A Guide to Commercial Air Conditioning
Commercial sites vary greatly in size and therefore have very different air conditioning needs. There’s small to multi-storey offices, cafes, shops, hospitals and supermarkets – these are all different types of commercial buildings that come in different sizes (ranging from a few hundred to several thousand square metres), structures and layouts (open-plan to closed offices). Due to this great variance, it’s important to talk to a professional before fitting a commercial site with an air conditioning system. Without picking the right system(s) and properly planning where to place units, your air conditioning might not be very efficient or effective. These days, good air conditioning is essential in commercial buildings for risk of losing customers, clientele, and disrupting staff. Good quality commercial air-cons support business operations and keep everyone cool and comfortable. So, let’s look at what kinds of systems work well for commercial buildings.
Do you know what the ideal temperature is for your office space? We run through the ideal temperature to set your air conditioner on to accommodate a range of different tasks and pastimes – read all about it in our recent article here!
Commercial vs Residential Air Conditioning Systems
What’s the difference between commercial and residential units? Well, while they serve the same purpose of heating and cooling a space, they do however differ in size, location and complexity.
Commercial air con units are often larger and more powerful as they have to serve large areas and crowds of people. In houses, air-cons with cooling capacity (relating to an output power of unit) of 2–25kW is common. In large and complex commercial spaces air-cons with much higher kW are typical (e.g. 10–100+kW), with packaged units able to be built to higher capacities, for example up to 200kW.
Single-family dwelling possesses fairly static requirements. Large commercial spaces, however, are more complex due to segmented office spaces or departments that may require different heating/cooling needs. This means endless possibilities of building configuration, which can change with new owners/tenants. Due to the complexity of needs with a commercial space, more planning is required in the installation of air conditioning systems, and more maintenance is required throughout the life of the units. Where basic maintenance (e.g. changing the system’s air filters) can be conducted by homeowners of a residential air-con, commercial systems are more intricate, requiring all repairs and maintenance to be handled by commercial air-con technicians who are familiar with the type of system. Due to a commercial system’s additional size, complexity, and specialisation needs, repairs tend to be more expensive than residential systems.
Residential air cons are typically placed on the ground in locations outside of the occupants’ way, although in a place that’s still accessible to service (e.g. in the backyard or against the side of the house). Conversely, commercial air-cons are typically placed on the roof of a building. This is due to the size of the unit, the increased noise generated, and because it provides easy access for the technician to service the unit while keeping it inaccessible to the general public. Commercial systems are also often customised to space and installed in a way where components are predominantly located outside the building (with the exception of ducts and zone dampers), aiding maintenance and repairs with minimal service interruptions. As servicing these units is more complex, access for technicians is key in commercial units.
Types of Commercial Air Conditioning Systems
In theory, every air-con brand could be used in a residential or commercial setting; however, many brands specialise in manufacturing commercial systems or produce commercial-specific ranges. The type of commercial air conditioning system depends on many factors, including the building’s size, location, use and number of levels as well as budget considerations, energy efficiency and the number of people in the building. Depending on the building’s size, a high-performance air con with a high kW output may be required, especially if needing to effectively and efficiently cool (or heat) a large-scale, largely open-plan space. Read about how size is a major influencing factor in which type of air-conditioning system you choose here.
Single Split System
A single split system is considered the most popular for relatively small commercial spaces (e.g. small offices, server rooms, cafes, clothing stores). This is also a popular option for many residential buildings. A decent split system with a sufficient output for the designated space will effectively cool or heat a space and will be affordable to maintain; however, this will not be sufficient for a large open space, like a shopping centre or a hall.
A split system consists of an indoor and outdoor unit. These are easy to install with no ductwork required, making them more affordable and quieter. The indoor component of the system is often mounted to a wall and ideal for cooling a single room or specific section of space.
Some of the benefits of this system are that it can heat and cool, is compact, comes in range styles and sizes to match commercial needs, and there many different brands on the market so there are plenty of options to choose from.
Air-Rite retails the best brands in air conditioning, with a range of single split systems from Fujitsu, Mitsubishi and Haier, all perfectly suited to a small to medium-sized space.
Ducted Multi Split System
A ducted system is better suited to cooling and heating larger commercial spaces (e.g. doctor surgeries, restaurants) with multiple rooms, as this system operated through a ventilation system. Due to the extra complexity of the installation which requires ductwork, this system is typically more expensive than single split systems.
The main benefit of using a central unit is that it is installed outside, meaning significant space is saved and there is no obvious unit that is mounted on a wall. This can be more aesthetically-pleasing compared to the several single split systems that would be needed instead. Read more about the benefits of ducted air conditioning here and learn how it compares to a split system.
Rooftop Packaged System
Self-contained heating and air conditioning systems are often used in larger commercial and industrial buildings. Often mounted on a building’s roof, this system is ideal for buildings lacking floor or wall space. As a large scale system, these are designed for heating and cooling multiple rooms and extremely large systems.
Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF)
This system is also designed for larger commercial and industrial buildings (e.g. factories, hotels, multi-level offices, aged-care facilities). It has the ability to maintain individual zone control in each room and floor of the building, meaning one room can be warmer and another cooler, providing ultimate versatility.
Air-Rite offers a comprehensive range of air conditioning systems from trusted brands like Temperzone, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, which includes split and ducted systems.
Repairing and Maintaining Commercial Air Conditioning Systems
It’s incredibly important to maintain proper maintenance of a commercial air conditioning unit as the whole building and its occupants will rely heavily on its efficient use and an outage could cause major interruptions and temporarily suspend operations. All repairs and maintenance should typically be handled by commercial air-con technicians familiar with all types of systems. Due to a commercial system’s additional size, complexity, and specialisation needs, repairs are often more expensive than residential systems. However, it pays off, in the long run, having a reliable system, so ensure you are getting your air-con maintained. Failure to maintain HVAC systems reduces the life of a system, increases its operating costs, and puts business operations at risk.
To learn more about air conditioning maintenance and servicing, check out some easy things you can do on your own and what you need the pros for.
Air conditioners are now commonplace in residential, commercial and industrial settings. After all, it’s getting impossible to escape the heat without a fully functioning air conditioning system. Differences exist between residential and commercial air cons due to the typical characteristics of commercial buildings. A residential system simply may not be as effective as one specifically made for commercial areas – cutting costs may mean cutting down on productivity. Ensure you’re getting the right system for your building by talking to an Air-Rite professional. For more information on the best air conditioning to buy for your business or office, have a read through our guide here.
When professional assistance is needed, Air-Rite’s qualified team of air con technicals are here to help. If you would like more information, would like to schedule a professional cleaning or maintenance service please contact us.