The perverse cycle of a warming local weather and the rise of air conditioners

The perverse cycle of a warming local weather and the rise of air conditioners

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“Mad canine and Englishmen exit within the noon solar,” Noel Coward famously sang in 1931, mocking British colonials who ventured out into the scorching noon solar on the hottest time of day. “The Dutch additionally nonetheless suppose the solar is their pal,” says researcher Lenneke Kuijer. In the course of the August 2020 warmth wave she investigated how Dutch households take care of sizzling climate. “It is time for change whereas it is nonetheless doable,” she believes. “Much less air con, extra out of doors shading and a unique means of coping with warmth.”

The variety of tropical days within the Netherlands is rising quickly. Solely 100 years in the past, the temperature rose above 30 levels Celsius on common about in the future a 12 months. Now it’s already a median of 5 occasions a 12 months, with a peak of 8 days in 2020.

And the issue will solely worsen within the coming many years, not solely within the Netherlands, but additionally elsewhere in Europe. In line with the newest fashions, warmth waves (5 consecutive days above 25 levels Celsius, together with three above 30) is not going to solely develop into extra frequent within the second half of this century, but additionally hotter and longer lasting. The trigger, it’s now usually accepted, is the greenhouse impact.

Air conditioners: straightforward and quick

What to do? You’ll be able to in fact attempt to forestall the greenhouse impact (or mitigate it, as tried within the Paris local weather accords), however many individuals aren’t ready for that. “They’re already selecting the best and quickest resolution: air con,” says Lenneke Kuijer, researcher on the Future On a regular basis Group on the School of Industrial Design. Via interviews, she investigated into how Dutch households take care of sizzling climate.

“As a society, we’re in peril of changing into an increasing number of depending on mechanical cooling to maintain our heads and our bodies cool, which isn’t solely inefficient, but additionally unhealthy. Take a look at what occurred final 12 months, in the course of the August warmth wave right here within the Netherlands. Essent, one in all our most important power suppliers, noticed power demand improve by 30 % then.”

“That is one thing that considerations me tremendously. The rising demand for air conditioners and the rising power consumption of those units are jeopardizing our purpose of lowering CO2 emissions. To not point out the truth that the coolants in lots of air conditioners act like an excellent greenhouse fuel. The irony is that in our effort to remain cool, we are literally making the earth—and our speedy surroundings—even hotter.”

How does an airconditioning system work?

There are two types of air con. The only (and least sustainable) type is the cell air conditioner, which dissipates warmth by a hose to the skin. Cellular air conditioners are eagerly wanted throughout tropical days, however they do not work as properly then, particularly if the outlet by which the hose goes isn’t correctly sealed.

The second system is named break up air con, a hard and fast air conditioner that consists of two elements. The indoor unit incorporates a fan that picks up warmth from the air and transfers it to a warmth exchanger containing a refrigerant (normally hydrofluorocarbons, a infamous greenhouse fuel). By evaporating, it removes the warmth from the air and thus cools the room.

A compressor carries the new fuel to the condenser within the out of doors unit. There the fuel condenses and turns into chilly refrigerant once more. A warmth pump, more and more in demand to generate warmth from air, can also be a sort of air con, however works in reverse.

There are additionally warmth pumps that may cool. A key distinction between these pumps and air con is that warmth pumps cool the house itself and never the air, making the impact extra everlasting. As well as, floor supply warmth pumps are additional environment friendly as a result of they’ll retailer warmth whereas cooling. This may later be used once more as ‘free’ heating.

One in 5 Dutch households now has an air con system and 15 % are contemplating shopping for one. Worldwide, some 3.6 billion cooling units are in use, experiences the UN. That quantity might rise to 14 billion by 2050, if everybody who wants cooling can afford it.

In line with Kuijer, individuals typically buy air conditioners for 2 causes: they need a cool bed room and to have the ability to work cool. Particularly in the course of the corona pandemic, when many individuals had been compelled to work fromo dwelling, the latter was the deciding issue.


Kuijer interviewed 21 households, with a complete of 60 residents between the ages of 0 and 70, each renters and householders. They lived in homes constructed between 1910 and 2019. In line with her, the interviews and the diaries present a consultant image of how the Dutch take care of warmth and provide good leads for additional analysis into wholesome and energy-efficient summer time consolation in Dutch households.

The interviews present that folks already typically endure from warmth, as illustrated in Determine 1. In the course of the warmth wave in August 2020, the temperature skilled by virtually all respondents was properly above their most popular temperature (particularly throughout actions corresponding to sleeping and dealing) and partly additionally above the just lately launched Dutch guideline for stopping overheating in properties, which begins at 27 levels.

“My analysis clearly reveals two issues,” says Kuijer. “One, Dutch properties aren’t constructed for warmth, and two, Dutch persons are not properly ready to deal with warmth.” By the latter, the researcher refers back to the relationship many Dutch individuals have historically had with the solar and the outside. “Each are seen as mates, and warmly welcomed into the house”.

Nothing unsuitable with that, you would possibly say, however this perspective is working much less properly now that we’re experiencing an increasing number of excessive warmth. “When it will get sizzling, we are likely to open the home windows, which in fact brings within the warmth. Additionally, individuals discover sweat, which in spite of everything helps to chill the physique, annoying and gross. Moreover, we nonetheless eat and work at occasions when it’s too sizzling, and we don’t alter our clothes sufficient, particularly within the work scenario.”

Warmth tolerance

Kuijer sees roughly three sustainable methods to cut back the necessity for cooling: out of doors shading, evening air flow and acclimatization. One downside is that it’s exactly these options that should compete with the much less sustainable air conditioners. They’re typically cheaper than blinds and supply speedy outcomes. “However what’s worse, air conditioners make it more durable for individuals to get used to warmth. So the dependence on cooling is rising.”

“Cooling inhibits the method of acclimatization as a result of the temperature of the air conditioner doesn’t change with the skin temperature. We all know from physiological analysis that folks can tolerate as much as one diploma increased temperatures day-after-day beneath sure circumstances. So your warmth tolerance will increase naturally, which additionally will increase your freedom of motion in sizzling climate. Cooling will get in the best way of that course of”.

By the way, Kuijer isn’t solely in opposition to mechanical cooling. “It should develop into more and more essential to preserve properties livable for sure weak teams. But it surely ought to by no means be the one resolution.”

Wake-up name

In her report, Kuijer suggests various promising options that would contribute to energy-efficient, wholesome summer time consolation:

– Think about subsidizing blinds to allow them to higher compete with air conditioners.
– Present cooling programs by which cooling and air flow work collectively intelligently and the goal temperature rises steadily to advertise acclimatization;
– Give additional consideration to lower-income households in city flats. This group suffers disproportionately from the dangerous results of warming.
– And eventually: Decide to behavioral and cultural change. A wholesome and environment friendly indoor local weather wants the cooperation of residents, and a unique strategy to the physique, the solar and out of doors air.
“The latter is probably an important, but additionally probably the most tough,” says the researcher. “In that respect, my report is a wake-up name.”


The researcher emphasizes that her analysis isn’t but full. The subsequent section of the VENI venture (funded by the Dutch Analysis Council) is to consider provocative design ideas that look past cooling relating to summer time consolation. “For instance, one in all our provocations is a ‘sweatshirt’ that routinely distributes sweat all through the physique so that you simply settle down higher.”

Within the third section, we need to additional develop the prompt options into sensible and practical suggestions, with which housing associations, governments, the refrigeration and air flow trade and personal people can instantly get to work.”

Lenneke Kuijer’s analysis venture started in 2019 and can proceed till 2023. Extra data might be discovered on this web page. All the report might be learn right here.

Carbon warmth pumps sensible choice for accommodations in chilly climates

Supplied by
Eindhoven College of Know-how

The perverse cycle of a warming local weather and the rise of air conditioners (2021, July 19)
retrieved 20 July 2021

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