Air Conditioning Is Big Business As Frequent Heatwaves Bite

Jeremy Bowler | Updated: 01-08-2022 09:54 IST | Created: 01-08-2022 09:54 IST
Air Conditioning Is Big Business As Frequent Heatwaves Bite
Image Credit: Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

Deadly heat waves are becoming more common and intense. All across the globe, formerly temperate regions are getting a taste of true Arabian heat, with mercury exceeding 40° C for the first time in many places. 

Data show that these heat waves are becoming more common. In the UK, for instance, all of the ten hottest days on record occurred in the last fifteen years. The country now regularly experiences extreme heat, with the high of 41° C in a small town in the county of Lincolnshire smashing all previous heat records. 

It’s not just the UK, either. This summer saw the US go under a protracted “heat dome” where temperatures along the country’s grain-producing belt remained in excess of 35°C for a protracted period. And even in India, the summer heat is intensifying, particularly in the Delhi area where the heat regularly marches up to more than 45°C, getting close to the limits of what the human body can tolerate. 

Because of this, people are looking for solutions, and the demand for air conditioning is exploding. They want technology to reduce temperatures in their homes and businesses so that they’re not subject to the appalling heat outside. 

For some individuals, it is a matter of life and death. When temperatures rise above 35­°C, many elderly people are at risk of dangerous conditions, such as heat stroke. Other people simply can’t make the necessary proteins to control heat levels in their bodies and become dangerously overheated as a result.  

Air Conditioning Is Adaptation

Many people now view air conditioning as a form of climate adaptation. As temperatures hit new peaks, it is no longer a luxury but a form of necessity. 

According to estimates, extreme heat kills more than 600 people in the US every year. That’s more than any other form of extreme weather, including hurricanes and the cold. As temperatures rise over the coming century, the problem will become even worse. Forecasters predict that there will be more extreme heat events going forward and that this will increase deaths among the elderly. 

For this reason, air conditioning is a public health measure that can help heat waves from causing excess mortality. When temperatures rise to uncomfortable levels, homeowners can simply turn on their HVAC systems and benefit from cooling. 

Those at greatest risk, experts say, are older people and those on low incomes. These individuals are much more likely to live in older properties that don’t have air conditioning or built-in fans. They may also experience problematic underlying medical conditions that could make extreme heat exposure more dangerous. The obese and those with high blood pressure are at particular risk. 

Low-income people are also much more likely to live in areas prone to the urban heat island effect. While middle-class and wealthy individuals can move to the edges of town, poor people typically live in the center of cities where concrete and asphalt absorb intense heat from the sun, driving up temperatures even higher than they already are, and preventing them from falling as much at night. In Portland, for instance, 21 people died last year in an area known for being a heat island. 

HVAC Companies Stand To Benefit

While the consequences of extreme heat can be dire for some people, there is a solution: air conditioning. Cooling small pockets in dwellings can potentially eliminate the risk of death due to extreme heat and keep people safe. 

Wealthy people can afford to install air conditioning units in their properties in anticipation of future heat waves, but poorer people can’t. One solution is to create air conditioning sanctuaries where people can go when the heat is high. These could be community centers with air conditioners fitted that could cool a lot of people off in one go. 

The other option is to loosen some of the restrictions on window air conditioners. Many states actually prohibit homeowners from installing this cheap type of HVAC system, insisting that owners use more expensive, in-built varieties instead. The fear is that affordable units will lead to local house price deprecation, damage buildings, and overload the electrical grid. 

However, authorities may need to change their stance in light of recent extreme temperature episodes. Loosened regulations would allow more homeowners to install air conditioning, particularly those who live in apartment buildings in city centers. States may want to provide subsidies to help homeowners with the cost of building window frames that can support the weight of air conditioning units. 

Now that air conditioning is becoming a human right, HVAC firms stand to benefit. And they have far greater marketing power. As Top Marketing Agency makes clear, air conditioning companies now have a wealth of leads. Consumers are changing their perspective on HVAC systems, seeing them as a necessity for combating extreme heat, not just a luxury. 

But What About The Environment?

While politicians regularly talk about the importance of the environment, the air conditioning story is unlikely to go away. As conditions worsen, demand for cooler internal climates will increase. In temperate regions, the period when air conditioners are active will also go up.

The irony of this is not lost on many social justice advocates. While they argue that air conditioning is a human right, they also acknowledge that it leads to increased carbon emissions. Keeping air cool is one of the most significant uses of household energy. 

There are other solutions on the table, but they rarely work in periods of protracted high heat. Insulation, for instance, can keep high temperatures at bay for a short time, but after a couple of days, even the best insulation will fail. 

Other ideas include using heat pumps. However, these simply aren’t practical or affordable for the majority of people, particularly those at risk. It’s impossible to install a heat pump for one’s personal use in a shared apartment. 

There are now moves to change the law in some countries. One option would be to make it mandatory to install air conditioning in all rental apartments. However, this would ultimately push up the price of rents as landlords recouped their costs.

(Devdiscourse's journalists were not involved in the production of this article. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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