Air conditioning is no longer a luxury for employers and office workers across the UK . . . but a must have. I recently moved my business to a larger office and my staff listed air conditioning as a requirement, since we didn’t have it in our smaller office and suffered some terrible hot and exhausting days. But as an employer, where do you start your search when looking to install a system? What are your requirements?
There’s no easy way around it. You’re going to have to hire a professional. Air conditioning systems aren’t something you can just pluck off the shelf and plug in. A specialist installer is needed to calculate your needs and identify the system that will be right for you. Factors they will consider are the number of people that work for you, the size of your office and the number of electrical appliances you have . . . they may even need to know how many coffee and tea machines are in the building! It’s a complicated process. A room used to display inorganic products will have a much lesser cooling capacity than a room that is full of people and computers. A north facing room that has small windows has a much lesser capacity than a room with great south facing windows. A specialist will consider every factor and decide on the optimum cooling and heating capacity. You don’t want to spend unnecessarily on a capacity that is too high. But at the same time, your unit will be working at its maximum limit the majority of the time if your capacity is too low, which will leader to greater wear and tear. This will lead to higher maintenance (which costs) and possibly early failure (which costs a lot!) . . . . so it’s important to get it just right. A quick google search returned some great results for me when trying to locate an installer for our office space in Peterborough.
So hear I’ve put together a little overview for you so that you can at least sound like you know what you’re taking about a little bit when you approach a supplier!
You will probably require a system that can both heat and cool for a modern office, whereas a computer room might only require cooling. Both these systems work on a thermostat and a unit with both cooling and heating is capable of maintaining a constant temperature which you can pre-set. A cooling only system can also do this, but only when it can be achieved by cooling. If the room gets too cold, these units can’t provide heat.
There are lots of different kinds of units to choose from. The smallest one is the split system, which has an indoor and outdoor unit which are connected by copper pipes. The pipes carry electrical wiring and pressurised refrigerant gasses. Usually these systems are used in small offices with only a few rooms. If your office is larger then you will require a multi system. They enable many indoor units to be connected to an outdoor unit. A ducted unit is needed when the indoor unit is not in the room it serves. The air is then transported to the room via flexible or rigid ducting. With these, it’s possible to have multiple or single outlets.
There are also many types of indoor unit. The one you need will depend on the room, the furniture lay out and the ceiling design. The main types you will find are ceiling cassettes, under ceiling units, wall mounted units and floor standing units.
The outdoor units have to be placed outside so that there is a natural external free air-flow. Usually people choose to put them on a flat roof, put them at ground level in a cage or compound or bolt them to an external wall. The safety of the public, the aesthetics of the building, the weight of the unit, the potential for vandalism and the distance from the indoor units must be considered when choosing where to put them.
Indoor units produce water in cooling mode which needs to be drained. Where possible, a gravity drain is used and requires a PVC pipe running from the unit to the closest drain. Occasionally the closest drain is above the unit, or it might be unsightly having a pipe that runs down the interior wall. In these cases a pump is fitted to push the water through the drain pipe.
You can buy portable units. They’re not as effective, but do provide some relief on a hot day. They usually expel water into a try which needs to be emptied regularly. Or you could position the outlet over a sink. There are some new models being released where the water evaporates, but then that vapour is being expelled into the room. Some can‘t draw air from outside and so only re-process the existing air in the room. Others have an inlet used to let in air from outside, although you may need to open a window slightly. If cooling is not something that you often need then you could consider this as a solution. It’s even possible to hire them when you need to.
Once you have your system installed, it will need a maintenance check around twice a year. This depends on how much it is used though and dusty environments will require more maintenance. The efficiency of the system will be reduced if there are any leakages or faults that are leading to a lack of pressure, so this needs to be checked. As well as the amount of gas in the system and the amount of pressure it is under. The indoor units have filters that need to be cleaned often or they will start to expel dust and bacteria into the air. The maintenance will have to be done by a registered professional under your system warranty and you may be offered it as part of your installation package.