Air Conditioning As An Energy Guzzler: What Should You Know?
Left your air con running at low temperatures and for long hours? Find out the real reasons why you should watch out for your air conditioning consumption.
According to the International Energy Agency, the increasing prevalence of air conditioners across workplaces and homes worldwide will be one of the main drivers for global electricity demand over the next thirty years. In Singapore, the relevance of this prediction rings true: approximately 99% of the condominiums have air conditioners installed in them. In fact, across Southeast Asia, Singapore is said to be the country with the highest air conditioning installations per capita.
The demand continues to climb at a significant rate. Here in Singapore, with a fast-growing population, the late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew shared that the amount of energy needed to cool the nation is expected to rise by 73% between 2010 to 2030. As such, to fulfill the nation’s goal of cutting carbon intensity by 37% by 2030, read on to find out the true impact of air conditioners and how you help to keep them to a minimum.
Air conditioning greatly racks up the electricity bill
Cooling systems like air conditioners are one of the biggest consumers of electricity. In Singapore, the electricity usage and its resulting carbon emission from buildings and households take the second-highest place.
As a result, many households and commercial facilities in the country have continuously experienced a significant increase in their electricity bills. Take a 4-room apartment, for instance, the energy consumed by air conditioners may cost as much as $381.60 a year. These electricity bills are expected to run up as long as people continue to rely heavily on air conditioners for cooling needs.
Air conditioning leaves a huge carbon footprint
Aside from rising electricity costs, the growing use of air conditioners in Singapore also has several environmental implications. Amounting up to 19% of the nation’s emissions, a significant portion of this carbon emission is observed to be generated from air conditioners. As a country located in a region already vulnerable to poor air quality and extreme weather, this only puts the nation on the brink of an environmental crisis.
A standard two-kilowatt air conditioning unit, for example, can produce about 1.4 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, assuming that it is turned on twenty days per month and eight hours per day. Does this calculation sound familiar? Yes, that’s about the number of days and hours you spend working in a month – whether in the office or at home. With four of such air conditioning units in the space, the annual carbon emissions can rise to approximately 5.6 tonnes.
But the above statistics are for households or smaller office spaces. When talking about the commercial buildings in Singapore, cooling systems drain up to 50% of the building’s energy and adds to the urban heat island effect. By 2030, despite the pandemic, the country’s cooling systems are expected to climb and produce up to 4.89 megatonnes of carbon emissions!
Air conditioning creates too comfortable of an environment
From a behavioural standpoint, the heavy use of air conditioning units across households and commercial facilities can create a problem of extreme overreliance. True enough, air conditioning has enabled the whole nation to thrive and increase its productivity. However, this has also led many Singaporeans to develop excessive cooling habits.
A 2017 survey by Eco-Business proved the prevalence of excessive cooling at public places in Singapore, including shopping malls and offices. Even during periods of heavy rainfall or as some label as the ‘monsoon season’, the temperature in these establishments remains unchanged. The biggest implication of this cooling ‘addiction’ is that it could hinder the country’s efforts to manage its energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Green efforts to reduce these impacts
Fortunately, measures are underway to reduce the above impacts, namely more efficient technologies and passive buildings designs. An example of efficient technologies would be the chilled water system at Singapore’s Funan shopping mall. With a non-polluting refrigerant, Funan cuts down on carbon emissions as much as the amount released by 15,000 cars. On the other hand, passive building designs involve cooling a building without the use of air conditioners. For instance, the Singapore Management University (SMU) has adopted the self-shading building form for their Tahir Foundation Connexion.
To promote utilising green efforts as a culture, the government has also stepped up. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has enforced that all buildings must undergo periodic energy audits to ensure that their cooling systems are operating efficiently. There will also be a new training and certification scheme to equip technicians with the proper ways to install, maintain and decommission household air-conditioners; ensuring minimal hydrocarbon leakage into the atmosphere.
While air conditioners allow for greater productivity and comfort in such a humid country as Singapore, the constant reliance creates financial, environmental and behavioural concerns. To counter this, one effective solution that homeowners and businesspersons can do is to engage an energy management company in Singapore. With experts who can advise and propose efforts to reduce energy consumption, you will be more equipped to tackle issues of rising costs and carbon emissions.