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.
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.
“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.”
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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.
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.
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.”
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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.”