When it comes to the cooling industry, it’s been estimated by researchers that by 2050, the number of room air conditioners will quadruple to 4.5 billion globally, becoming at least as ubiquitous as cell phones are today.
By the end of the century, greenhouse gas emissions from air conditioning will account for as much as a 0.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, according to calculations by the World Economic Forum. It’s a Catch-22 situation because as temperatures rise due to global warming, the need for cooling becomes more pressing.
Previously, refrigeration used CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, but they were banned in the late 1980s after they were found to deplete the earth’s ozone layer. Manufacturers have since replaced them with substances such as R32 gases, that are much kinder to the ozone and have significantly reduced environmental impacts.
However, the high emissions associated with old or poorly maintained cooling technology remains a problem (or an opportunity) that we need to address. ACs must be in good order to work efficiently and to minimise emissions. In fact, it’s estimated that the proper maintenance and disposal of AC units will contribute towards cutting hundreds of billions of gigatons of CO2 emissions by 2050.
So, there is, it seems, some clear pathways for us to rein in the impacts of our AC usage and make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change. And these pathways aren’t onerous — just some common sense steps in our everyday actions that can make a difference for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, our individual carbon footprint is expansive. Globally it averages around four tonnes of greenhouse gases, or GHGs, each year (1 tonne = 2,204 pounds or 1,000kg). While that’s a big number to address, even small individual reductions, collectively, will have big impacts.
Secondly, we’re a highly social species. We model our behaviours and ideas on others, so it’s important that we all be the change we want to see. By positioning responsible cooling choices as the default, and not the exception, we’ll make huge inroads.
Cooling and sustainability
So, what does all this mean for cooling and sustainability?
In short, it means small but consistent changes to our cooling habits. If you schedule regular AC servicing you will see an immediate impact of it through reduced energy bills, improved indoor air quality and low noise levels.
If you are in rented accommodation, which a large portion of UAE residents are, ensure regular AC servicing is part of the conversation you have with your landlord before finalising tenancy agreements. And, if you share your experiences and new habits with others, it’s likely they too will follow suit
On a practical level, here are the easy things you can do to lessen your personal impact on the environment through air conditioning.
• Keep it at 24. Each degree increase in set point temperature can save up to 5% on AC consumption.
• Keep an AC maintenance checklist, which can include physical inspection for abnormal noise, vibration, overheating and dust accumulation on coils, among others.
• Clean your AC filters regularly (at least once a month during summer). Clogged or dirty AC filters can block the normal airflow and reduce the system’s efficiency significantly.
• Use a programmable or smart thermostat if you have one to avoid excess cooling.
• Replace old air-conditioners — they are “energy gluttons” and can double your consumption per year to run. Please do dispose of your old air conditioning responsibly — professional AC suppliers can often help you to do this.
Conscious Cooling is all of our business. And, in a region where cooling is synonymous with quality of life, we all have a duty to make sure we’re cooling our spaces and places responsibly. Together, we can all play our part in reducing the impact ACs have on the planet, one degree at a time.
Tariq Al Ghussein is the CEO of Taqeef