As the UK experiences more extreme heat, demand for air conditioning increases in places where it doesn’t exist

Sweat trickled down Rob Bushprnr’s face as he struggled in the morning sun to bend copper pipes in the backyard in North London, which was about to be fitted with a brand new air conditioner.

Less than 5% of homes in the UK have air conditioning, according to government and market research firm estimates. But as temperatures rose during the country’s second most severe heatwave of the summer, so did demand for cooling devices, Bushprnr said.

“People keep calling,” he said.

Bushprnr has been installing AC units in London for eight years but says over the past three years demand has increased dramatically. He went from installing one unit a day to many to three or four.

Rob Bushprnr has been installing air conditioning units in London for eight years. Over the past three years, demand has increased dramatically, he said. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

Bushprnr moved from Albania to England 10 years ago. He said he has never felt it as warm as in recent years.

“The weather is changing,” he said. “We feel like we’re not in the UK, we’re in Europe.”

On Thursday, a four-day severe heat warning was in effect for southern and central England and parts of Wales. In July, a heatwave broke the UK’s record as temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius for the first time in history.

Drought in parts of England

The heat combined with very little rainfall has also strained water supplies and prompted officials to declare drought conditions in many parts of England. Millions of people could face some form of water allocation or ban, and some stores have stopped selling disposable baked goods because the arid conditions make them too much of a fire hazard.

Rising temperatures have punished green spaces like football fields and parks, but it’s good for the air conditioning business.

Electrician Amanza Mattison has only been working in the air conditioning business for a few months, but said demand was so high that he had to work a lot of overtime. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

“For the past month, I’ve been working overtime like crazy,” said Amanza Mattison, an electrician who works on Bushprnr’s team. “Definitely the market is getting bigger as we speak.”

The market may be growing, but it is still relatively small.

Tadj Oreszczyn, professor of Energy and Environment at University College London, said: “Ideally many people would cope without air conditioning. “Air conditioning costs you money and it’s bad for the environment in the long run.”

PICTURE | England often rains, endures the second heat wave:

The UK’s infrastructure and energy needs for heating are much higher than cooling needs and Oreszczyn said the projections will remain so for the next two decades unless there is a limit to The climate is unpredictable.

“That’s not the case for the rest of the world,” he said. “The rest of the world on average currently dominates in cooling. That has changed in the last 20 or 30 years.”

Buildings are not designed for cooling

For centuries building operations in the UK have focused on keeping heat in the home, not keeping it, and for good reason, he says.

“We have 70 times more people die from cold than from heat. But the consequence of this is that we haven’t really designed our buildings to deal with overheating,” said Oreszczyn. speak.

Tadj Oreszczyn, professor of Energy and Environment at University College London, says cost is a major barrier for many people who may want air conditioning. (JF Bisson / CBC)

For the first time this year, the government introduced regulations for buildings so that they are built to not overheat in warmer weather.

“The majority of our buildings didn’t look at that. Some of our buildings were, I’m afraid, completely disastrous in that respect.” he say.

Oreszczyn does not expect most UK homes to install cooling systems until the majority of homes switch to heat pumps or other low-carbon technology. The country is aiming to move away from fossil fuel power and reach the net zero target by 2050.

Cara Sutcliffe said her landlord paid to install an air conditioning unit in her apartment. She said people in the UK were unprepared for how hot it could be. (JF Bisson / CBC)

More financial and ecological burden

While he said air conditioning is a good option for vulnerable people who have no choice, he only thinks about others who will continue without it now because of the related costs.

Energy bills are currently affecting the country’s growing cost of living and by some measures are expected to hit £4,200 (Cdn 6,500) a year by 2023. More homes install air conditioning right now, which will be a financial and ecological addition. burden.

“Obviously it can put a strain on the electrical system,” he said. “And we really have to start reducing our carbon footprint now if we’re going to stop the weather from getting hotter and hotter.”

VIEW | The UK is grappling with how to adjust to this summer’s extreme heat:

Demand for air conditioners soars in the UK amid summer heatwaves

Without resorting to high temperatures, the UK is grappling with how to adjust to the extreme heat of this summer. As temperatures rise, so does the demand for air conditioning in UK homes.

As the crew drilled holes for the air ducts in the walls of Cara Sutcliffe’s Finsbury Park apartment, she said she was relieved that the unit was up and running, especially after the heatwave in July.

“Physically, it’s pretty exhausting,” she said. “Living in the UK, we didn’t know how hot it could get and we weren’t prepared for it.”

Sutcliffe homeowners are reducing these installation costs and energy bills. She feels lucky and knows the air conditioning and cool air it promises are out of reach for many.

“It’s expensive. Unfortunately, with the ever-increasing cost of living, that’s hard.” she speaks. “We need to rethink the way we do things.”

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