Installing a split system in an older style apartment

Older style apartments usaully built betwween the 1950’s and the 1970’s are double brick buildings. This fact makes them very well insulated and perfect for a split system air conditioner. It really makes a big difference in keeping the heat in or out.
Because the internal wall is brick and usually covered in render as well, it is very important to install a split system as carefully as possible. It requires loud and heavy drilling and needs to be done properly.
Below are some real examples of air conditioning installations around Melbourne, showing different options depending on where your apartment is situated.

Check out our latest short video

Installation of a 5.0kw split system into a third storey 60’s style apartment in Hawthorn.

Ground floor Apartment

Suburb – Hawthorn (ground floor apartment, 60’s style)

This split system installation in Hawthorn, Melbourne was on the ground floor of an older style apartment. Walls are double brick which means twice the drilling. Internal walls like most apartments of this era are covered with  a layer of render which can over time become quite fragile and brittle, so drilling through this really does require a degree of skill and patience!

The client bought the apartment as an investment and did a very nice modernization of the interior including brand new hard wood floor boards. We have to be careful. Like most jobs of this type we always cover the floor with cardboard to stop brick and mortar from damaging the floor. One important point of interest is that the client made a point of letting us know he wanted the best units we offer. Understandably he had concerns over the longevity of the split systems to be reliable and effective for many years to come. A wise decision when you think about the associated costs of maintaining an investment property. On top of that, he spent the extra money it takes to locate the outdoor unit in a more desirable location, well away from the back door. Of course everyone has a budget so this may not be possible for all people but it is certainly the best case scenario.

We installed a split system in the open plan lounge/kitchen and one in the master bedroom. This should keep the apartment including the extra bedroom climate controlled very well. Being double brick and having another apartment above it keeps it very well insulated.

Older style Apartment

Suburb – Elsternwick, Melbourne (older style apartment)

This installation required internal duct work because the walls of the lounge room had no external wall. They were butted up against the neighbours apartment which was in a long line of apartments. The split system indoor unit had to be in the lounge room so the only way to get the drain outside was using internal ducting.

We took the pipes into the bedroom so that they were not visible from the lounge room which made the install just that little bit neater. The pipes went straight up onto the flat tin roof as the apartment was on the top flor of the complex. The drain was then ran down and around the skirting boards to the outer wall. We kept the drain inside the larger duct so that is all looked uniform.

The outdoor unit on the roof was in the middle of the apartment and was not visible from any angle from the ground.

60’s style Apartment

Suburb – St Kilda, Melbourne (third storey apartment, 60’s style art deco)

This installation involved a scissor lift, double brick and mounting the outdoor units on the roof of the balcony. We installed 2 x split system air conditioners. One is a 5kw unit to heat and cool the lounge and dining room and the other was a 2.5kw for the bedroom.
Being and older style apartment it was double brick, meaning the inside walls are solid brick. These jobs can get a little messy due to the drilling of the brick work inside but we do our best to minimize it. The scissor lift was need to work on the external part of the building at a three storey height.
The customers elected to have the units mounted on the roof as opposed to the balcony so they would not have precious space taken away from their fairly small baclony. Obviously this leads to extra installtion costs but it is by far the best solution especially if you are an owner occupier. There was some external conduit work required to get the electrical supply back to the switchboard. This was unavoidable and required body corporate approval.
Check out our video to see how we did it.

70’s style Apartment

Suburb – St Kilda, Melbourne (second storey apartment, 70’s style)

This installation of a 7.1kw Mitsubishi split system air conditioner into a 4 storey apartment building in Elwood was a bit unusual. The apartment was on the 2nd storey and the ducting on the outside was run two more storeys up to the roof.  The client insisted on having a 7.1kw split system installed which was probably too big for the total space. They reasoned that if they were going to spend the money they would prefer a bigger unit…ok.

It required body corp approval and also the use of a scissor lift to access the roof where the outdoor unit will be located.

The electrical supply required internal ducting to be ran from the switchboard. We kept it down low so furniture would help obscure it.

70’s style Apartment

Suburb – Elwood, Melbourne (third storey apartment, 70’s style)

The client in this installation located in St Kilda, Melbourne was adamant that they did not want to lose space on thier balcony. As you can probably understand when living in a small apartment the balcony space can be a nice place to sit and relax, maybe BBQ or have some nice plants to appreciate. We offered the solution of mounting the outdoor unit off the balcony on a wall bracket. We were able to do this safely due to the size of the unit which was a 3.5kw Mitsubishi.

See another example of this kind of installation here.

Second storey Apartment

Suburb – Brunswick, Melbourne (second storey apartment, 70’s style)

Once again, the clients balcony was quite small and would have taken up close to 1/3 of the useable balcony space. The solution was to mount the outdoor unit just off the balcony on a wall bracket

Because it is now more visible from the ground it is most important to gain body corporate approvel before going ahead with the install. This peticular install was located toward the back of the apartment block so the visabilty was not considered a problem and the body corporate quickly gave us the go ahead to proceed.

Another consideration to being able to mount the unit on the wall next to the balcony is the access beneath it. As you can see, below is the driveway to the building. That made it a lot easier to facilitate the installation. Most importantly, the drain was able to be run to the down pipe which is a frequent body corporate requirements.

Third storey Apartment

Suburb – Hawthorn, Melbourne (third storey apartment, 70’s style)

This installation involved using a scissor lift to be able to reach the third storey of an apartment building in Hawthorn. The unit was a rental and was organized by a landlord wanting a low cost yet effective solution to keep his tenant (who was looking to vacate the premises due to the lack of cooling). This was all organized using our online quoting tool and ran like clockwork. The landlord was aware of the difficulty of the installation and extra costs involved in satisfying the body corporate’s rules. Approval was granted and the installation proceeded.

Important point 1 –  What made it possible for us to go ahead with the install in the desired location was the fact that the ground below the out door unit was flat. Scissor lifts need to work of flat surfaces and also need to be able to access the property from the street. This was one of those situations where every thing worked out well.

Important point 2 – The client told us that he had dealt with no less than six air conditioning companies prior to contacting us and all of them put this in the too hard basket. 

Indoor unit position

The indoor unit shown above was positioned to the side of the room to keep things nice and neat. It also allowed for air flow into the kitchen area (shown to the right of the photo). Being double brick the apartment is well insulated and the system worked very well.
It is installations like this one that highlight how working with landlords to get the best out come not only presents a heating and cooling solution but also keeps a tenant from breaking the lease. Both the landlord and the tenat come out winners!

70’s style Apartment

Suburb – Burnley, Melbourne (third storey apartment, 70’s style)

Indoor unit position

The apartment is solid brick with concrete render. The only way we could get pipes outside without using internal duct work was to locate the unit in the corner so we could drill through to the external wall cavity.

This allows us to get the pipes, drain and electrical cables outside. From there the pipes run up into the eaves and onto the roof. The out door unit was located on the flat roof. We always locate the outdoor unit at least 2 meters in from the gutter so it is not visible from the ground.

Outdoor unit position

Working on apartments this high requires a scissor lift to complete the job.

With an apartment like this one we were lucky that the driveway was on the right side of the building and was nice and flat. If this were not the case, it would add costs to the scissor lift price as it would require an all terrain lift.

This can add at least $150 to the total cost of installation.

Electrical supply

Even though we were able to eliminate internal duct for the air conditioner, we had to run a small piece to get the electrical supply onto the roof. As you can see the apartment is being renovated and will allow for the owners to paint over the duct to blend it in as best they can.

We offered to chase the brick work out and have the cables inside the brick but the client prefered not to. Once again, chasing out bricks so the cable can sit inside the wall will add costs, and it is outrageously messy!