Scientists have officially stated that 2022 was the hottest year ever recorded for the UK. And the top ten hottest years in the UK have occurred since 2003. With this becoming a trend, perhaps you should consider installing air conditioning.
For UK residents who aren’t familiar with installing air conditioning, this is going to come with a lot of unknowns, but the main question will center around costs.
After all, the cost of living crisis is still in full swing, and the average annual electrical energy use is estimated to be around £933. For some, receiving this bill might mean resorting to some tried and tested energy tricks.
So, would it be a financially wise decision to install air conditioning?
Are Air Conditioners Expensive In The UK?
The average costs of purchasing and installing air conditioning can vary widely. But it's down to the type of unit you choose to install, how much the installation costs, and additional expenses. There are four main air conditioning systems to consider in the UK. All have their pros and cons.
Portable Air Conditioners
As the name would indicate, these are free-standing units. Usually, they are rolled into place and have an exhaust pipe that needs to be laid outside the room.
The positives of using a portable air conditioning unit are that it allows maximum flexibility, requires no installation, and is initially cheaper. Pricing can range anywhere between £150 to £350.
Split Air Conditioners
These are the most popular types of air conditioners found in homes. You can identify them by the wall-mounted unit fixed into place, usually above head height.
The general benefits of selecting a split air conditioner are that they are energy efficient, cool the room quickly, and reduce operational noise levels.
Pricing for a split air conditioning unit in the UK can range from £500 to £1500.
Installing a split air system in the UK will require an F-Gas registered engineer and an engineer with that accreditation is also required for servicing and conducting maintenance.
Ceiling Air Conditioners
If you have restricted wall space in a large commercial property, these are the cooling solutions you will choose. They fit discreetly into the ceiling and evenly distribute the air around the area.
However, these are often out of the budget of most domestic homeowners and will require a more specialised repair person to maintain them. Also, pricing for these units is private.
Commercial Air Conditioning Units
As the name would indicate, these will be utilised in large commercial spaces, such as offices, shopping centers, and hospitals. Again, pricing is only available on request.
When installed, they are also highly customisable for their specific space, including humidity levels and air quality.
Moving forward, we’ll focus on portable and split air conditioners, as these are the most common units installed in UK homes.
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How Much Does Air Conditioning Cost To Run?
The most significant cost of air conditioning is running costs. To estimate how much your system will cost to run, you will need to find out the following:
- What is your unit's power consumption rating (in watts or kilowatts)? This information should be included in the product’s manual. If you’ve lost this manual, most manufacturers upload them nowadays.
- Find out your electricity rate. Usually, this is charged at a couple of pence per kilowatt-hour (kWh). You can locate this rate on your utility bill.
Now that you’ve gathered the information, you can calculate the hourly cost by multiplying the power consumption (in kW) by the electricity rate (in pence/kWh).
For example: your air conditioner consumes 1.5 kW and the electricity rate is 15 pence/kWh. The hourly cost would be:
Power Consumption (kW) x Electricity Rate (Pence/kWh)
= 1.5kW x 15 pence/kWh
= 22.5p per hour.
Once you’ve crunched these numbers for an hourly rate, you can multiply it by the hours you plan on using your air conditioner.
The current energy price per unit for customers on standard variable tariffs (1 October to 31 December 2023) is 27 pence per kWh and 53 pence daily standing charge. Powering a 1.5kW air conditioner for an hour will cost roughly 40 pence per hour.
Now that we know how to work on the cost of running an air conditioner in the UK, how efficient are they?
How Efficient Is Air Conditioning In The UK?
As with any other location, the efficiency of air conditioning in the UK depends on several factors, many of which we’ve already covered in this article, including:
- Type of system
- It’s over-all design
- And how easy it is to maintain
After all, regularly maintaining any appliance around the home will keep it efficient and running for longer.
Each range will have a rating of how energy-efficient the air conditioning system is. These are usually given as the energy efficiency ratio (EER) for cooling efficiency and the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER).
The EER measurement compares the unit's cooling capacity in British Thermal Units per hour (BTU/h) to how much power is required in watts to reach its capacity. For example, if your unit is rated for 12,000 BTU/h and requires 1,000 watts of power to reach its capacity, your EER rating will be 12.
SEER takes into the same metrics of the unit’s cooling power, however, this measurement considers seasonal factors that will influence air conditioning usage, giving you an idea of its efficiencies throughout the year.
Another factor to consider when considering efficiency is whether the air conditioner has an automatic shutoff and other energy-saving features that will help reduce energy use.
Connecting it to your smart-home technology grid will also help you maintain efficiency. By controlling it remotely and monitoring real-time energy usage, you’ll be able to make informed decisions on how to maximise efficiencies.
How Does An Air Conditioner Work?
Air conditioners remove heat from indoor spaces by relying on the principles of thermodynamics and the refrigeration cycle. For laymen, here's a simplified explanation:
The first step involves evaporation and compression. This process relies on refrigerant, a special fluid designed to change state from a gas to a liquid and back again at low temperatures.
The refrigerant starts in the evaporator coil inside the indoor air conditioner unit (the part that’s mounted on your wall). Here, warm indoor air is blown over the coil, causing the refrigerant to evaporate and absorb heat from the surrounding air.
Now, a gas, the refrigerant, is pumped into the outdoor unit and enters the compressor. The compressor pressurises the gas, which causes it to heat up significantly. The high-pressure, high-temperature gas is why a qualified technician is required to service your air conditioner.
This hot, pressurised gas goes through the condenser coil in the outdoor unit. Inside the condenser coils, heat is released into the outside air, and the refrigerant gas condenses into a liquid. This process removes the heat absorbed from indoors.
After the condensation, the refrigerant flows through an expansion valve, which reduces its pressure and temperature, turning it back into a low-pressure, low-temperature gas.
Now, the refrigerant is cycled back into the indoor unit's evaporator coil to begin the process again.
This continuous cycle of evaporation, compression, condensation, and expansion effectively removes heat from indoors, creating cooler air.
Do You Need Council Approval To Install Air Conditioning?
Before picking out an air conditioner for your home, you may need to check for approval before constructing or changing your building in specific ways.
But most commonly, installing air conditioning will fall under “permitted development rights.” This means you don’t need planning permission if your installation meets specific criteria.
These criteria include:
- Type of property,
- Size and location of outdoor units,
- And your local council's regulations.
Stricter rules and planning permissions may apply if your home is a listed building or located within a conservation area. For example, having an outside condenser may not be allowed.
Also, be aware that outdoor condensers can be loud, and if neighbours complain, you might have to adhere to their demands.
Now that we’ve answered how much air conditioning costs in the UK, let’s tackle some frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Air Conditioning FAQs
How Much Does Air Conditioning Cost To Install?
Pricing will vary depending on your home’s size, insulation, and the type of air conditioner you want to install.
What Is The Cheapest Air Conditioning System To Install?
The cheapest air conditioning system on the market would be a portable unit. With no installation costs, it wins hands down. However, they are less efficient than other units
What Is The Most Expensive Air Conditioning System To Install?
If money is not an issue, you could get a custom-created, discreet ceiling unit that circulates the air in your interior spaces well. But expect to pay, as each system has a unique price tag.