What’s the difference between a refrigerant split system and an evaporative cooler?

31-01-2018 | by Toshiba Air Con
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One of the most common questions we hear from our customers refers to the pros and cons between refrigerant air conditioners and evaporative coolers. Although both refrigerated and evaporative systems are used for the same purpose, they work in different ways. Let’s compare:


How do they work?

Refrigerant Split System  are divided between two units, an indoor and an outdoor unit. They work together to replace the hot air inside with cooler air from outside, cooling it further with refrigerant gas to reach the desired temperature in your home quickly and effectively.

Evaporative coolers also have an indoor and an outdoor component, but the process is different. The external unit, installed on the roof, captures the air and runs it through wet cooling pads, where it is cooled by evaporation. The cold air is then released into your home via the indoor unit.

While refrigerated split system air conditioners are most effective in a sealed environment, evaporative coolers work best with open doors and windows, so the air can circulate freely.


Climate Conditions

You can count on refrigerant air conditioners to work well in any climate, particularly in humid areas.

Evaporative coolers, on the other hand, don’t suit high humidity environments, such as QLD, NT and northern WA. They can be more appropriate for southern less humid Australian areas, like ACT VIC, SA and TAS.



There may be a cost difference in running a Refrigerated split system versus an evaporative cooler, but a split system will reach the desired temperature fast, regardless of the external climate. Find out how to operate a refrigerant air conditioner to beat the heat and still keep your electricity costs low.

For evaporative coolers, factors such as the model you choose, the area where you live and climate conditions affect both your electricity and water costs.

An evaporative cooler will provide air to the entire house, while a refrigerant can be useful if you only want to cool one room like a bedroom. Also, if there are only 1-2 rooms that need air conditioning, than this option might be cheaper than running evaporative cooling throughout the entire house.


Air Quality

Refrigerated air conditioners produce drier air than evaporative coolers, which they recirculate through their filters, preventing pollen, dust, odour and bacteria from spreading to your home.

Evaporative systems don’t recycle air if windows and doors are open during operation, ensuring a constant supply of fresh air throughout the house. They can, however, create a humid indoor environment.



Both styles of air conditioner need systematic maintenance checks. 

Refrigerant air conditioners recirculate air, so their filters must be cleaned and/or replaced regularly for best results.

Evaporative cooling pads will need to be serviced.


Environmental Sustainability

Refrigerated split systems cool more effectively, so they need more electricity to run. It’s a good idea to choose a unit with a high energy efficiency rating while taking into account your air conditioning needs.

In addition to electricity, evaporative coolers can use up to 25 litres of water per hour while in operation, so this must be considered if water restriction is an issue where you live.


Additional advantages of refrigerated split systems:

These versatile ‘split’ systems can be used all year round to provide you maximum thermal comfort, as air conditioners when it’s hot and heats when it’s cold.

Refrigerant split systems are also powerful dehumidifiers, helping to prevent mould indoors.


Consider your individual needs and choose the system that ticks most of your boxes. If you need further assistance, give us a call on 13 COOL or visit our website to explore our wide range of cooling solutions.