Air Conditioning Installation – What Does it Involve?

The installation of air conditioning systems is a specialist service, that should only be carried out by qualified installers.  One of the main reasons for this is due to the system refrigerant, which needs very careful handling – refrigerant is stored under pressure and can be dangerous to work with, as well as being a threat to the environment and human health in the case of a leak.

The main qualification required in order to install air conditioning is F-gas, which is administered by Refcom.  This concerns the safe handling of refrigerant including charging air conditioning systems safely and securely, preventing a refrigerant leak.

Like many parts of the working environment, it is worth investing sufficient time and money into your new air conditioning system.  There are methods and approaches to installing air conditioning that may result in a cheaper price but beware that these will often involve shortcuts being taken which could jeopardise the lifetime and the effectiveness of your system.

In all cases, we would recommend partnering with an HVAC specialist, who can guide you through the process of planning, procuring, installing and maintaining your air conditioning system.  Salix offers free, no-obligation advice to all commercial clients ranging from offices to schools, hotels to leisure, food production plants to prisons, and much more.


How much does it cost to install an Air Conditioning system?


There is no fixed answer to this question as an air conditioning system can vary hugely in its size and complexity.  A relatively straightforward split air conditioning system can differ in cost significantly depending on the length of the pipework run, specialist access equipment needed to install, the brand of the equipment, and a whole host of other factors.

As a guide, an air conditioning system for a single small office would start out around £2500 – this includes the supply and installation of a basic wall-mounted split air conditioning system.  The larger the space and the more rooms the system has to serve, the more money it costs to install.  Any costs mentioned are correct at the time of writing and are subject to VAT at the standard rate.  The cost of air conditioning systems and parts have been subject to significant price increases and short supply, so please contact us for a bespoke quotation for your requirement.

What are the typical parts of an Air Conditioning installation?


An air conditioning system will typically involve the installation of an indoor unit (the evaporator) and the outdoor unit (the condenser).  The indoor unit can take many forms, typically a wall, floor or ceiling-mounted unit that is the emitter of cold or hot air.  A series of refrigerant pipework is then run between the indoor and outdoor unit, allowing the refrigerant cycle to work.

The outdoor unit is normally located on an external wall, roof, or mounted at ground level.  We recommend that condensers installed at ground floor level are housed within a cage to prevent damage and build-up of leaves and debris around the unit.

An air conditioning system will typically require a dedicated electricity supply, including a fused spur at the position of the indoor unit and a weatherproof isolator next to the outdoor unit.  This must be installed and commissioned by a qualified electrician.

It is important to consider any specialist access equipment you might require for your air conditioning installation – equipment installed at a high level may need a hired scaffold tower or even a motorised lift.  All handling equipment should be carried out by competent engineers with the required qualifications.

Does installing Air Conditioning also provide me with fresh air ventilation?


It should be noted that air conditioning does not provide any ventilation in itself.  It is simply the re-circulation of air that is cooled or heated, depending on what mode it is in.  Find out more about the difference between AC and ventilation.

Mechanical ventilation is a separate system altogether, normally supplied via a packaged ventilation unit or an air handling unit.  In a large building, air conditioning and ventilation systems can be combined, for example with a heating and/or cooling coil within the air handling unit.  This unit will then supply fresh, filtered air throughout the building, heated or cooled depending on the season.

Air Conditioning control options


The actual control of your air conditioning will be via a controller or thermostat – this will sense the temperature in the space and adjust your system accordingly to meet your target temperature.  Controllers can either be wall-mounted or remote.  In some instances, it is better to have dedicated temperature sensors, rather than rely on the sensor within the thermostat itself.  An example of this is in a large, open-plan office – if you just take temperature readings from one point, it could result in an imbalanced temperature across the space.  It is better to install a series of remote temperature sensors across the space, allowing the thermostat to respond to an average temperature.

Portable Air Conditioning Installation


A simple and quick-fix solution to achieve air conditioning in a space is to install a portable air conditioning unit.  This is an all-in-one unit that typically just has a vent off the unit, to exhaust the warm air (while used in cooling mode).  This is typically connected to a flexible duct that can be directed out to a window or connected to a dedicated grille.  Portable air conditioning units can be hired on a weekly basis and are an excellent stop-gap solution.

Air Conditioning Maintenance


Finally, remember that once your air conditioning system is installed, you should put in a maintenance programme at that point.  It might seem somewhat contradictory to maintain a brand new system, but there are two key reasons why it is important.

  • Firstly, it is highly likely that the manufacturer’s warranty will be void if the system is not maintained.  This is something that is often missed, but if you look in the small print of your warranty documentation, you will find that there is a requirement for your system to be maintained, in order to uphold the warranty.
  • The second reason is that, by law, you are required to carry out an annual f-gas check on any equipment containing refrigerant gases.  This must be carried out by an f-gas trained engineer and signed off with the correct paperwork.

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Rob Tuffin