Why are Air Conditioning Units so uncommon in the UK?

8 August 2018
Updated 17 August 2023

This month we’re going to be covering ways you can beat the heat at home. With the neverending heatwave we’re experiencing in the UK, our customers are regularly asking about ways they can make their homes cooler. One question that comes up a lot is why Air Conditioning Systems are not as popular in the UK and whether they’re a worthy investment.

In this article, we’ll cover the whats and whys and try to shed some light on what we feel are the best solutions for air conditioning

So why are AC units so uncommon in the UK

According to a study by Mintel in 2008, just 0.5% of UK homes had any form of built-in air conditioning. For comparison, in the US more than 100 million homes have some form of ACU. This is down to a few key factors.

Generally, homes within the UK are far older than those in the US. Quite a few have been standing since before America was even founded! With air conditioning units being a relatively new invention, most UK homes predate their creation.

Along those same lines, most UK homes are built from brick. Featuring either no wall cavities or very small ones. These already contain your pre-existing hot water and electric systems, making installation very difficult. Retrofitted systems are therefore difficult and costly, ranging from £2000 to upwards of five figures.

As well as this, the UK is generally cooler for most of the year. Our climate means at most an air conditioning unit would get up to 3 months of use per year. For their cost, you would likely not see a return on your investment for many years.

When are Air Conditioning Units used?

Generally, Air conditioning units are more common in offices or commercial buildings with high foot traffic. These high traffic areas subsequently have a higher need for cooling systems. It’s also far easier to fit a ducted Air system in large open spaces most commonly found in commercial spaces than it is to fit hot water piping. They also get year-round use as they serve both a cooling and heating function.

So what are the Pros and Cons

  • Air conditioning units provide both hot and cold air, meaning you only need one system for all of your climate control requirements
  • Good systems aid with air purification (As radiators heat locally they can encourage bacteria growth which spreads into the air)
  • Air conditioning units are fast acting, meaning there’s no wait time for them to take effect.
  • Air Conditioning Units are generally all or nothing, having very little control from room to room. This is due to ducts generally being a single interconnected system.
  • Electricity is more expensive than gas
  • Air Conditioning Units use far more space than traditional hot water systems making them poorly suited for most homes.

Are there alternatives?

There are plenty of ways to achieve the same cooling effect in your home, without investing thousands for a full AC system. Portable ducted units are becoming far more common, costing as little as £200. These units work the same way as fully ducted systems. Air is pulled in via a duct and then cooled internally, before being blown out to cool your home.

Desk fans are also a popular choice for the office and are incredibly cheap via online stores. However, they’re less effective when used in large spaces.

Whatever you feel works best for you were always happy to provide advice and let you know which of our uPVC window frames are best suited to your choice of air conditioning unit and for more helpful articles keep an eye on our blog.