After one of the longest and hottest British summers on record, experts are predicting that homes, businesses and institutions like hospitals will need to invest more in air conditioning to maintain healthy conditions during future warm weather.
Extreme conditions like those seen over the 2018 summer months are expected to become more frequent as a consequence of global warming. At the same time, compliance and employment law restrictions are tightening to ensure working conditions are comfortable and safe, even in very hot and very cold weather. Health and Safety Regulations do not currently specify a temperature above which staff cannot be expected to work but they do require workplace temperatures to be “reasonable”.
Most businesses are used to investing in heating to maintain a constant temperature throughout their buildings during the winter months but surprisingly few have effective air conditioning installed and this summer saw many workers being sent home because they were falling ill due to overheated offices.
A recent study by the University of Birmingham found that demand for cooling was likely to increase significantly and that China, India and other hotter countries would be amongst those investing more in air conditioning systems as the standard of living rises. Researchers have also predicted that use of air conditioning, refrigeration and other cooling appliances will double by the middle of the century as the world heats up.
Official estimates suggest that this could translate into an increase in global sales of cooling equipment from $140bn (£98bn) today to $260bn by 2050.
Alongside the headlines about rising temperatures and growth in the air conditioning and refrigeration market, many commentators are pointing out that an increase in the use of cooling equipment will lead to higher energy use and carbon emissions. The challenge, therefore, for the UK air conditioning industry is to develop greener and more efficient products to minimise the environmental impact of global warming whilst providing safe and comfortable environments for the UK population to live and work in.