Cooling meets COVID-19 – The in-and-outs of staying cool during work-from-home
The benefits of operating an energy-efficient air conditioner are multifold as it not only reduces the electricity bills for consumers but also allows the government to save billions of rands
The COVID-19 pandemic has pervaded many aspects of human life beyond the obvious health risks associated with becoming infected. Much of the world is staying at home to help prevent the spread of the virus and home has become our place of work, study, and refuge.
Adjusting to this “new normal” has become even more challenging because of the intense heat that is now in full swing across the country, making our home environments difficult to tolerate. To prevail, many are thinking about buying their first air conditioner (AC) or how they can afford to operate one to emulate the office and school environment they previously enjoyed, and not just limit AC use to what is typically a few hours in the evening.
As the pandemic brings this shift to South Africa’s landscape during this time, we give some context to the current situation and discuss two simple actions on how you can afford to stay cool.
How will the pandemic affect SA’s cooling demand?
On a typical day, people would cool themselves through multiple avenues: centrally conditioned office buildings, cooling centers, or shopping malls to get respite from the heat. But in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, practicing social distancing and staying at home for work and study is the “new normal.” Thus, to stay comfortable indoors, many people will turn to buy a new AC for the home and those that already have one will run it for many more hours in the day, resulting in an unplanned financial burden to households and a jump in residential energy demand.
Typically, AC purchasing decisions are made on the basis of the sticker price. AC’s with a low sticker price are also the most inefficient, resulting in higher electricity bills. Under this new normal, when we are spending all of our time at home, costs will be significantly amplified due to longer operating hours.
How to make operating your AC more affordable?
Here are two simple actions you can (and must) take to stay cool without burning a hole in your pockets.
The first action applies to operation of an AC, whether it’s an existing unit or a new appliance.
1. Set the AC temperature setting to between 24°C–27°C
To achieve a thermally comfortable environment within a room, maintaining temperature and humidity within an acceptable range is key. While the AC’s sold on the market today are very effective at reducing the temperature, humidity removal is generally achieved by lowering the temperature set point to as low as 20°C–21°C. This results in uncomfortably lower temperatures that further adds to the energy and cost burden on consumers.
Typically, surrounding temperatures in the range of 24°C–27°C are adequate to ensure thermal comfort for a human body. A study conducted by TERI showed that for every degree increase in the setpoint, your AC consumes 3 to 4 percent less power.
Under the new normal, RMI’s analysis suggests that the 93 percent projected increase in monthly electricity bills can be cut in half to 45 percent through this simple act of operating the AC at 27°C, delivering savings. Also, if your AC has a dry-mode functionality, you should use it to control humidity in your home and avoid overcooling the air by lowering the temperature setpoint. This will reduce your electricity bills even further.
Next time you are turning on your AC or are buying a new one for your home, keep in mind these actions and let go the worry of affording to operate it. Stay cool and stay safe.