Air Conditioning Unit
Choosing the right air conditioning unit from the multitude of options available can be a daunting task, but hopefully we can help you make the best decision based on your budget & needs.
With summer temperatures in the UK on the rise, and the summer of 2022 seeing a new UK record of 40.3°C set in Conningsby – Lincolnshire, it’s no wonder that many more of us are looking at the option of having air conditioning to keep us comfortable at home.
Here we look at both the benefits and drawbacks of portable and fixed types of air conditioning units.
Portable types are generally the same size, shape and style whichever brand you choose.
Fixed types come in many more different sizes, and styles. They can be high wall mounted (most common), low wall mounted (like a radiator), ceiling mounted or ducted. For this comparison, we’ll just look at the high wall fixed unit, as they are most common alternative to a portable unit.
Portable Air Conditioning Units:
Widely available – You can go to your nearest large DIY store and buy one off the shelf, or buy online and have one delivered within a couple of days.
Cheap – At around 1/3 the price they are substantially cheaper than a fixed unit.
Plug in – No specific power requirements, portables just plug in to a standard household 3 pin socket.
Easy to assemble – Take it out of the box, plug it in and stick a hose out of your window. Up and running in 10 minutes. No need for an installation engineer.
Portable – Can be moved around the house or office, from room to room, wherever it is needed. (Within reason – see Con’s).
No outdoor unit – Because both the evaporator & condenser are self contained inside the unit, you do not need an outdoor unit on the outside of your building.
Bulky – They are quite a lump and sit on your floor taking up space. When not in use they need storing away.
Not so portable – At around 30kg these units are better described as ‘not fixed’ rather than ‘portable’. Grandma will not be lugging this upstairs. They also need to be plugged in to a mains socket and be near an opening window.
Smaller capacity – Portables only come in a small range of capacities, usually 7,000 – 12,000 BTU’s – equivalent to approximately 2.5 – 3.5kW.
Need venting – These units need to vent the hot air out of the room, usually by having one or two large diameter (150mm) duct hoses sticking out of a nearby window. This is not usually shown on the box or in advertising.
Need draining – All air conditioning units create water in the form of condensation. Portable units must have their drain manually emptied regularly.
Noisier – Not overly loud by any means, but noisier than a fixed unit, which may cause issues for light sleepers if used in a bedroom.
Less efficient – While not inefficient, portable units are substantially less efficient than fixed units.
No heating mode – Predominantly, portable units are not capable of providing heating as well as cooling.
In general, portable air conditioning units can prove an adequate fix.
When it’s uncomfortably hot, any amount of cooling is a welcomed, and having a portable air conditioning unit will certainly be better than not having one for most people.
Their relative size and requirement for duct hose to vent the hot air out of a window makes them cumbersome and somewhat unsightly in most settings though, and if budget allows, most people prefer and are better served by a fixed system.
Fixed Air Conditioning Units:
Lots of choice – Manufacturers, sizes, styles & colours, there’s a lot more choice with fixed units.
Bigger capacities – Individual fixed systems are available from 2kW right up to 14kW+.
More stylish – Sleeker, neater, more stylish, less bulky and mounted off the floor out of the way.
Permanent installation – No vent ducts to dangle out of a window and externally drained so no emptying drain pans.
Less intrusive – Mounted high up on a wall, they do not take up any floor space and never need storing away.
Quieter – With the latest inverter technology, both the indoor & outdoor units are quite literally whisper quiet.
Extremely efficient – Harnessing free energy already in the air, modern air conditioning is ultra efficient. You can get 4 x the energy out than you put in.
Capable of heating – Not just capable, but even more efficient in heating mode than cooling mode.
Multiple control options – Portable Handheld remote, wall mounted touch screen remote or smartphone & WiFi compatible control.
More Expensive – To buy and install a fixed unit of similar capacity to a portable unit is approximately 3 times as expensive.
Needs professional installation – Fixed units need professionally installing by registered engineers. This will need booking in advance and will take approximately a day for a single system.
Needs external power supply – A power supply to an outdoor isolator powering the outdoor condensing unit is required.
Needs an outdoor unit – An outdoor condensing unit needs to be permanently mounted on the outside of your property.
Not portable – Permanently fixed to the wall and only designed to work in the one specific space it is installed in.
Definitely the more stylish, efficient & desirable option, which is reflected in their price, fixed air conditioning units are capable of blending in relatively unnoticed and maintaining the perfect room temperature no matter how hot or cold it is outside.
So what’s the cost?
As a like for like guide, a 2.5kW portable air conditioning unit will cost around £400, whereas a 2.5kW high wall fixed air conditioning unit will cost around £1,200.
If you’d like to see more information on the different styles of fixed air conditioning units, please see our article here, and for a more in-depth look at air conditioning prices, we wrote about that here.
Portable air conditioning units are great. When the soaring summer temperatures become unbearable and in some cases dangerous, the drawbacks of having a portable will be less concerning as you can stay cool, calm and collected when all around are reaching boiling point! You can see more portable units here.
Fixed air conditioning units are better. It’s just a case of cost. If your budget allows then fixed is undeniably the way to go. And remember, they’re not just super efficient at keeping you cool in summer, they’re even more efficient at keeping you warm in winter. Don’t just take our word for it – read the reviews!