All winter we were pining for sun, but now that it’s here, it’s hot and sticky and simply too much (sorry sun worshippers and solar panel owners, I just hate it). This summer has been one of the hottest on record in the UK, and don’t we just know it. Enter stage left: a massive boom in air conditioner sales and enquiries.
But how much does it cost to get a central air conditioning system installed over here? Is air conditioning worth it in the UK?
Different Types of Air Conditioning Units
If you’re being pedantic, then an air conditioning unit is a form of tech that modifies the condition of the air (heating, cooling, humidification, dehumidification, cleaning, ventilation, or air movement). That’s definitely too broad for what we’re discussing here. We’re talking the american style air cooling systems, of which there are a wide variety of types. A very wide variety.
Freestanding Air Conditioner Costs
Although freestanding units capitalise floorspace and don’t tend to be particularly beautiful or high performance, they’re by far the cheapest option and the one that most UK families will be looking at this summer. They’re ideal for small rooms and are portable enough that you can move them around with you.
Freestanding air conditioners can be found for around £120+ online, though the high performance models are significantly more.
Window Air Conditioner Costs
A window air conditioner is designed to pull in air from outside your property and cool it as it pushes it inside. Although they’re rare in new builds, they’re still a pretty common sight around the warmer parts of Europe due to their efficiency, convenience for retrofitting, and relatively low cost compared to a ducted system.
Window air conditioning units start at around £500 for a basic model, but you’re likely to need a separate unit for each room you want to cool, so that figure can multiply quickly.
Central (ducted) Air Conditioning costs
This is the kind of air conditioning that you’re most likely to find in offices and commercial buildings in the UK; the units work from a central location to distribute conditioned air throughout a house or office. Unlike window or freestanding air conditioners, central air conditioning is designed for large space, using an external heat pump and ductwork to direct the air. Think Die Hard, except in real life the ducts are usually much smaller – sorry, Bruce Willis.
Bear in mind that with these kinds of systems, it’s always better to underestimate than to overestimate. Central air conditioning that is oversized for the purpose with be constantly cycling between being on or off, humidifying the air and reducing efficiency.
The cost of these kinds of systems ranges massively depending on size and specifications. On a new build office the air con system could be somewhere in the ballpark of £2,000, but the labour involved in installing the same system to an existing building means that retrofitting central air system can be much more expensive.
Making Your Air Conditioning More Efficient
- Insulation is key. If the air conditioner is an outdoor unit then the pipes should have good quality lagging. The building should also be insulated to prevent the building from warming up so quickly during the day, as well as stopping the cold air from escaping.
- Servicing and maintenance. In the GreenAge offices we recently hoovered out all out air conditioning units and will swear by it making a huge difference.
- Ensure you know the controls. Our air conditioning system is from the 80’s and is controlled by a completely incomprehensible remote control written in bizarre hieroglyphics. That means that if I try to put the air conditioning on, it’s a disaster and I usually end up warming the room up instead – not very efficient. That’s why we have Chris, our IT Manager and Air Conditioning Whisperer to do it; he understands the controls and makes it work properly and efficiently, including a timer that stops it being left on when no one is around. You should get yourself a Chris (not ours though, we need him).
It is worth noting that air conditioning is a very energy intensive form of staying cool, even with all the above accounted for. Although they are sometimes necessary for office or commercial environments, when it comes to your home there are most certainly easier and cheaper ways to keep cool.