With the UK currently in the midst of a scorching heatwave, millions will be looking for some relief from the soaring temperatures.
As a way to keep their homes cool in recent years, more households have turned to air conditioning which, although costly, might be an investment as our weather continues to heat up.
The vast majority opt for portable plug-in air conditioners (see factbox below), which will cool a room at varying degrees of efficiency – much as plug-in radiators will heat a space.
More of a commitment are fixed systems which are installed into a property permanently.
Britons are considering having air conditioning units installed at home due to the hot weather
What type of air conditioner should I go for?
We asked an expert at online white goods retailer AO.com. A spokesperson told us a few things to look out for.
‘Firstly, think about whether you want a standalone air conditioning unit which is plugged into a socket or a fixed air conditioning unit which is placed onto the wall.
‘A standalone air con unit can help to cool the home without having to install anything, can be transported to different areas of the home and be placed away in storage when not in use.
‘Whereas, a fixed air con unit needs to be permanently mounted onto the wall and can be a significant upfront investment, particularly with the additional installation fee, with the cost for install starting anywhere from £800.
‘However, the fixed air con unit can be ideal if there is one room that gets incredibly hot and they are often quieter to operate.
‘Many air con units also have a wide range of other features such as fan speed, dehumidifier mode, remote control operation and timers, so it’s worth considering which of these is important for your home too.
‘All-in-all, a standalone air con unit is most likely the best option for the majority of us that live in the UK, so it can be bought out at a moment’s notice to cool down the home when we are faced with a sunny spell.’
BEST PORTABLE PLUG-IN AC UNITS
Standalone air conditioning units are the affordable option, which simply plug into the mains and require no installation.
Prices start from around £200, but can rise up to £600 for more expensive brands.
However, they are not as effective as split-unit conditioners as they are less powerful. They also tend to be quite heavy and and can get in the way in smaller spaces.
Here are some of the more popular air conditioning units on the market.
The AEG ChillFlex Pro is a popular standalone air conditioning model
AEG ChillFlex Pro (£449): This is a medium price model that comes with a A grade energy efficiency rating.
It has three speed settings to choose from, a dehumidifying function that removes moisture from the air and can be operated by remote control. A 1000 Watt power output means it is also very powerful and will have no trouble tackling even the hottest days.
Dyson Pure Cool Tower (£499): Although this is technically a fan, the Dyson towers are incredibly popular – and powerful. This can be controlled by voice control or remote and oscillates from 45 to 350 degrees, to help project purified air around the whole room.
Amcor SF8000E Portable Air Conditioner (£199): One of the cheapest options available, it maintains an A-rated energy efficiency score, keeping costs down.
It has a cooling capacity of 7,000 BTU, meaning it is good to cool down medium sized rooms.
De’Longhi PACEX120 Silent Pinguino (£899.99): An expensive stand alone unit, this model is known for its silent output, perfect for those who find it hard to sleep with loud fan noise.
It has a maximum cooling power of 12,000 BTU and has the greatest coverage area of the De’Longhi portable range and yet still offers A energy efficiency.
Igenix IG9704 (£119.99): Those on a low budget can opt for this model which has three speed settings. It may not be the quietest but will certainly help those with smaller properties keep the heat at bay.
I’m willing to splash the cash on a fixed unit: what do I need to know?
Split-unit or fixed air conditioners are fitted into an exterior wall with the cooling side indoors and the extractor on the outside.
On top of the price of the unit one has to factor in installation costs as well as running costs which are roughly the same as for standalone units.
This all comes down to the unit’s BTU (British Thermal Unit, which equals 0.293 watts an hour per BTU). BTU is a measurement of cooling strength – it determines how much heat an air con can take out of a room, and in what time duration.
Typically this means the higher the BTU, the higher the energy consumption – and ultimately, the higher the energy bill. This is true regardless if a unit is installed or standalone – it comes down to the consumption.
Moreover, it will change the look of both your room and exterior wall, not necessarily for the better.
These start from around £500, not including installation fees, according to Which? More effective models will range into the thousands.
Installation costs can be around £1,000 per indoor unit, meaning it could be thousands if you are choosing to have multiple units in different rooms around the house.
However, prices will ultimately depend on your home, the unit you are having installed and the installation charges of local fitters.
So where do I go?
When looking for someone to install an air conditiong unit, contact local firms for a quote and compare.
Ensure that the team are certified as regulations state that people who work with F gases, which is what air conditioning units emit, must hold appropriate certifications.
Most installers will also offer a one to three year manufacturing guarantee so opt for a firm that promises this.
Smart home technology company, BOXT, have launched the UK’s first domestic air conditioning digital matching service in response to high demand.
The BOXT technology platform operates in a similar way to the taxi service Uber, connecting installers with customers through a centralised booking facility. It allows customers to choose and buy a suitable home heating and cooling package at a fixed price from their mobile phone or laptop.
Andy Kerr, co-founder at BOXT, said: ‘Britain is set to become an air conditioning nation as temperatures continue to rise and our homes are better insulated to keep heat in, meaning the demand for cooler, cleaner air is increasing too.’
If you are in the process of moving of course, you can make air condition part of your search requirements.
Popularity is up in London with buyers in prime districts expecting to find air conditioning installed in premium new build apartments and new houses, according to Adrian Philpott, of Winkworth estate agents in London’s West End.
He said: ‘Buyers do see it as a given in new apartment blocks and bespoke houses in prime London, unlike older period properties.
‘Purchasers often ask about installing it in older flats, particularly international buyers, but there can be restrictions if a block is Grade II listed or as part of the management of the flats. Concealing the units can be difficult and there may be noise issues too.’
Fans are much cheaper to run than air conditioning units – but are generally not as effective
What size unit will I need?
The air conditioning units come in various shapes and sizes but are often described in terms of their BTU output.
Generally, the higher the BTU claimed, the more efficiently it can cool a room. As a rule, 5,000 to 8,000 BTUs is adequate for most living rooms or bedrooms.
However, the BTUs with the most models available are 9,000 and 12,000, according to Energy Helpline.
Are they energy efficient?
No air conditioning unit is great for the environment – nor are most very energy efficient. This is due to the amount of energy they use and the length of time they need to be left on for to have an effect.
However, to find one that is more environmentally friendly and energy efficient, check the devices energy efficiency ratio (EER).
This is the ratio between the cooling capacity, in BTU, and the power input, in watts. The higher the EER, the more energy efficient the air conditioner, although the actual BTU delivered by a machine can vary.
In terms of energy usage, the difference between an air con and a fan is quite dramatic.
Based on a popular model of air con rated at 7000 BTU, the energy cost to run it for six hours a day would be around £25 a month.
By comparison, a 40w desk fan would cost around £1.30 to run for the same time period.
To make air con more environmentally friendly, you can switch to an eco-friendly green tariff. This alone will bring down your running costs by roughly 30 per cent and will also help reduce carbon emissions.
A spokesperson from Energy Saving Trust said: ‘Should you need an air conditioning unit, then use the energy label to compare models to find the most energy efficient’.
What features do different AC units have?
Some air conditioners double up as a dehumidifier. This could be useful if you want an appliance that’s going to be useful across the year, not just in summer, according to Which?.
Other features include heat mode which means they can be used as an electric heater in winter which makes them doubly as useful. Choosing one with various fan speeds can also be helpful to cope with the changing temperatures.
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