Should I get air conditioning in the UK?

Air conditioning. (Getty Images)
Tempted to invest in air conditioning for your home? Weigh up the pros and cons first. (Getty Images)

Has this year’s hot summer and several scorching heatwaves made you wish you had air conditioning? If they did then you’re not alone.

Across the country, fitters have reported a boom in enquiries as people struggle to cope with the 30+ degree heat.

But we are not a country that typically has air con in people’s homes – it’s normally found only in hotel rooms and office spaces. So you probably have a lot of questions like how much it costs and whether it’s actually a good idea when energy bills are so high – and when we’re meant to be reducing our climate footprint.

So here’s what you need to know about whether you should get air conditioning at home.

Read more: Best air con units still on sale in the UK

How much does it cost to get air conditioning?

Man with air conditioner at home. (Getty Images)
It's important to figure out whether air conditioning is worth the cost to you and the planet. (Getty Images)

It can be hard to pin down an exact price for air conditioning as it depends on so much – the size of your home and rooms, the quality of the unit you go for and how many bells and whistles you want on it – like a timer or a system that connects to an app.

The website Checkatrade, which recommends trustworthy tradespeople, says that fitting a small room could cost around £1,750, while installing air conditioning in a double bedroom can cost anywhere between £2.225 and £3,000.

But the price depends on the option you pick. A split air conditioner system that covers six rooms can typically cost up to £9,000.

The company Evergreen Air Conditioning warns that a system that’s cheaper to install might be less efficient and end up costing more to run. Which brings us to the second question you may have:

How much does it cost to run air conditioning?

Energy bills are a bit of a sore subject for a lot of Brits right now, thanks to soaring bills, and not many people would consider installing air con without understanding exactly how much it’s likely to cost.

It’s really hard to give a meaningful number as it will depend on the size and efficiency of an air-conditioning unit. The air-con services company d-air suggests a 5kW unit would typically cost 20p an hour to run.

But the price comparison site uSwitch says that portable air-conditioning units cost 75p an hour to run, meaning using one for eight hours at night would cost £6. Over a hot week, that could mean £42 on the bills. And that’s before the energy price cap goes up again.

To put that in context, it costs just 1p an hour to run a desktop electric fan and around 14p a night to run a pedestal fan. Quiiiiite a difference.

Read more: Heatwave insomnia: 32 tips and tricks to help you sleep during hot weather

How much does air conditioning cost to maintain?

As well as the cost of fitting and then running an air conditioning unit, you then need to keep it serviced and running well.

The website Checkatrade says that an air-con engineer usually charges between £20 and £50 an hour to regas or service a unit. There could also be cleaning or antibacterial treatments that can cost between £15 and £30. If you need new refrigerant, that can cost anywhere between £35 and £130.

So it is important to look beyond just the cost of getting it fitted.

What are the different air-conditioning options?

Portable air conditioner. (Getty Images)
You can opt for an air con that most suits you. (Getty Images)

The easiest-to-install option is a portable unit, which is about the size of a bin or small chest of drawers. It can be moved around and is simply plugged in.

Then there are the proper, installed units that need to be fitted by a qualified gas engineer. Those are the ones you may have seen fitted on homes and blocks of flats in hot countries, with a fan unit fixed on the outside of the building and then pipes connecting that to the internal unit that blows the cooled air out.

Of course, it’s not that simple. There are different makes, different options, different price ranges, different deals. It’s the kind of purchase you spend time researching - and make sure you get at least two quotes from different installers.

Read more: Why do I swell up in the heat? 5 ways to reduce heat oedema this summer

What is the environmental impact of getting air-conditioning?

The days are getting hotter and that is why more people are considering air conditioning. But you have to consider why the days are getting hotter and that’s because of global emissions.

Home energy use is a big chunk of that – and air conditioning units are typically use more electricity than any other household appliance.

Globally, air conditioning uses a vast amount of power. Combined with electric fans, it accounts for almost 20% of the total electricity being used in buildings across the world, that’s according to the International Energy Agency.

It says that rising demand for energy used for cooling could put countries’ energy systems under real pressure.

Here in the UK, the government estimates that demand for air con is going to rise as the temperature continues to. By the year 2035 it thinks 20% of London homes alone will need air-conditioning, while by 2075 that will have risen to around half.

So if you’re considering air conditioning, you should consider your overall environmental footprint. Some people will need cooling to stay safe in the heat, perhaps because they are medically vulnerable.

But if we all invest in air-con to stay cool as they days get hotter then the days will continue to get hotter.

Watch: Britain's trees turn a sea of orange as extreme temperatures cause a 'false autumn'