Hopefully, in our previous articles, we will have convinced you of all the advantages of air conditioning over traditional forms of heating, and the benefits of maintaining the optimum temperature for the learning process, but where do you start?
Who to turn to
That depends on how big the project is likely to be. If you are planning to do the whole school or college, or a substantial part of it, you may consider bringing in a consultant. Air conditioning consultants, or specifiers as they are sometimes known, can be found easily on the internet, and they will help you plan and budget the project and specify what units should be installed.
While they can take away a lot of headaches, they, of course, charge for the service; usually a percentage of the value of the project. Also, while they are supposed to be independent, they all have their own favourite brands with which they are most familiar, so they can overlook recent additions to the market that match older brands on performance but are much more cost effective.
So, if maximising installation and running costs is important to you, you may want to go directly to installers; again, these can easily be found online. All of these are capable of planning and specifying smaller projects, and many of them are large enough to handle the biggest projects, as they will have their own design teams.
Choosing the right equipment
Whichever route you take, it is obviously worth getting three or more installers to tender for the project. As well as reassuring you that you have genuine value for money, you will also get several different approaches to the challenge that you may like to consider. These will also have their favourite manufacturers, which will be obvious from their website, so make sure you get a good spread. If, through your research you see a particular brand you would like to be considered, it would be worth contacting the UK supplier directly, as it would have a list of installers it supplies.
If you are confident that with input from installers you can plan the project yourself, the things to consider include available power supplies, as extra capacity and circuits may need to be installed first. Also, consider internal siting and finding safe and convenient areas for outside units.
Remember that you may need planning permission, so check with your local council. If your site is a listed building, the local planners will look closely at how visible outdoor units are. Older buildings also pose design problems that can usually be overcome with modular systems that can be operated individually, as opposed to a central system.
Finances also need keeping an eye on. No building project of any sort has ever gone entirely according to plan, so it is worth including a contingency amount in your budget, but beware of project creep, where extra ‘nice to haves’ can work their way in and inflate the price. Once you have agreed a budget and a spec, stay as close to it as possible.
Finally, once the installation has been completed, like all types of heating and cooling, your new air conditioning system will need regular maintenance and servicing. Our recommendation is that you arrange the on-going maintenance contract, at least initially, with the same company you used for the installation. It will know the system better than anyone and will be keen to make sure everything goes smoothly. Also, when it is carrying out the installation, it will have a vested interest in ensuring everything is set up properly and can be easily maintained, so its number of subsequent call-outs and time on site is minimised.
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