The laws for safety surrounding heating & air conditioning

Heating is vital for both homes and businesses even in the most southerly parts of the UK. Air conditioning can be beneficial for homes and businesses in the most northerly parts of the UK. In some cases, it is vital. It must, however, always be installed in a legal way.

Laws on heating

The UK has very little in the way of direct laws on heating. There are, however, various laws which may indirectly influence your heating options.

It is intended to ban the installation of gas boilers in new-build domestic properties from 2025. Gas boilers fitted into existing properties must meet a basic standard of energy efficiency.

All work must be carried out to an appropriate standard of safety.

Laws on air conditioning

There are significantly more laws surrounding air conditioning. For the most part, however, they are fairly simple to navigate.

Planning permission – domestic properties

You are unlikely to need planning permission to install air conditioning in a standard domestic property. The exception is if you live in a place which has restrictions on the outward appearance of a property e.g. if you live in a listed building or a conservation area.

There are, however, some requirements you will need to meet to avoid the need for planning permission. In particular, your external unit will need to meet the following criteria:

  • have a maximum size of 0.6m³
  • be located at least a metre from the property’s boundary
  • be at least a metre away from the edge of a flat roof

Additionally, your external unit must NOT:

  • be fitted on a pitched roof
  • be installed on a property where there is an existing wind turbine

In addition to all of the above, you will need to ensure that your external unit does not become a cause of noise pollution. This is highly unlikely with domestic units, but still worth checking.

Planning permission – commercial properties

Planning permission may be required for commercial properties. Basically, this will depend on the size of the installation. Noise pollution may also be a concern if commercial properties are situated near residential ones.

Air Conditioning Reports

If your air conditioning unit has an output of 12kW or more then it must be inspected (at least) every five years. This requirement was introduced by the EU (in 2008); however current indications are that the UK government intends to keep it post-Brexit.

This reflects the fact that the UK is aiming to lower its carbon emissions and even top-performing air conditioning units are notorious for the amount of energy they use.

Please note that in commercial rental properties, the landlord and the tenant are likely to have joint responsibility for making sure that these inspections happen as they should.

Health and safety rules

In general, employers have a duty to keep their premises at a reasonable temperature. As a rule of thumb, this is likely to be a minimum of 13°C to 16°C (active work to sedentary work). There is no stated maximum, but employees should be comfortable.

Current COVID-19 guidance is that air conditioning is safe provided that it draws in as much fresh air as possible and keep recirculation to a minimum. Good ventilation has always been important to ensure fresh air is being circulated within commercial buildings as this has not changed.

Naturally opening doors and windows where possible will ensure a constant supply of fresh air. However for commercial buildings that require an alternative, air conditioning and/or heat recovery systems can help to keep offices at a comfortable temperature throughout the seasons, without compromising on the quality of air.