Have you ever got alarmed looking at your electricity bill? Most of us have – especially in the summer when the AC is kept running almost all the time. The thing is, there are ways to save on your electricity bill and it will not just benefit you, but the environment, at large.
A recent study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that the use of electric air conditioners and fans account for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world. 1.6 billion air conditioners were in use worldwide in 2018, half of them in the United States and China. These require more than 2,000 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, four times the annual electricity consumption in France. According to IEA, the number of units installed worldwide could reach 5 billion by 2050.
These dizzying figures lead us to look for solutions now, in a context where our environment is polluted and where we need to purify the air. The good news is that we have the know-how and technologies to promote energy efficiency. We know how to technically improve the quality of construction or renovation to avoid energy losses by working on the building envelope.
The bad news is that we do not do this systematically, because of business model issues. As long as we do not include negative externalities in the financial balance sheet of real estate operations, environmental and public health aspects in projects will always be perceived as an additional cost at the expense of economic profitability.
In addition, the owners of collective property, when managing the distribution of central air-conditioning, charge their tenants for energy consumption. In their business model, they have no direct interest in energy savings if they charge back. Sometimes, if they make a profit on it, they are more interested in having higher bills to increase their profit.
It is therefore necessary to find solutions to save on electricity bills in the face of rapidly growing demand to reduce energy consumption linked to the use of air conditioning in industries (cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food processing, etc.), services (data centers, offices, etc.) and with private individuals.
Among the technological innovations, one caught my attention because of its surprising history. It has its primary origin in the improvement of the quality of life and learning for students. It then draws its solution from biomimicry.
The Japanese professor, Ryuji Sakai San, who is concerned with improving the quality of his classroom to make the environment conducive to learning for his students, undertook to repaint the walls by integrating ceramics with special natural properties. Traditionally, the Japanese have used clay and ceramics as a source of life since ancient times. He found that not only did his students breathe better, were more attentive, less absent, and had better academic results, but also that the energy consumption of the reversible air-conditioning system had greatly decreased.
This was the starting point for ten years of research.
The result was the invention of a technology capable of reducing the electricity consumption of air conditioners by about 25%, inspired by the manufacture of honeycombs.
Indeed, bees, who are great architects, build their nests such as to optimize the space and the quantity of wax to be produced. Based on this, Professor Sakai invented a filter in the shape of a hexagonal honeycomb made from a natural ceramic that fits all air conditioners. This ceramic, when interacting with air humidity, among other things, will facilitate heat exchange and considerably reduce energy consumption while improving user comfort. Many companies use it in Japan.
However, the fact remains that whatever the technology that is used, it must be accompanied by a change in individual and collective behaviour.
It is not uncommon to see people sweating in over-air-conditioned offices or cooling the streets when they leave their shop doors wide open to the outside: an economic, social and environmental aberration. Actions can be taken quite easily to avoid this nonsense as they are behavioural. Also, they can be taken to create partnerships, particularly for the collective management of utilities.
Indeed, tenant companies should unite to ask landlords to take more energy-saving measures. For example, better temperature management and avoidance of cold losses. While a single retailer has little impact, a group of retailers can make a difference.
Sensible partnerships can have a positive impact and can result in cost reduction for the business and integration into a sustainable development strategy.
Read more on sustainable development.
Solutions exist, as well as good practices, which partnerships can multiply.
At Ergapolis, we care about a healthy planet and a sustainable future. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding energy consumption and how it affects the environment or how to save on your electricity bill, do get in touch.
You can also visit our website to learn more about what we do.