In the UK, it’s still quite unusual for buildings to have HVAC infrastructure. Buildings that do have it tend to be modern and predominantly commercial.
There is, however, a growing trend for HVAC units to be retrofitted to older buildings, including residential ones. This can be a major selling point for both buyers and tenants.
To explain further, Dominic Little, Director of Chill Air Conditioning shares his insight into upgrading to HVAC for your property.
The history of HVAC in the UK
Many of the UK’s buildings were built long before HVAC was even invented. This is true of both commercial and residential buildings. Even after HVAC was invented, it was slow to be adopted in the UK. In its early days, HVAC was relatively expensive. This meant that the perceived benefit was often not enough to justify the cost.
Over time, HVAC began to gain ground in the commercial sector. Here, the upfront expense could be set against productivity gains (and protection from health-and-safety claims). It is now becoming more common for residential buildings to be built with HVAC infrastructure.
Why the UK is now adopting HVAC
There are two main drivers behind the adoption of HVAC in the UK. Firstly, HVAC systems are now a mature technology. This means their cost has come down. Secondly, the UK is now experiencing major swings between the cold of winter and the heat of summer. These are also the main drivers behind the demand for HVAC units to be retrofitted into older properties.
HVAC is also a benefit to home workers as it means that homes can be cooled quietly. Without HVAC, people have to keep windows open and/or use fans. Both of these options create more noise than modern HVAC systems. The fact that using HVAC allows people to keep windows shut also means that some allergies (e.g., hay fever) are less likely to be triggered.
HVAC in rental properties
For landlords, installing HVAC in a property has another major benefit. Proper climate control is essential for the condition of a building as well as the health of its tenants.
Modern lifestyles mean that condensation can be a major issue all year round. Everyday activities such as showering/bathing, cooking, and washing all create humidity in the air. Once the temperature drops (as it inevitably does), this moisture becomes condensation. Unless it’s quickly cleaned up, it can lead to problems such as mildew and mould.
In the real world, you cannot rely on tenants to clean up condensation quickly or to run dehumidifiers. HVAC, by contrast, is something they’re almost certainly going to be using anyway. This means that by installing HVAC you make it effortless for tenants to take care of your property.
Considerations before installing HVAC
Whenever you think about making any changes to a property, your first step should always be to check if the change is permitted.
If you are a freeholder, then you’re likely to be fine unless you live in a building with some form of special protection. This would typically be a listed building or a building in a conservation area. If you’re a leaseholder, then you need to check your lease.
Once you’re clear on the legalities, you then need to look at the practicalities. This may require you to get input from a contractor. As a rule of thumb, the newer your property is, the easier it is likely to be to retrofit the HVAC and vice versa. With that said, retrofitting HVAC into older properties can be very much worth the effort.
Your final step is to decide for yourself if the cost is worth the benefit. Again, as a rule of thumb, if you’re planning on moving house soon, installing HVAC may be risky. It is likely to be a selling point but if the market is slow, you may still not get your money back on it.
By contrast, the longer you plan to live in or let out the property, the more sense it often makes to install HVAC. You and/or your tenants will be able to enjoy it yourselves. This will justify the installation cost. The fact that it can be a major selling point for the property will be just a pleasant bonus.
Preparing for a HVAC installation
Once you’ve chosen your contractor and obtained any necessary permits, you’ll need to prepare your property for the HVAC installation. Your first step is to inspect any existing ductwork. Make sure it’s either already in good condition or make arrangements to have it repaired or replaced before the HVAC installation.
If your ductwork does need to be updated, you may be able to use the same contractor for the job. You may also want to update your thermostat and/or install additional thermostats. This can allow you more granular control of your home’s climate.
If possible, make arrangements for children and pets to be out of the home on the day of your HVAC installation. If this is not possible, then make sure they are kept well out of the way of the installers. Ideally put pets in crates, especially if they’re of a size to be easily tripped over.
If you can’t provide parking on your own property, check where the nearest public parking space is. Make sure you reserve it if necessary. If this isn’t possible, try to help the installers unload quickly. Clear the access to any relevant areas. Again, this includes the outdoor areas. Make as much space as you can so the installers can spread out their tools.
Maintaining a HVAC system
The HVAC system itself should be under warranty. This warranty will, however, assume that you’re carrying out basic, prescribed maintenance. The installer will usually provide maintenance instructions. In general, however, the key tasks are:
- Replacing filters
- Cleaning outside and inside the unit
- Testing the thermostat periodically
- Checking the state of the ductwork (and repairing it as necessary)
- Looking for refrigerant leaks
Additionally, you need to:
- Make sure any covers are taken off promptly
- Schedule periodic servicing (usually at the end of winter)
- HVAC maintenance in rented properties
In the rental market, there are three basic models for the installation and maintenance of HVAC units. These are:
- Landlord-owned and maintained
- Tenant-owned and maintained
- Landlord-owned and tenant maintained
The landlord-owned and tenant-maintained model is rarely used. It can, however, be suitable if you have a reliable tenant who values their privacy. The tenant-owned-and-maintained model is also unusual. When it is used, it tends to be on property with longer leases, especially commercial property.
The most common model by far is the landlord-owned-and-maintained model. This tends to be the best option for both landlords and tenants. It also tends to be fairly easy to arrange. In fact, the HVAC contractor may be able to do it or recommend someone who can.
This article is written by Dominic Little. Dominic is the director of Chill Air Conditioning, who are specialists in air conditioning installations for both commercial and domestic use across East Midlands.
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Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.