Keeping cool in the sweltering heat Demand for air-conditioning goes up as temperatures rise

  • Focus
  • Saturday, 01 Sep 2018

UP UNTIL about a year ago, falling asleep without air-conditioning was a doable thing for me. Today, it is almost impossible.

I was never the sort of person who had to be pacified by air-conditioning despite the sweltering weather outside.

In fact, I was so comfortable and used to the Malaysian heat that I couldn’t stand being underneath the perpetual blast chiller of a contraption that we have grown so accustomed to living with 24-7.

Those nights settling into bed with nothing more than a light blanket with one foot peeking out and being completely aware of perspiration cooling off my body from the humidity were nothing to complain about. My trusted ceiling fan, spinning its helicopter-like blades was doing its job.

Waking up the next day and having to endure beads of sweat forming on my face, and later while putting on my makeup for work was a small form of inconvenience that I dabbed off, literally, with a makeup brush.

Well, at least you are saving on electricity, said my inner voice.

But all that has changed now. I pay twice the amount for electricity so I can sleep peacefully at night. The mighty air-conditioner has become a necessity.

Think about it. What is the first thing people do when they buy a new home? Instal air-conditioners.

The Independent online in the UK last month reported that major heatwaves will take place globally for the next four years. In the article, scientists say that between now and 2022, the average ground and sea temperatures could be abnormally high.

As such, they forecasted “the likelihood of extreme warm events related to the general effects of global warming”.

We in Malaysia long for artificially cooled air and this is free in office buildings and malls, considering we are not geographically blessed with natural cool air. Our hot and humid climate is not the least ideal for people to frolic in the park for a picnic, so the lot of us will gravitate towards buildings to seek refuge from the heat.

But I did notice a different type of heat while standing outside in my condo balcony, not from the air, but the one that was emitting from the air-conditioning vents to keep the inside of my home cool.

This is the vicious cycle that is happening everywhere.

The massive amount of greenhouse emissions is partly due to the large number of air-conditioning units installed in a home.

In a Washington Post article titled “The world is about to install 700 million air conditioners. Here’s what that means for the climate”, the writers quoted a report on the air-conditioning boom by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, whose report projected that the world might see 700 million air-conditioners installed by 2030, and 1.6 billion of it by 2050.

This, it said, was similar to “adding new countries to the world map in terms of electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions”.

As demand for air-conditioners continues to soar, we can only hope for new and better technology to make these machines more energy-efficient.

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