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Space Heating and Cooling

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Space conditioning, or heating and cooling, accounts for an average of 40 per cent of household energy use in Australia and 33% in New Zealand.

Note this proportion varies, as the amount of time heating or cooling is required varies according to local climate as well as other factors such as insulation levels and personal thermal comfort expectations.

The below graphs show the breakdown of household energy usage in Australia in 2014.

Residential Baseline Energy Study: Australia/New Zealand (draft report). Energy Consult July 2015

Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) have had a large impact on the efficiency and innovation of the air conditioner market. The least efficient air conditioner (less than 4kW) today is more efficient than the most efficient air conditioner on the market in 2001.

Selecting the right heating and cooling system can have a big impact on household energy costs. There are a number of choices available to provide heating and/or cooling services to your home.

Not all types of heaters or coolers are covered under the E3 Program. Some of the technologies explored are identified under Types of Cooling and Heating Appliances. When looking to purchase a heating or cooling appliance refer to Factors to Consider. Also refer to the About Air conditioner Labels and FAQs for guidance on energy efficient air conditioners (heating and cooling).

For more in depth information about various technologies or recent research work, refer to Key Documents.

Heating and Cooling Technologies Regulated for Energy Efficiency

Currently, air conditionersbuilding chillers and close control air conditioners have energy efficiency requirements under the E3 Program. The energy efficiency requirements for air conditioners and chillers are currently under review. To find out more about MEPS for these products check the relevant Australian GEMS determination or the New Zealand Regulations.

Gas space heatersportable air conditioners, standard electric heaters, wood heaters and evaporative air conditioners are not subject to energy efficiency regulation under the E3 framework.

Household air conditioners (excluding ducted products) must carry an Energy Rating Label. The energy label found on gas space heaters is not overseen or administered by the E3 program.

Is your product regulated?

Find out which GEMS determination or regulatory standard applies to your product

All products covered by energy efficiency regulations must meet certain requirements before they can be supplied or sold in Australia or New Zealand.

Depending on the product, this may include Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), energy rating label requirements or both. There are specific requirements relevant to Australia and New Zealand.

At a glance...





New Zealand

Air conditioners – single phase



GEMS Determination»


Air conditioners – three phase




GEMS Determination»


Air Conditioners - Evaporative No No - -
Air Conditioners – Single Duct Portable No No Under consideration Under consideration

Close control air conditioners (computer rooms)



GEMS Determination»


Commercial chillers



GEMS Determination»


Gas Space Heaters



- -

Types of heating and cooling appliances

For households, there are various space conditioning options – these include:

  • air conditioners,
  • evaporative coolers
  • electric and wood heaters, and
  • gas heaters

In the industrial and commercial sectors, other relevant products include:

  • chillers for large buildings, and
  • close control air conditioners, which are primarily used to cool computer equipment.

Factors to consider

Considerations when determining what type of appliance will be used to heat or cool or both needs to take into account the following factors:

  • Access to fuel (electricity, gas, solar power)
  • Purchase costs
  • Running costs
  • Size of area to be heated or cooled.

For space conditioning equipment the usage will vary with the locality, weather, building shell efficiency, building or room size, zoning, equipment type and occupant usage behaviours, plus through the interaction of these variables. See Size Matters for information about what to consider when sizing an air conditioner.

For information on how to save energy when heating and cooling your property, see Your Energy Savings.

Current work

Air conditioner Decision Regulation Impact Statement

A Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was approved by the COAG Energy Council on 19 December 2018.

The RIS proposed a number of policy changes to improve the energy efficiency regulations for air conditioners. Issues addressed include:

  • The current rating method does not take account of the significant impact climate has on the performance and use of air conditioners;
  • Portable air conditioners - inefficient single duct portables are not regulated for energy efficiency, now that test standard has been published they can be considered alongside other technologies;
  • Energy efficiency requirements for some air conditioners and chillers are specified in the National Construction Code which only applies to new builds, not the replacement market; and
  • A number of air conditioner and chiller product categories have inconsistent MEPS levels, due to previous ad hoc policy changes.

The RIS was the subject of extensive public consultation commencing in 2016.

The Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps) Determination 2013 will be revised for approval by the Commonwealth Minister for Energy to give effect to the changes proposed in the Decision RIS. In New Zealand, a policy option needs to be approved by Cabinet before being adopted under the Energy Efficiency (Energy Using Products) Regulations 2002.

Drawing of Australia and New Zealand with word overlay 'Climate changes the efficiency of the appliance'.

Zoned Energy Rating Label

The energy efficiency and performance of a certain appliance can be impacted by where it is installed (location) and other factors such as usage patterns and climate variations, including air temperature, water temperature, frosting, humidity and cloud cover.  The Ministerial Council on Energy supported a move to a zone based energy efficiency labelling system for air conditioners as part of its consideration of the Decision Regulation Impact Statement for air conditioners.


The Air-Conditioner and Commercial Refrigeration Advisory Committee (ACRAC) functions in an advisory capacity on air conditioner and commercial refrigeration energy efficiency programs. It is not a decision making authority but rather representatives from key stakeholder interests whose role is to inform E3 of their views on any aspect of the regulatory process or proposals.

ACRAC Meeting Minutes

View all meeting minutes


Latest consultation:

16 Nov 2018 10:00 AAEDT
14 Dec 2018 17:00 AAEDT

Current and past consultations

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Search the Registration database

Use the registration database to view and compare all products that are registered under the GEMS Act.

Registration database

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Online Calculator

Compare the energy efficiency of fridges, televisions and computer monitors, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, and air conditioners.


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Energy Rating Calculator app

Use the Energy Rating Calcualtor app to compare the energy efficiency and running costs of similar products.


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Your Energy Savings website

Visit the Australian Government's Your Energy Savings website for useful information like: