The Right Way To Install An Aircon In Your HDB Flat


For something that’s almost a necessity in sultry Singapore, air-conditioners are still very much a mystery to us. While we probably know the basics of picking the right air-con, most of it, we leave to the experts.

We share 5 important details every homeowner should look out for when setting up their HDB unit’s air-conditioning system.

1. Your HDB’s Electrical Supply Rating

Interior Designer: DB Studio

HDBs have limitations in their Incoming Electrical Supply – older flats (usually those built before 1994) use a smaller, 230V/30A supply, while newer ones come with 230V/40A, which allows a bigger cooling capacity, like having 4 split units (System 4) in one apartment.

Interior Designer: IDID

But what about installing an air-con in a pre-1994 HDB? You may need to apply for a permit to install your AC, and make sure that the model that you chose does not exceed the supply ratings. There’s a limit to the maximum total running current allowed in each home.

Screenshot from HDB’s website.

For instance, the maximum allowed air-con current for an older, 3 to 5-room or executive maisonette flat is 8.5A, which means the combined input current (whether it’s for one or multiple split units) cannot exceed 8.5A. Consult an air-conditioning expert on the types of AC models available for your input current limit.

2. Where You’re Installing Your Air-Con Unit

Interior Designer: Colourbox Interior

There aren’t any limitations regarding where you can install an air-con unit, but it’s placement will affect how well it cools the air. As a rule of thumb, place it at a location free from obstructions so the cool air can circulate.

Interior Designer: DB Studio

If you can, avoid installing a unit in the corner of a room with walls or pillars that prevent ventilation and will create ‘hot spots’ in the long run, which could reduce the air-con’s cooling efficiency and cause it to break down easily.

Also, try to keep them away from other electronic devices like routers, security cameras and antennas as electrical feedback may interfere with the signals on your split air-con system.

3. How High You’re Installing Your Air-Con Unit

Interior Designer: MMJ Design Loft

Once you’ve figured out the question of where, it’s time to think how high you’d like it to be. The perfect, Goldilocks height? 2.2 metres from the under side of the air-con unit to floor for HDBs.

Interior Designer: Fineline Design

Considering that the typical HDB flat’s floor-to-ceiling height is about 2.8m, while the average human height is about 1.8m (in this part of the world), 2.2m is just high enough to blast cool air out without blowing directly in people’s faces and low enough to circulate cold air efficiently. In fact, any space above 2m does not really need to be cooled as cold air sinks and hot air rises.

4. Doing Post-Installation Tests and Checks

Interior Designer: Free Space Intent

You should only engage a BCA-certified professional to install your air-con – but unfortunately, it doesn’t guarantee the quality of works.

Besides the main fan coil split unit, don’t forget to check the following air-con components during installation to ensure that they are properly set up:

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  • The Refrigerant Pipe: It should be the length specified by the manufacturer and not be too short that the refrigerant is unable to cool down or expand. This can result in a drop in cooling capacity, and damage the outdoor compressor. Check that joints are properly glazed and that there are no cracks.

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  • The Condensate Water Pipe: This pipe helps to drain away water caused by condensation, and should have a sloped gradient for the water to flow and drain out smoothly. Likewise, check that joints are not loosed or cracked.

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  • Insulation for Refrigerant and Condensate Pipe: Insulation tubes help to prevent leakages and minimise the loss of energy, so make sure the correct thickness is used for insulation. The recommended thickness is usually ½” (Class 0), though 3/8″ thickness (Class 1) also works just as well.
  • Location of Outdoor Condenser: While there’s usually an air-con ledge or supporting brackets to hold up your outdoor condenser in a HDB, always make sure there’s enough ventilation and space for future servicing.

5. Other Design Details to Look Out

Interior Designer: LLARK Architects

Lastly, it’s best to avoid concealing your unsightly split AC behind a false ledge or a concealed compartment, for the sake of your air-con’s performance. As mentioned, these features serve as ‘obstructions’ which block the cool air from properly circulating about the rest of the space, making your air-conditioner work harder than it should.

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