Guide for Air Conditioning Buyers
Are you tired of sweltering in the heat during the warmer months? Did you know that most modern air conditioning systems also offer an efficient heating option? Are you overwhelmed by the plethora of choices when it comes to buying an air conditioning product? You've come to the right place!
We understand that purchasing any air conditioning product can be an intimidating task, not to mention that it may not be the most economical investment (installing a system throughout your entire property can be quite pricey). But don't worry; we're here to assist you.
We've gathered a wealth of knowledge from our experts here at Cooleasy and various installation engineers to compile all the essential information you need before deciding on a specific product. Read on or select the product-specific buyer's guide to explore the various products available, how they function, and which one might be the best fit for your intended application.
Let's start with the basics. How exactly does air conditioning work?
Many people mistakenly believe that air conditioning cools an area by pumping in cool air. However, the process actually involves removing heat from the warm air within the area to be cooled and cycling it back through the indoor unit as cooled (and potentially filtered) air. This cycle continues until the room reaches the desired temperature and maintains it until adjustments are made or the system is switched off.
Modern systems employ inverter technology to run the system while using the minimum energy necessary, ensuring cost-effective operation. Essentially, an air conditioner operates much like a refrigerator, with the primary distinction being the absence of the insulated box that covers the refrigerator's components. Both appliances utilize the evaporation of a refrigerant to produce the necessary cooling or heating.
A split system consists of an indoor unit and an outdoor unit connected through refrigerant hoses and electrical cables. The indoor unit also includes a hose for draining the condensate produced during cooling mode. A notable advantage of split systems, whether single or multi-split, is their dual function as heat pumps, offering efficient heating during the colder months. This versatility makes air conditioning an ideal choice for year-round climate control, with the inverter maintaining highly economical performance levels.
But how does the evaporation cycle function in an air conditioner?
- The compressor compresses the refrigerant, causing it to become hot, and sends this hot refrigerant through a closed-loop system.
- This hot gas passes through a set of coils in the outdoor unit, allowing it to release its heat to the surrounding air and condense into a liquid within the pipes.
- This liquid flows through an expansion valve, where it evaporates to become a cold, low-pressure gas.
- This cold gas circulates through coils in the indoor unit, where it absorbs heat from the room's air and cools down the circulating air.
- The refrigerant cycles back to step 1, and the process repeats.
During normal cooling operation, steps 1 to 3 occur in the outdoor unit, while step 4 takes place in the indoor unit. To ensure the evaporation cycle works correctly, there must be a minimum pipe length to allow the refrigerant to fully change from a gas to a liquid (consult the manufacturer's technical data for specifications).
For efficient heating, this process is reversed to provide heated air, often referred to as Reverse Cycle air conditioning. Adequate air flow is crucial for both the indoor and outdoor units to operate effectively. Without sufficient space around and in front of the units, particularly the outdoor unit, the system may not reach its maximum temperature capabilities in both cooling and heating modes.
Split-type air conditioning systems come in various sizes and designs to suit most applications and budgets. The room type and where you plan to install the system within the room will influence your choice.
A single split system consists of one indoor unit and one outdoor unit connected by two refrigeration pipes and an electrical cable. The indoor unit also has a drainpipe to remove condensate generated in cooling mode. Providing power to the outdoor unit usually requires the services of an electrician, unless your F-GAS registered engineer is multi-qualified.
Modern technology has expanded the capabilities of air conditioning systems beyond cooling to also function as effective heaters. Most split systems offer this feature, but it's essential to verify this when selecting a system, as it can provide added comfort.
Regardless of your choice, it's crucial to size the system correctly for the room it will serve. Failing to do so may result in shorter system lifespans, increased energy consumption, or incorrect temperature control. Systems are typically rated in either kW (KiloWatt) or BTU (British Thermal Unit), depending on the manufacturer.
Now, let's explore some of the different types of split systems:
Easy-Fit Systems: While classified as "Easy-Fit," these are still split-type systems, meaning they must be installed in accordance with FGAS regulations. They are named "Easy-Fit" because they come with a specific length of pipework (typically copper pipes) and insulation and can be semi-self-installed. However, they still require commissioning by an FGAS registered engineer and are not a fully DIY product. These Easy-Fit systems are a popular choice because they provide high-quality systems with brand-name compressors at a reasonable price.
High Wall Mounted Systems: The top choice for residential applications! Most consumers looking to install a system in a residential property opt for high wall systems. They occupy no valuable floor space and are usually installed near the ceiling, out of your line of sight. High wall systems are available from various manufacturers, with most offering white as the main colour for the indoor unit. They also provide multiple upgrade options, such as alternative colours, Wi-Fi and smart control, advanced air filtration, and bacteria-killing technologies. Most units are rectangular in orientation, although the LG Artcool Gallery offers a unique design for those seeking air conditioning without the look of a traditional unit. Due to their popularity, high wall systems are the most mass-produced systems, making them the most cost-effective options to buy. Prices will vary based on the brand and the level of technology you select.
Low Wall (Console) Systems: Often used in conservatories or spaces with limited wall height, low wall systems offer an alternative to high wall systems. However, they require similar installation requirements and are generally more expensive. They rarely include the same advanced features as high wall systems.
Ducted Systems: Ideal for those who want air conditioning without visible indoor units. Ducted systems use grills or vents to provide discreet cooling and heating. They are generally more expensive than wall-mounted systems. You will need a ducting company to install the required ductwork, as most air conditioning engineers do not handle this part of the installation.
Ceiling Cassette Systems: These systems are typically used in commercial premises like shops and offices with suspended ceilings. They offer higher power output and are well-suited for commercial use.
Installation: As mentioned, all split-type systems in the UK must be installed or, at the very least, commissioned by an FGAS registered engineer. Installation costs vary based on the type of system chosen and the complexities of the installation process. A high wall system installation, for example, may require only one installer and involve drilling a single hole in the wall, while a ceiling cassette installation could require multiple installers, scaffolding, condensate pumps, and additional extras.
Functions: Most systems offer various functions, including cooling, heating, auto (which cycles between cooling and heating), dehumidification, and fan-only modes. For efficient temperature control, it's better to use cooling mode in warm months and heating mode in cooler months rather than auto mode, as auto mode may cause temperature differentials and delays in switching between cooling and heating.
Smart Capability/Wi-Fi: Systems with Wi-Fi capability allow remote control from anywhere with an internet connection. This feature enables you to prepare a comfortable environment in advance, so you don't walk into a sweltering home after a hot day.
Efficiency: Modern split-type systems often feature inverter technology compressors, resulting in high energy efficiency. These systems operate efficiently and achieve unprecedented efficiency levels in the industry.
Noise Level: The loudest part of any air conditioning system is the compressor, but since split systems house the compressor within the outdoor unit, the indoor unit is typically very quiet. Noise levels vary based on the system's power output. Smaller systems produce quieter operation compared to larger systems.
Air Treatment/Filtration: All air conditioning systems, including most portable units, have fine mesh filters that capture dust particles and other contaminants from the air. These filters help maintain a clean and efficient system while enhancing indoor air quality. Some advanced systems incorporate additional features, such as internal UV lighting to kill bacteria in the air, auto cleaning/washing to maintain the unit, and ionizer filtration to remove airborne contaminants.
Warranty & Servicing: All split-type air conditioning systems require regular servicing and maintenance by an FGAS registered engineer. Servicing needs may vary based on the installation environment, with high humidity or elevated dust levels potentially necessitating more frequent service. Keeping the system well-maintained ensures optimal performance, efficiency, and preserves the manufacturer's warranty. Warranty terms vary by manufacturer, so it's essential to review the provided literature after installation for specific details.