing the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision about choosing the right summer cooling option for you and your home. 

The big investment (now) – installing a heat pump/AC unit

If you have the option to install a heat pump in your home, this is an excellent choice. Modern heat pump systems consist of an outside unit that manages the intake or release of hot or cold air with the indoor unit that pumps into your house. While in winter a heat pump takes heat from the outside air using refrigerant, summertime cooling is done in reverse. To cool, the indoor unit sucks in hot air, releasing only cool air back into the room. The warm air is sent through copper pipes to the outdoor unit and pushed into the outside air.  

The initial cost of a heat pump can be  between $2-$4k for a decent system. This might deter some households looking for cost-effective heating. However, if you’re looking for long-term savings in a home you plan to stay in, a heat pump is much more efficient with power than a regular heater given the process it uses to cool and heat by moving air around rather than simply raw electricity.

To keep your heat pump efficient when cooling the house in summer, avoid setting an arctic cold temp – something between 18-21 degrees is perfectly comfortable on a hot summer day, and will require less effort by your unit to adjust to and maintain that environment. Heat pumps work pretty quickly as well, covering a reasonable area as they pump (this depends on the size of the unit though). 

When you get a heat pump/AC installed, the provider will assess where in your home the two components should be placed to work the best and be out of the way. The indoor unit will normally be placed up high to enable good room coverage, although some larger units are floor-based. 

So if you own your home, or are looking for a new property – strongly consider a heat pump as your cooling option - your power bill will look lighter for it.

House-wide air conditioning controlled by a thermostat

If you want cooling coverage of your whole home, a ducted system might be worth a look. Some systems combine cooling, heating and ventilation into the same installation, meaning your air quality and temperature are managed at once. You can control temperature via a control pad or, for some systems, via a phone app and your home WiFi. 

Unless you are renting or purchasing a home with ducted cooling installed, be ready – this option isn’t typically cheap – with multi-room installation, keypad, ducting, vents and outdoor unit to factor in. But if you’re finding you need multiple heat pump units throughout the home, make sure you compare this with a full ducted system as it may work out to be more cost-effective. Like heat pumps, a home-wide cooling system can be more efficient than standalone options (like fans) using the same refrigerant process of heat/air transfer.

A benefit of a ducted cooling system throughout the home is it’s kept well out of the way. You avoid large units on the wall, with small, ceiling based vents pushing cool air out instead. They’re also good if you’re the ‘set and forget’ type of household – just pick the temperature and the system will do what it needs to maintain this. Modern systems may also integrate functionality like control from your phone and control on specific rooms’ temperatures. 

An assessment will be needed on your home to make sure you have the ceiling space to allow the unit and vents to be installed – this is all part of the quote process.

Ceiling fans – simple and effective 

Ceiling fans can be a good option for larger open spaces with a high ceiling that requires moderate levels of cooling. Using some basic physics, a ceiling fan rotates in a counterclockwise direction to pull hot air up and push a breeze down into the room. What’s happening here isn’t technically cooling in the way your heat pump or ducted AC might provide, but rather improving air circulation around the room, giving you the effect of cooling. 

This option is affordable (a few hundred dollars) and not as much of a major to install as a heat pump. And there are plenty of design options, including ceiling fans that double as lighting fixtures. Why not make your cooling part of your home’s styling?

So what are the downsides? A ceiling fan will need some installation and can be considered a permanent fixture, making these less of a solution for renters or those needing cooling immediately. They’re also not recommended for rooms with low ceilings!

Pedestal fan – mobile and affordable

Need cooling right now?  A pedestal-style standalone fan is probably your best option. Fit for virtually any budget (you can pick up a fan in New Zealand from about $20 and up), versatile and portable, there’s many times where a basic plug-in fan is ideal. Even the cheapest models will usually include a speed setting to suit – higher settings will use a bit more power e.g. 35 watts at low, 70 watts at high. But we’re really talking about a few cents an hour running cost.

Even homes with a heat pump or ducted cooling may have rooms this doesn’t reach, in which case a pedestal fan is a good addition to your arsenal. The cooling is instantaneous, too, although for cheaper models you may need to sit reasonably close to feel the effect.

A fan doesn’t actually monitor or control the temperature, but like a ceiling fan pushes air around giving the cooling effect. While you can set these units to oscillate (move from side to side), any large room won’t really get full coverage from a fan the way AC will provide.

Pedestal fans have safety covers, but they are still free standing and particularly in the cheaper end of the range, not super sturdy. If you’ve got crawling babies and toddlers on the move, this cooling option can be a hazard – whether it’s knocking the unit over or sticking small fingers between the gapes of the covering. 

There are more higher-end standalone fans available which sometimes include air filtration, heating, and cooling in the one unit. These may use fanless technologies which are much better suited to curious kids! This type of unit can be referred to as an air multiplier. They may also be configurable with an app to monitor and manage operation.  Expect to pay a premium for this type of fan however.

How about cooling for the price of...free?

There’s a number of ways you can manage the effects of oppressive summer heat in your home – check out our resource on How to Make Your Home Summer-proof for more information on this. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Draw blinds and curtains.
  • Open up the home for airflow.
  • Avoid extended periods of cooking with the oven or stove.
  • Air out the home in the evening and first thing – when the sun hasn’t yet hit the property.
  • Dress for the conditions
  • Choose bedding that’s thin and breathable. 

Speaking of bedding, read more about staying cool at night time with our full guide.

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