By Dong Wong Lee
Air conditioning systems (ACs) are an increasingly common feature in modern home, work and social spaces. Apart from making indoor environments more comfortable, by cooling rooms and reducing humidity, ACs also help clean the air we breathe and get rid of pollutants that could be detrimental to human health. But use of ACs has raised environmental concerns due to high energy consumption and use of greenhouse gases as a cooling agent, leading to global warming.
In addition, demand for ACs is on the rise and is said to be driven by rising temperatures, rapid urbanization and an expanding consumer middle class. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the use of air conditioning equipment and electric fans to cool rooms accounts for 20 per cent of all the electricity used in buildings globally. IEA projects the number of ACs in the world to triple to 5.6 billion units by 2050 from 1.6 billion currently.
Given air conditioners account for a sizeable portion of electricity bills, manufacturers are coming up with innovative, energy-efficient ACs solutions designed to consume less energy but deliver better performance. Some even come with smart controls using new technologies like Artificial Intelligence to regulate power consumption and achieve optimal efficiency.
The application of dual inverter compressors also allows for air conditioners to adjust performance to changes in room temperature thus consuming less energy. However, it is not enough to manage power bills. We also have to address the question of climate-change impacts of ACs to ensure our homes and other premises contribute less to global heating. In other words, we have to resolve what has been referred to as the “air conditioner conundrum” whereby ACs meant to cool buildings indirectly heat up the atmosphere thus worsening the global heat crisis.
Climate-friendly or sustainable ACs and refrigeration equipment not only reduce our carbon footprint but also address the wider climate-change concerns around global warming by aiming for net-zero emissions. This also entails reducing carbon emissions when cooling appliances (ACs and refrigerators) are being used.
One effective method of doing so, and which has been adopted by manufacturers like LG Electronics, is the use of alternate substances to eliminate use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are known to deplete the ozone layer, a major culprit in climate change.
Such cutting-edge technologies were on display at the recent Mega Clima Expo 2023 in Nairobi. LG was one of the participating companies at the expo, showcasing AC and refrigeration solutions that help consumers achieve energy efficiency, minimize their carbon footprint and enhance their overall living experience – triple benefits aligned with our sustainability goals around People, Products and Planet.
Under our Better Life Plan, LG targets to reduce carbon emissions from its major products by 20 per cent compared to 2020 by 2030. This applies to ACs and the general Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) category. We are also collaborating with stakeholders in the real estate sector to provide innovative Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) solutions that address environmental challenges.
Even as we tackle climate change, there is a growing need for ACs that provide fresh and healthy air for different environments. Using advanced air purification systems, indoor cooling systems can make our living spaces healthier by reducing the incidence of respiratory illnesses caused by the presence of bacteria and other particulate matter.
As a consumer you have a role to play in climate change mitigation by choosing energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly cooling systems. Only this way can we achieve the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius so that future generations can enjoy a better life.
Mr. Lee is LG Electronics East Africa Managing Director