The summers in the UK seem to be getting hotter, and the heat isn’t always comfortable. If you’re indoors at home or trying to work, you need to be at a pleasant temperature.
Air conditioning could be the solution. You will feel more at ease and less drained of energy when you can lower the temperature indoors.
In this guide, we tell you about the installation and running costs of an air conditioning system. We look at the different types of systems, how they work, and ways to save money.
We also point out some of the advantages and disadvantages of air conditioning and explain how you can find an air conditioning expert to instal your system.
How Much Does Air Conditioning Cost?
The cost of air conditioning varies quite a bit depending on the type of system you choose and the number of units you need, among other factors.
The table below gives an estimate of the costs of installing different air conditioning systems, and how long installation should take.
|Type of Air Conditioner||Estimated Cost||Estimated Installation Time|
|Evaporative air cooler||£250 to £500 per unit||None|
|Portable air conditioner||£50 to £600 per unit||None|
|Window-mounted air conditioner||£500 to £1,300 per unit||One day|
|Floor-mounted air conditioner||£600 to £1,450 per unit||One day|
|Single- or multi-split system||£1,000 to £1,600 per unit||One to seven days|
|Ducted or ceiling cassettes||£2,500 to £4,000 per unit||Three to 10 days|
|MVHR system||£7,000 to £8,500 per home||Five to seven days|
Cheaper portable air conditioning units may be noisy with fewer useful features like a timer. Cheaper air coolers will, in most cases have a small water capacity which means you need to be around to refill the tank.
MVHR systems are designed to serve each home individually and so pricing is only approximate. The figure in the table represents an average three-bedroomed newly built home.
An air conditioning engineer can advise you on what system you need and give you a quote for installation.
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What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Air Conditioning?
The advantages of air conditioning are:
- Keeps you comfortable when temperatures are high
- Cooler temperatures reduce the risk of dehydration
- Improved air quality
- Reduces pollen, dust, and mould spores, which can help allergy and asthma sufferers.
- Many air conditioning units also incorporate a heating unit. You can use this function during the winter to heat a small room or as backup heat in larger areas.
The disadvantages of air conditioning are:
- Some units can be noisy, so check decibel ratings
- Higher electricity bills
- Not 100% environmentally friendly
What Are the Different Types of Air Conditioning Systems?
There are many types of air conditioners so it’s important to purchase the one best suited to your home and your needs.
Evaporative Air Coolers
Evaporated air coolers bring in air from the outside. The system filters allergens like dust and pollen and cools the hot air to give you cool, clean air indoors.
It uses water evaporation which doesn’t use as much electricity to function. There’s also no refrigerant in an evaporative air cooler, so it is much better for the environment.
Portable Air Conditioners
Portable air conditioners are a unit on wheels you can move around from room to room.
The unit has a hose and you attach one end to the unit, and the other end needs to go outside from a window or even a cat flap.
Floor Standing Air Conditioners
Floor standing units look a bit like storage heaters, but they can be used for heating or cooling.
These air conditioners must be installed next to a wall. The installer will drill a hole in the wall so that the pipes can vent warm air outside.
Window-Mounted Air Conditioners
Window mounted air conditioning units fit into your window space. They are ideal if you don’t have space on the walls and you don’t want floor standing units or a portable unit with a hose.
Installed Air Conditioning Systems
You can have split, multi-split or ceiling-mounted installed units. This type of installation means you can hide all the pipework behind the walls or in the ceiling.
Ducted Air Conditioning Systems
Ducted air conditioning heats several rooms from one outside unit but you can’t control the temperature of each room separately.
The ducts send cold (or hot) air to all the rooms simultaneously and at the same temperature.
Single-split Air Conditioning Systems
The split system is the most common of all air conditioning types. It consists of a unit attached to a wall on the inside and another larger outdoor unit.
There’s no ductwork needed, so this type of system can be installed with minimal disruption. You can control each individual air conditioning unit separately which means you can have different temperatures in each room.
Multi-split Air Conditioning Systems
Unlike a single-split system that requires you to have one indoor unit and one outdoor unit for each room you want to cool, a multi-split system allows you to connect up to four indoor units to one unit outside.
If you want to maximise the number of rooms with air conditioning but don’t have much outside space, a multi-split system could be a good solution.
Ceiling mounted cassettes are perfect for small spaces or where you don’t want a unit in your room.
The engineer will mount the air conditioning into the ceiling, where it looks like a small grille. The air blows out horizontally so it will reach every corner of a room.
MVHR Heat Recovery Systems
Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MHVR) systems take the old, stale air out of your home and replace it with fresh air from the outside.
The system will cause the temperature to drop but it doesn’t have the same cooling effect as a conventional air conditioning unit.
If you want a cooling system that uses renewable energy, then an air-to-air pump is the solution. These pumps can be floor- or wall-mounted and look like conventional air conditioning units.
A heat pump powers the system, which uses less electricity than a conventional air conditioning unit. It’s also environmentally friendly because the pump doesn’t release any harmful gases into the atmosphere.
What Affects the Cost of Air Conditioning?
Several factors affect the final cost of installing air conditioning in your home.
Type of System
Portable systems are the least expensive, but you have to connect a hose to the outside, and these systems are noisy.
If you only want to cool one or two rooms, a split system is a popular option.
Multi-split systems, ducted systems, and ceiling-mounted cassettes are the most expensive because they require more labour to instal and hide pipes and cables.
Number of Units
The number of units you have will influence the cost. One unit is cheaper to buy than two.
If you purchase multiple units it isn’t always dramatically more expensive. However, this depends on the system you choose and the extent of work required.
To cool effectively, you need to purchase an air conditioning system that’s strong enough for the size of your room.
Cooling power is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). BTUs are the amount of energy the unit uses to cool and heat.
If you have a small room, you can get by with an air conditioner with a lower BTU than if you have a large room to cool. Units with lower BTU values are usually cheaper.
However, it’s better to purchase a slightly more powerful unit than you need because an air conditioner that’s constantly running at maximum capacity uses more energy.
When in doubt, consult an air conditioning installer who can advise on the right system and unit for your space.
Air Conditioning Features
Depending on the manufacturer, air conditioning systems can have different features. These can include:
Many air conditioners will give you both cooling and heating. You probably won’t be able to heat your entire home efficiently unless you have a multi-split system, an air-to-air system, or an MVHR system.
Still, using the heat setting on your air conditioner can be a helpful backup.
For example, suppose you feel chilly whilst working in your home office, but you don’t want to turn the heating on in the entire house. In that case, you could use an air conditioning unit to provide heating for that one room.
Some units have a dehumidifier mode which is helpful if you want to reduce the moisture in the air. This can be especially beneficial during the damp, wet British winters.
Fan Speed Control
Fan speeds affect how quickly the room will cool down. If you choose the highest fan setting, the indoor unit will be noisier than if you leave it on the lowest setting, but the room will cool down faster.
Sleep mode means the motor runs slowly during the night, so it makes less noise. High-end air conditioning units are almost silent, but most make at least some noise.
Before purchasing any air conditioning system, be sure to check the decibel rating of the indoor and outdoor units, especially if you plan to install it in a bedroom.
A timer will allow you to time when you want the air conditioning to turn on or off. This feature is particularly helpful at bedtime when you can time the system to shut down in the early hours of the morning.
Some air conditioning systems have an app or central display, which you can use with your smartphone. The app gives you additional control because you can turn the air conditioner on before you get home, so you’re cool as soon as you walk indoors.
As demonstrated in the above table, the costs of installing a single-split or multi-split system range from approximately £1,000 to £1,600 per unit, or between £2,500 and £4,000 per unit if you choose a ducted or cassette system.
Installing an air conditioning system involves running both gas pipes and water pipes, and can also include adding ducts or cassettes. You should anticipate higher labour costs if you want multiple units, as these require more pipes, ducts, or cassettes to function.
It’s especially important to remember that air-con uses fluorinated gas for cooling, so only an F-Gas certified or REFCOM registered engineer can fit the system.
You should also expect higher labour costs if you retrofit an air conditioning system into an existing home. This is because your installer may need to drill holes, lift floorboards, and cut channels inside walls to accommodate the necessary pipes.
When all is said and done, retrofitting a multi-split system into a 5-bed Victorian home could cost upwards of £20,000.
If you don’t know how to find an air conditioning engineer, HouseholdQuotes can help you.
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How Much Does It Cost to Run an Air Conditioning System?
The running costs depend on the type of unit you have, its energy efficiency and its age. See the table below for approximate costs of a new system:
|Room||BTU||Kilowatts||Cost per Hour||Running Time||Daily Cost||Weekly Cost|
|Lounge||12,000||3.52Kw||12p per hour||Eight hours||96p||£6.72|
|Kitchen||8,000||2.34Kw||8p per hour||Four hours||32p||£2.24|
|Main bedroom||10,000||2.93Kw||10p per hour||Eight hours||80p||£5.60|
|Second bedroom||8,000||2.34Kw||8p per hour||Eight hours||64p||£4.48|
|Home office||6,000||1.76Kw||6p per hour||Eight hours||48p||£3.36|
|6-unit multi-split||42,000||12Kw||48 per hour||Eight hours||£3.84||£26.88|
If you want to run a portable air conditioning unit expect to pay in the region of 44p an hour. They are useful if you want to move them into different rooms, but they are not energy efficient.
Air coolers on the other hand don’t lower the temperature as much as an air conditioning unit, but they cost much less to run. You can pay as little as 1p an hour.
As you can see the cost depends on the power of the unit and how long you use the air conditioning each day. The efficiency of your units depends on their age and whether or not you maintain them with an annual service by a qualified engineer.
How Can I Save Money on Air Conditioning?
There’s a range of ways you can keep costs down for air conditioning.
Install adequate draught-proofing to keep the cool air in and the warm air out. If you have an older home a professional can do the job for you.
The costs are likely to be in the region of £200 to draught-proof gaps in your windows and doors.
HouseholdQuotes can help you to find a draught-proofing professional or you can also do the job yourself. If you decide to go down the DIY route, take care not to block ventilation grilles, air bricks or trickle vents on your windows
You should also try to keep blinds, curtains and shutters closed. If you keep them closed while you are out of the house, or in rooms that aren’t used the sun won’t raise the temperature in the room.
Use a timer to turn the air conditioning on and off to save on costs. For example, turn on the air conditioning before you go to bed and set the timer to turn off in the early hours when the temperature drops.
Make sure you choose a suitable temperature. Many air conditioning manufacturers tell you to leave your air conditioning on when you are out. Set the temperature at a higher setting than you would have when you’re at home. This helps to save energy.
Your system won’t have to work so hard to cool down a room where the sun has been raising the temperature all day. When you’re back at home you can re-adjust the temperature.
Turn the unit on in your bedroom about an hour before you go to bed. Studies show the optimal temperature for sleeping is between 60º and 67ºF.
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How Do I Choose an Air Conditioning Unit?
If you want a unit you can move from room to room and take with you when you move then a portable system will suit you better.
If you want to use cooling and heating then an installed system is the answer.
If you are having more than one unit installed you need to consider your outside space.
For example, if you had six units on a split system you will also have six outside units. Or you could have a multi-split system where six indoor units will run off two outside units.
Do consider the chance that an outside unit from a multi-split system could become faulty. You will lose the air conditioning on each unit it helps to operate.
On a split system, you will only lose the air conditioning in one room.
If you want an environmentally friendly unit that will lower the temperature, rather than cool, choose an Evaporative Air Cooler.
|Type of Unit||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Portable||-No installation necessary|
-You can move it from room to room
-Take it with you if you move
-You can hide it away when not in use
|-Not efficient for large rooms
-Can be noisy
-Expensive to run
-The hose needs to go out of a door or window
-You need to empty the water tank regularly
-Silent or low noise
-Cools and heats
-Can be wall or floor mounted
|-Not particularly environmentally friendly
-Need to pay installation costs
-Need somewhere to put outside unit
|MVHR||-Excellent filtration leading to enhanced air quality|
-Lowers condensation and humidity
-Cheap to run
|-Must install the whole system at once so you need to have between £6000 and £7000|
|Air to air||-Very efficient|
-A heat pump is environmentally friendly
-Cools and heats
|-Must be well maintained to remain efficient|
How Do I Decide What Size Unit to Buy?
To buy an air conditioning unit with the right BTU you need to measure the room. For example, if you want a unit installed in your living room multiply the length by the width.
Let’s say your living room is 14 feet wide and 16 feet long.
That will mean 14 x 16 = 224. Your room is 224 square feet.
Now do 224 x 25 = 5600.
You now know the minimum BTU you need for your living room is 5,600 BTUs.
When you are choosing a unit choose a bigger BTU rating rather than a smaller one. This is because a smaller one will struggle to work efficiently for the amount of space you have and will end up costing more in electricity.
Don’t go overboard and choose a much bigger air conditioning unit either. A bigger unit will cost more to buy and it will cost more to run.
What’s Involved in Fitting an Installed Air Conditioner?
The engineer or tradesperson from the company will come and see where you want the unit or units installed. They will calculate the size you need and talk to you about the type of system you want and the place to locate the units.
The location will determine the amount of pipe or ductwork that needs doing.
You’ll then get a quote with a plan and the price for your choice.
The F-Gas certified engineer and the electrician will then install the system. The system will have its first test and the engineer will show you exactly how to use it.
If you had a retrofit installation plasters, painters and carpet fitters will fix any disruption to your home.
How Can I Improve the Efficiency of My Air Conditioning?
Good quality air conditioning units are energy-efficient, but you can make them even better by draught-proofing your home, insulating exterior pipework.
It’s also important to maintain your system. Make sure the system has a clean and a service according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
When a professional air conditioning expert visits you for a maintenance check some of the things they will look at include:
- The blower components. The engineer will look at the efficiency of the blower to make sure it is functioning correctly. A faulty blower might start to use too much energy and it won’t be comfortable for you if you can’t use it properly
- The levels of refrigerant. If the refrigerant levels are low the machine will be working harder than it should. This will lead to higher bills and less efficiency
- The drain pipe. If the drainpipe becomes blocked you will see water leaking from underneath your unit. A maintenance check will cut the risk of blockages and keep pipes clean.
- The evaporator coil. A maintenance check should include a clean of the evaporator coil. This will prevent bacteria and mould from building up in the unit. A clogged up, dirty coil will also restrict air-flow so the machine won’t work so well
- The outdoor coil. This will also need checking. This too can become dirty and harbour mould and bacteria
- An overall look. A quick look at how the whole system is running and that the fan speed and noise levels are correct and there are no unusual system delays or noises
How Do I Find and Hire Someone to Install and Maintain Air Conditioning?
Ask friends, colleagues, and family if they have any recommendations. If a neighbour’s recently had air conditioning installed ask them who carried out the installation.
Otherwise, let HouseholdQuotes help you. Fill in our form and we’ll find local F-Gas engineers to give you no-obligation quotes.
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Ensuring the Professional Is the Right Fit
Use the below questions to make sure the professional you want to hire meets the right standards for you:
- First of all, make sure they are F-Gas certified or registered with REFCOM because otherwise, they won’t be legally qualified to install your system
- Ask them if they have any case studies or recommendations from previous customers. Ask to see their insurance certification. All tradesmen should have public liability insurance
- Ask whether or not they provide a maintenance contract and if so, how much it costs
- Make sure they give you a written quote that makes it clear what is and isn’t included
- Ask if the quote includes removing and disposing of any rubbish
- Finally, ask them about guarantees and warranties on parts and/or labour
Before you look at air conditioning systems think about your needs and use the checklist below to make sure you purchase the right unit for you.
- Do you want air conditioning throughout your home, or in just one or two rooms?
- Research the different systems available. There is plenty of information on the internet and many large manufacturers have chat systems if you need to ask questions.
- A professional air conditioning engineer can also advise you about the system that will best suit your needs for your budget and the design of your home.
- Use HouseholdQuotes. Fill in the form and we will contact trusted specialists to give you no-obligation quotes.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How Does Air Conditioning Work?
The air then passes over a fan that pushes the cold air back through the grille and into the room.
Meanwhile, the unit outside your home takes in the heat from the room. This outside unit then expels the hot air into the atmosphere.
Are There Any Building Regulations on Air Conditioning?
- The outside unit must not be any larger than 0.6 m3
- You can’t place it within one metre of a flat roof
- It must be over a metre away from any property boundaries
- You can’t fit it on a pitched roof
You will need to contact your planning department if you live in a conservation area or you are in a listed building as outside units can’t be visible.
An outside unit does make some noise. If you want to avoid complaints from a neighbour try and position the unit in a location that won’t be a nuisance.
When Should I Service My Air Conditioning System?
If you are using it all year round, for heating and cooling, then every six months is a recommendation by many manufacturers.
How Many Years Will My Air Conditioning System Last?
An HVAC system should last for around 20 years or more.
Can Air Conditioning Lower Humidity in My House?
You can then use this separately from the cooling or heating function.
Do I Need to Clean the Filters in My Air Conditioning Units?
They could also go mouldy which will smell and mould spores will blow into your rooms.
How Often Do I Need to Clean the Filters?
Make sure you don’t put them back into the unit until they are completely dry.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Using Air Conditioning?
Other disadvantages are health-related. If you don’t clean your filters there is a risk of allergens blowing back into the room which can cause asthma.
Some people suffer from cold-like symptoms and sore throats. The air also dries your skin and contact lenses wearers sometimes have discomfort from dry eyes.
Staying in an air-conditioned environment for long periods can also make you feel more uncomfortable when you do have to go into the heat.
Do Air Conditioning Systems Use Freon Gas?
Most well-known manufacturers are now using R32 refrigerants in new models, but systems with F-Gases are still available as they are not banned.
If you have a system with F-Gas you will be able to buy replacement parts for its lifetime.
Meanwhile R32 refrigerant, whilst not environmentally friendly, does have a much lower global warming potential than other refrigerants.
What Is the Most Common Fault With an Air Conditioning Unit?
If you’re good at DIY you can turn off the system, locate the drain line, disconnect the hose and then clean the drain line with bleach and water or distilled vinegar.
Remember, if you need an air conditioning specialist, HouseholdQuotes can help you find reliable tradesmen to give you no-obligation quotes fast.
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