In 1992 Cambridge University anthropologist Gwyn Prins wrote “On Condis and Coolth” in the journal Energy and Buildings, beating up air conditioning addicts. He referred to them as “condis” and their preferred cooling climate as “coolth”. He argued that AC was the ultimate example of unnecessary luxury in an already voracious society. In an elegant, influential tirade, Prins warned of a deterioration in “global warming,” a term so seldom used at the time that it still warranted quotation marks.
His target, the US people, ignored his shame. Now air conditioning uses 15 percent of all American energy consumption, more than any other country, and uses the same amount of fossil fuels that all of Africa needs for all of its energy needs. The global demand for air conditioning cannot be quantified, but the high temperatures this summer, for example in China, have increased sales of air conditioning systems. While British air conditioning is less of a social “must” according to the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), its use here will increase by 50 percent over the next 20 years.
“The environmental damage caused by air conditioning is not limited to emissions of greenhouse gases and chemicals that deplete the ozone layer,” says writer Stan Cox, whose book Losing Our Cool: Inconvenient Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World is causing a stir in America . “The wasteful use of indoor air conditioning can allow us to live anywhere on the planet, but is it wise?” From the sun-scorched deserts of Dubai to the sands of Arizona (the “Air Conditioning Capital of the World”), inappropriately designed and localized construction requires even more cooling. Artificial cooling connects arms with global warming – the higher the temperatures, the more cooling we need – in a chilling hoedown with positive feedback.
Air conditioning doesn’t seem to be the most dazzling topic. “I saw it as a challenge,” continues Cox. “It’s a topic that people haven’t thought about in a long time. If you look at the technologies that have changed our world for over 50 years, like cars, computers, and television, we’ve been discussing costs and benefits. But air conditioning has.” hummed in the background all the time. “
Artificial air conditioning can be traced back to the second century, when the Chinese inventor Ding Huan designed a manually driven rotary fan. Medieval Persians used wind towers to cool buildings, but it wasn’t until the 18th century when Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley combined evaporation with hardened surfaces that modern air conditioning methods were first vented. The first electric air conditioning system was manufactured by Willis Haviland Carrier in Buffalo, New York, in 1902. The growth of later models reflected the economic development of the southern US states and increased globally (capitalism, especially in manufacturing, has paid attention to studies associating high productivity with low temperatures). People have migrated from the outside into their condos, jeeps, and offices, so these days in China and the United States, the two largest greenhouse gas producers, AC power is ubiquitous in offices, homes, and cars. In America it is mainly used in houses and swallows a whopping 261 billion kWh annually, several tons of carbon dioxide per capita per year. The UK is cooling down mainly in a business context (only 1 percent of our annual carbon emissions). In Europe, vehicle air conditioning has shown the greatest growth in the last 10 years, from almost zero to 95 percent.
In the societies of developing countries, the air conditioning gives the status. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of Chinese households with air conditioning tripled. Cox quoted a publicist for Korean company LG Electronics, the world’s largest manufacturer of AC appliances, as saying, “I see AC sales compete with color televisions as temperatures get much worse and pollution increases in India.”
By 2020, air conditioning consumption in India will be ten times what it was in 2005. “When a family in India has a higher income, the first thing they will get is a cell phone,” says Cox. “Even people on relatively low incomes can afford it. Then they’ll buy a refrigerator. Soon after, they’ll be able to buy air conditioning for their bedroom before adding it to the rest of the house.”
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Tourism is also taking its toll. In Dubai, long known for its surplus energy, Emirates Sunland Group, Emirates-based developer of the new Palazzo Versace hotel, announced in 2008 that the attraction will have the world’s first air-conditioned beach. Coolant pipes circulate through the sand, with the plan “to install huge fans to blow a light breeze over the beach”. A chilled swimming pool attracts sun worshipers to a city with the world’s largest per capita carbon footprint. Meanwhile, Ski Dubai, the Middle East’s first indoor ski area, has to pay its owners a royal ransom for electricity to keep the snow from melting. In Denpasar, Bali, the Jakarta Post reported last year about proposals for a dog “hotel” with 32 air-conditioned units with their own beds.
This waste, beyond insanity, can be contained by improving outdated technical dictates. “The air conditioning industry uses an equation developed in the 1960s,” says Fergus Nicol, associate director of the Low Energy Architecture Research Unit at London Metropolitan University. “It enables engineers to calculate the temperature required for air conditioning by entering data about the size of a building, the clothing engineers expect people to wear, etc. We did research, however, by asking people inside buildings have what they feel And we’ve found that people generally adapt to the conditions they are exposed to without needing to be refrigerated. For example, they can change what they wear. It may sound obvious, but it won’t included in the thinking of engineers. “We can deal with it by wearing less or sweating more. Smelly colleagues are not ideal; but our aversion to smell is cultural conditioning. As Prins wrote nearly 20 years ago, “The body is thoughtfully equipped with its own rather efficient cooling mechanism.” Nicol also blames modern architectural trends for glazed buildings in warm climates; “beautiful envelopes” regardless of convection, conduction and condensation.
What is the solution? Cox sees it everywhere in minimizing the warming effects of lightbulbs, curbing wasteful central air conditioning, using vegetative roofs and even providing incentives through energy companies. “By becoming more than anonymous Xs and Ys in a series of heat stress calculations, we can become more resilient people,” he writes. “And we will need this resilience.”
The author acknowledges his guilt to Prins, a man who once compared the western world’s AC addiction to the drug users’ cravings for crack. “As soon as the body became dependent on conditioned air, its spectrum of basic physiological human needs has expanded beyond food, shelter and warmth to an acquired need: coolness,” wrote Prins. His rhetoric continues. When it is impossible to get a cold or even warm turkey we should look for alternatives because cold temperatures are not right, they are a treat. The rule of “coolness” must end. Glowing armpits are the least of all worries on our planet.
Stay cool without air conditioning
Create a breeze
Your body generates the same amount of heat as a powerful light bulb. A fan can help you get rid of this heat. Buy a portable device that you can turn on at night and replace the warm air trapped inside with fresh alternatives.
Pull the power plug out of the socket
Everything that runs on electricity generates heat. Turn the light off; Take a lukewarm or cold shower and dry the laundry on a clothesline.
Take advantage of your basement
Cavemen lived there for one reason: retreating deep underground is often a cool experience. If it gets too humid, air-condition a room as a retreat, not your entire home or office.
If there is no lake or swimming pool nearby, install a sprinkler system in the garden (use with moderation). When water is scarce, instead of traditional air conditioning, use an evaporative cooler – a type of fan that creates mist.
Vegetation has a double cooling effect: shade and evaporation. Trees are best for your garden, then sunflowers or even corn if they grow next to your house. When in doubt, leave the pavilion.
Let it cool down while working
Overcooling can often be a problem in an air-conditioned office in summer. Face your maintenance guys instead of fighting off the heat with sweaters and long pants. That saves energy.
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