Air Conditioning vs Air Cooling vs Fans: What’s the Difference?

Navigating the world of cooling systems is enough to bring most employers out in a hot sweat. Products come in a range of sizes, boasting extensive specifications and unique properties that aren’t always easy to understand.

But don’t fret. If you want to make your team more comfortable during the summer months but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of different cooling systems, shedding some light on industry lingo as we go.

So, by the time you’ve finishing reading, you’ll have the knowledge to safeguard staff — and your energy bills — from Britain’s next heatwave. Best of all, you can hire many of the cooling products mentioned in this post right here!

Before we dive headfirst into topics like air coolers vs air conditioners, let’s quickly discuss a few fundamentals you should consider before settling on a new system.

What size cooling system do I need for an office? 

The key to finding the most suitable solution for your office is first to consider the amount of space you’re attempting to cool. As we’ll see later, small cooling fans might sound like a cost-effective way to keep staff comfortable, but if your office is large and open plan, they won’t feel a thing.

Therefore, ask yourself the following questions before settling on a cooling system:

  • What are your office dimensions?
  • How many people work in the office?
  • How many powered electronics are present (laptops, etc.)?
  • Are there any other heated appliances?
  • Are there any windows? And do they face south?
  • What’s your budget?

We’ll dig down into why these questions are relevant when looking at specific systems. In the meantime, you can use our cooling calculator to find out how much airpower your office needs. For instance, an office that’s 50 (m²) typically requires roughly 5.2 kW – 7.2 kW output.

 What is an air conditioning unit? 

( Credit:RealPeopleGroup)


Air conditioning (often referred to as AC, A/C or air con) is generally the first choice for cooling an office and other working environments where ventilation is present. AC units work by removing existing heat and moisture from a space, passing it through to an outside area.

You can think of air conditioning units as refrigerators, using chemicals to quickly convert warm air into a liquid then back to a gas, removing residual heat in the process. The cool air then moves through a ventilation system. You don’t need to understand the science fully; all you should know is that, unlike evaporative coolers, AC units do rely on refrigeration. They also come in an enormous range of sizes, from portable to industrial units.

Some air conditioning systems feature multi-stage filters, removing particles like dust, bacteria, and pollen from the air. This process creates a cleaner environment for your staff and reduces the spread of airborne viruses. However, it could make the air dryer.

How do air conditioning units work? 

Office air conditioning systems fall into two camps: ‘exhaust tube’ and ‘split’. We’ve provided a summary for each solution below:


Credit:Kwangmoozaa Site:


Exhaust tube air conditioning

 Exhaust tube systems work by pulling hot air through grills or ducts on the unit’s exterior, where a refrigeration cycle cools down the moisture. These are ‘monoblock’ solutions that have two sets of coils combined in the same body shell. The units sit inside the building or office itself, with an ‘exhaust tube’ that carries hot air outside. 

Split air conditioning 

Split air conditioners differ from monoblock devices because they have outer and inner components. These components connect to pipes along which the refrigerant flows. Unlike an exhaust tube air conditioner, split systems have compressors outside, making for quieter internal units. These air conditioning systems are typically more efficient and flexible, thanks to their long connectors. It’s for that reason they also carry a higher retail price.

Multi-split air conditioning 

We said there were generally two air conditioning systems, but there’s actually a third: multi-split. These AC solutions are like split systems, except multiple indoor units link to one outside compressor.

Different types of air conditioning unit 

Now we understand how air-con systems work, let’s look at the different variations of unit available. These monoblock and split devices are ubiquitous across office spaces, each designed for various purposes: 

Portable, compact, or mobile air conditioners

·       A flexible system that’s free to move around. The compressor is located inside the unit and doesn’t require special mounting. Check out our compact air conditioners starting from £53.40 a week.

Floor-mounted air conditioners 

  • These systems are installed against the wall, similar to a storage heater, and comprise a heat pump facility.

Wall-mounted air conditioners 

  • Sometimes called a ‘high wall air conditioner’, featuring two air pipes that run directly through the wall.

Window air conditioners

  • Also known as ‘rattlers’, these systems are easily mounted into a window opening or through a narrow wall.

Ceiling cassette air conditioner 

  • Commonly found in offices, pushing air in four directions. These systems typically sit above the ceiling line.

Duct mounter air conditioner 

  • They are predominately used where a building has a ducted air system, sometimes offering AC to multiple rooms.u

Spotted a cooling unit that’s suitable for your office? You can find many of the above air conditioning systems for hire in the HSS shop, all from brands you can trust. Just make sure to check the kW output is powerful enough for your space beforehand.

What is an evaporative cooler?

Evaporative coolers (also called ‘swamp coolers’) differ from air conditioning units because they don’t use artificial refrigerants. Instead, they promote natural, clean air through an evaporative system that separates high energy particles from moisture.

It’s a relatively straightforward process and one that dates back to ancient Greece. The Greeks would use evaporative cooling by stringing up wet mats in front of window and tent openings, in turn reducing the air temperature. A more familiar method to evaporative cooling might be placing a moist cloth on your forehead during a hot day — the high energy particles dissipate, lowering skin temperature in the process.

Because evaporative cooling systems don’t need ventilation to work, they are an excellent option for any offices, buildings, factories or warehouses that don’t have open windows. Swamp coolers are available in various sizes, so browse the HSS Hire shop to find systems ranging from small through large.

 How does an evaporative cooler work?

As we mentioned, swamp cooling systems use evaporation to reduce room temperature naturally. Typically, a machine will consist of a water reservoir, a fan, and a thick cooling pad, similar to the wet mats used in ancient Greece.

Evaporation results from contact between air and water. The fan unit pushes hot air across the wet cooling pad; as this occurs, evaporation begins, starting a heat transfer that chills the air.

 The benefits of evaporative cooling

  • No refrigerants or chemicals.
  • Long life span.
  • Cooling pads are made from cellulose sheets and unique compounds that prevent rot.
  • Little maintenance.
  • Natural, clean air that reduces the spread of airborne viruses and bacteria.
  • Low energy consumption.

Evaporative air cooler vs portable air conditioner 

Both evaporative coolers and portable air conditioners ultimately do the same job: they chill the space surrounding the unit. However, which one you choose will depend on several factors, including the humidity in your office and how much space there is to cool.

Portable air conditioners are known for cooling a space quickly, comprising units that typically pump out more power. This means you won’t need to run an AC system for a prolonged period if your office is on the smaller side. However, more power generally comes at greater expense to your energy bills — and the environment.

Evaporative air coolers, on the other hand, are quieter and cheaper. They also don’t use any chemicals or refrigerants, making them far more eco-friendly. The downside, however, is that they take much longer to have an impact and result in high humidity inside your office over time. So, if you’re working in a large office space, you’ll need an extensive evaporative cooling system.

What is a cooling fan?

While AC units and evaporative systems extract moisture from the air, cooling fans circulate already-present particles around the room.

The fantastic thing about cooling fans is that they come in various sizes, from smaller units for offices to industrial-sized products suited to warehouses. And because they’re easy to move around, factories can use cooling fans to keep dust and steam away from workers.

One other reason that someone may want to opt for a fan over an AC system is for health purposes, as decreasing humidity in the air can sometimes result in sinus irritation and skin dehydration.

Air cooler vs cooling fan

If you’re looking to chill the air, a cooling fan will never beat an air conditioning or evaporative unit. However, suppose you’re simply looking to promote natural air circulation around your office, a cooling fan is an affordable and flexible solution.

Shop with HSS Hire and you’ll find industrial-sized air movers that harness the same technology as cooling fans, using extra power to blow clean air into potentially hazardous areas.

The benefits of a cooling fan

  • Much quieter than an AC unit.
  • Far cheaper.
  • Low maintenance.
  • No risk of dry air.
  • Available in different styles and sizes.

Need more information? 

Whether you’re searching for an office air conditioning unit or an industrial air mover, you’ve come to the right place. We can provide you with all the cooling equipment mentioned in this article at affordable weekly hire rates. That means you don’t need to purchase air conditioning, evaporative or fan systems outright — simply hire the equipment when you need it most!

Head to our air-con and cooling shop for further inspiration, or contact the HSS team if you have any questions.

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Laila Naqvi

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