Air Conditioning Overview
Air conditioning generally refers to the cooling (or heating) of a room or vehicle. Often referred to as 'aircon' or AC, air conditioning units are used to maintain a given temperature within a specific area. Covering both domestic and commercial air conditioning, we aim to meet your air cooling and ventilation needs....more
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Air Conditioning Systems
Once, everyone who had paid attention in school science lessons would translate the abbreviation AC into alternating current. Those whose mind had been elsewhere during classes might think of a rock band’s name. But now, with thousands of people pushing an AC button in their vehicle every day, it is widely acknowledged as standing for air conditioning. Air con is another accepted short form.
For homes and businesses, air conditioning is a way of achieving perfect comfort levels all year round. Systems will cool (or heat) air in a specified area to a set temperature and keep it constant, whatever the external weather conditions. Levels of humidity are also improved and filters can clean the air of dust or other pollutants.
The air conditioning industry has never been large in the UK in comparison with warmer countries elsewhere in the world. But the onset of global warming, alongside huge advances in the technology employed by AC systems, seems likely to completely transform the market for air conditioning in the UK.
It is widely acknowledged that air quality is one of the factors affecting the way people respond to their work environment, so anything employers can do to improve comfort should reap rewards with better levels of alertness and productivity. A professionally installed air conditioning system will keep temperature and humidity levels within certain parameters all year round. Sometimes though, the needs of a process being carried out over-ride the preferences of humans – for instance in laboratories, food processing areas, hospital operating theatres and several manufacturing facilities.
In construction, air conditioning is often combined with heating and ventilation and referred to as HVAC.
In recent years, manufacturers have made great strides in ridding air conditioning of its noisy, energy-guzzling image. Technology has advanced so that there are now whisper quiet units that people barely notice in operation (Vortice extra quiet Punto Evo pictured) and innovations including inverter controlled temperature are constantly improving energy efficiency. Changes are also being made to respond to new legislation aiming to cut the amount of harmful gases used in refrigerants.
Keep up to date about managing air-conditioning systems to meet the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations by checking this government link.
Different air conditioning systems are generally offered for the following applications:
- Domestic - Home air conditioning units for one or more rooms.
- Commercial - Centrally driven and local systems for offices, restaurants, hotels, retail stores and leisure centres.
- Industrial - Systems giving precise control of temperature and humidity in situations where high air quality is vital. Often available with control units that can integrate functions such as lighting, alarms and fire protection functions.
Domestic Air Conditioning
Not so long ago, residential air conditioning was something to be found in countries other than the UK. But whether down to global warming or just higher expectations of accommodation standards, more and more homes are now being built with air conditioning in the principal rooms, or having a system retro installed. The fact that manufacturers are continually improving the energy efficiency of air conditioning units also makes them more attractive to cost-conscious and environmentally aware home buyers.
For temporary relief from uncomfortable temperatures, there are portable air conditioning units. These can be useful during short spells of hot, humid weather to freshen up a room and perhaps make sleeping more comfortable. But some models can look a bit out of place and most need an exhaust hose taking warm air away. This has to be fed through a hole in a wall or window.
A more attractive and long-term choice is to have split system air conditioning featuring one or more wall or ceiling mounted room units linked to an external compressor via copper pipes that carry refrigerant. Manufacturers like Toshiba and Fujitsu have developed split and multi split air conditioning systems for the domestic market in styles that perfectly complement modern interiors.
The efficiency of air conditioning has been transformed by the advent of inverter technology which digitally controls the capacity and fan speed of the system to suit the precise requirements. An inverter delivers significant energy savings while keeping room temperature constant, a big bonus in these days of ever-rising fuel prices. And today there are super-quiet models ideally suited for domestic use.
Air conditioning systems have the ability to also act as a heat pump, offering an extremely efficient all-in-one solution. Even on a cold day, there is heat in the outside air that can be squeezed out by the heat exchanger and moved over the evaporator coil to be distributed inside. Some units have a radiant heat ‘top up’ facility for winter.
Features that might be found in domestic air conditioning units include night mode settings to prevent rapid temperature changes that could disturb sleep, remote controls and washable air purification filters. All will dehumidify the air at the same time as cooling it. Moisture from the warm air condenses on the evaporator coils and is carried away by a drain.
Commercial Air Conditioning
Office air conditioning has been commonplace for many years, but today’s systems have state-of-the-art controls and many innovations that have dramatically improved energy efficiency over earlier models. Traditional systems use a central cooling and heating fan unit distributing temperature controlled air around the building via ceiling or floor ducts. Modern solutions often use several wall or ceiling mounted inverter units running off a single compressor. Ceiling units can be in the form of cassettes which fit unobtrusively within ceiling tiles.
Inverter technology allows restaurants, shops, offices and sports centres to maintain a non-fluctuating comfortable temperature, whatever the weather outside. Compared to non-inverter systems, energy consumption is reduced by up to 30%.
Another innovation helping to improve the efficiency of air conditioning is variable refrigerant flow (or volume). VRF or VRV systems offer sophisticated individual zone control for large applications. One outdoor condensing unit is connected to multiple indoor units that can cool or heat as required. Capital outlay is high but energy savings can be considerable.
Refrigerant gases used within air conditioning systems are harmful to the environment, so reducing the volume of refrigerant is always welcome. Modern systems use small diameter pipes. The ozone-depleting R-22 refrigerant found in older VRV systems is being outlawed. Daikin has a direct replacement system for R-22 systems that allows the use of existing pipework (VRV-Q pictured).
Industrial air conditioning
Temperature and humidity control is crucial to many manufacturing processes as well as in scientific areas like laboratories, so industrial air conditioning needs to be very precise and customisable to cope with demands of different areas. Modular designed systems make it easier to choose air handling units suitable for multiple zones and touch screen controllers allow total climate management. Reliable servicing and maintenance is vital for industries using temperature-sensitive processes.
Sometimes a business will need to hire air conditioning equipment, either as a top-up to existing facilities or for a temporary application. Portable exhaust tube air conditioners, split types and ducted units can all be rented short or long term.
Compressor image courtesy of anankkml/FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Split portable air conditioner pictured available from Carrier Rental Systems