Air conditioning under scrutiny in global sustainability debate

Air conditioning

Air conditioning is an increasing drain on energy and will produce two billions tonnes of CO2 a year by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

Air conditioning units in business, industry and households will increasingly be used in response to global warming and the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that around two thirds of the world’s households could have an air conditioning unit by 2050.

Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, says it is one of the most critical blind spots in today’s energy debate.

Air conditioning units have not changed much since their invention in 1931. With air conditioners’ power consumption exceeding that of most appliances, it puts a huge strain on our power grid, particularly in the summer months. As these appliances work to make inside cooler, they also make outside warmer through increased emissions heating up the planet. The IEA projects that by 2050 worldwide air conditioning will produce two billion tonnes of CO2 a year.

At 2021’s COP26, 14 countries signed a pledge initiating a Product Efficiency Call to Action to double the efficiency of air conditioners, fridges, lights, and industrial motors. With these products consuming more than 40 per cent of global electricity, ensuring their efficiency can play a key role in mitigating the impacts they have on the environment.

As the worldwide demand for cooling continues to grow, air conditioning will play a significant role in helping countries mitigate the impact of rising temperatures. This is increasing the demand for more carbon friendly AC units, and in 2018 a $3m initiative backed by Sir Richard Branson sought to find a residential cooling technology that had at least five times less climate impact than standard AC units and could cost no more than twice the baseline cost of one.

The winner was announced just last year, and we are now faced with convincing the world that the old technology needs replacing.

Keeping up with the maintenance of these systems to ensure they are running efficiently for the type of building you have, will play a key role in reducing unnecessary energy waste. Ensuring systems are compliant with TM44 Inspections, which requires cooling systems with a capacity of 12kW or more to have a valid report and certificate in place, can significantly reduce waste through the accompanying efficiency recommendation report.

Additionally, if you are looking to optimise your utility and energy use, an energy audit and survey carried out on your buildings will highlight areas where your company is unnecessarily using energy. Often air conditioning systems can be a large source of waste due to poor controls and lack of building optimisation. Making sure that your systems are optimised for your business requirements will help to reduce the use of energy and carbon emissions.

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