Imagine it’s mid July in Hong Kong and you’ve just gotten home after a commute that involves a ten minute walk (uphill) from the packed train you just disembarked. You were reasonably cool in the confines of your office but now that you’ve stepped outdoors and walked a bit, you’re uncomfortably drenched in sweat.

Thankfully the discomfort is easily remedied by pressing the “Power” button on the remote control of one of your most beloved appliances: the air conditioner. In minutes, you feel waves of chilled air sweep over the room. You stop sweating, feel less irritable, and internally thank whoever created the wondrous cold air machine.

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In Asia, where up to 40% of a household’s annual electricity bill is attributed to AC usage, air conditioners are important household appliances. The hot and humid summer weather in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan can often feel inescapable, even at home where we find it most important to shield ourselves from the elements. Unsurprisingly, for many, our air conditioner is usually the appliance that provides that escape.

 

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High household AC penetration rates in Asian countries attest to the importance of this appliance. For example, 97% of homes in Hong Kong have at least one AC unit, while in Japan, ACs can be found in 91% of homes. Much like the ubiquity of the car in the suburbs of America, the AC is a standard appliance for many households in Asia.

However unlike the technological advances behind some of today’s most efficient automobiles, home appliances like the air conditioner remain largely outdated and untransformed by the technology around us. The ubiquitous AC unit that so many residents in Asia rely on consumes copious amounts of electricity and uses coolants that produce planet-warming emissions. More interestingly, the outdated design and usability of the home AC unit has led wasteful habits that affect air pollution and even our perception of what makes an environment “comfortable” — as urban dwellers, many Hong Kongers have acclimatized to enjoy excessive cooling, even in air-conditioned spaces.

 

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It’s true: we in the South East Asia region love our ACs for good reason — studies have shown that health and productivity rise significantly if indoor temperature is cooled during hot weather. But considering the fact that in less than 40 years, 27 percent of all global warming will be attributable to the gases emitted by our beloved cold air machines, we ought to start thinking about how to keep cool without paying a hefty environmental cost.

Through our research in developing Ambi Climate over the past two years, we have found that both consumers and retailers in Asia lack a general understanding of just how impactful our current air conditioning habits can be on the environment, our energy costs and even our health.

This series of posts aims to address how we can use our ACs more responsibly without compromising our comfort indoors. We’ll cover topics such how to better understand modes on your AC remote, commonly held misconceptions about how ACs work, how to conserve energy using your AC, the affect AC units have on air pollution in Asia and why our ACs are not delivering the comfort they should. It is our hope that these posts will educate our readers on their own AC usage so that they can find ways to optimise their indoor comfort and in the long run, have a deeper impact on the environment.

What do you want to learn about AC usage in Asia? Do you have questions about how your AC works? Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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