Air conditioning systems are becoming more prevalent in UK buildings, according to a BRE study looking at energy use by air conditioning in non-domestic buildings.
The report, which is backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also states that in 2012, about 65 percent of UK office space and 30 per cent of UK retail space had air conditioning. That figure has now reached over 75 percent. (as of April 2016)
Other findings in the report say cooling in air conditioning systems may account for around a tenth of total UK electricity consumption (29TWh in 2010), higher than previously reported. But considerable uncertainty surrounds this figure.
One of the main speculative reasons is because heatwaves are becoming more frequent across the UK, with this summer’s temperatures hitting up to 35 degrees in the south.
The number of heatwave days a year have actually increased from five in 1961 to 17 in 2003, and 2016’s figures are more than treble that figure.
A representative from the Met Office said; ‘‘It’s no secret that temperatures over the last couple of years have been getting higher and higher. 2016 has had one of the hottest summers on record.’’
‘‘Considering this, it’s no surprise that people are buying air conditioning systems. Temperatures within an office environment can sometimes surpass the outside temperature, meaning it can be extremely uncomfortable without cold air ventilation system.’’
Cooling in offices typically uses around 40 kWh/m2 each year. The monitored data showed a median electrical consumption for cooling in offices of 44 kWh/m2 a year.
In some offices, air-conditioning systems were in use when buildings were unoccupied – out of hours and at weekends.
David Cuttler, a HVAC distributor from Dorset said; ‘‘There have been some concerns about the over use of air conditioning in our country, but until a suitable alternative is found, people will continue to invest.’’
‘‘Climate change hasn’t helped, and I’m certainly not complaining, but I do agree that the government should consider an eco-friendlier option. Even I’d buy in to that.’’
The US and UK governments have held discussions with the EU about proposed changes to air conditioning units and the effect they may be having on energy usage etc, but there are no immediate changes forthcoming.
Further meetings are planned for 2017, with discussions on the ‘development of alternative systems’ – top of the agenda.