The UK’s Addiction to Gadgets are Causing our Energy Bills and Emissions to Rise Consumers in the UK need to be weaned off their addiction to TVs, PCs, laptops and fridges if emission targets are to be met, say the Energy Saving Trust. We may already be conscious about turning off the lights in unused rooms, switching off appliances at the plug socket and having quick showers, but according to a report on UK home energy use, our obsession with gadgets means energy bills and emissions are still rising. The Energy Saving trust, an independent organisation that advises on saving energy and lowering carbon emissions, say that the UK’s target to cut domestic electricity emissions by 34% by 2020 will not be achieved if we carry on with our love for gadgets and appliances such as cheap air conditioning units, tumble dryers, smartphones and electric toothbrushes. Dr Paula Owen, the author of the report The Elephant and the Living Room, says “If we look over the last five years a lot has changed and a lot of progress has been made making the most energy-sapping appliances more efficient, “But where we still have a long way to go is with our gadgets and home entertainment appliances, which are using more and more electricity.” Owen says that our desire for having new gadgets like fuel guzzling extra large fridge freezers and the latest laptop or flatscreen TV is pushing up already costly bills at home and making carbon targets increasingly unachievable. She said, “What amazes me is that you wouldn’t buy a car without taking into consideration how fuel-efficient it was but people will buy electrical products without thinking about how much it is going to cost to run them”. Owen explains that, “As energy prices continue to rise they are eating up more of our money. People need to be more educated about what these gadgets cost.” According to the report, the number of domestic appliances and gadgets in the average UK household increased by three and a half times between 1990 and 2009 and the overall energy consumption from household electronic devices increased by over 600% between 1970 and 2009. However, Owen states that progress has been made as the traditionally known energy guzzling appliances are becoming more efficient, like fridges and lighting. The report suggests that more needs to be done to help consumers make the right choices so emission targets can be met. Owen says, “To achieve our targets for 2020 we are going to have to try harder… if we continue like this we are not going to make it.” Don’t be a Victim of Air Conditioner Theft One of the hottest crimes this summer is air conditioner theft. This has been happening not only across the USA, but there have been some cases in the UK as well. We’re not talking about the small cheap air conditioning units, we are talking about the ones in large offices or buildings that have huge central air conditioning units. Thieves have been stealing them or dismantling them, as their copper coils can fetch a bit of money. People have been suffering with the heat and damage all over the country. Examples of thefts across the USA include Illinois State University, where 56 air con units were stolen and a church in Houston that had been a cool refuge, had its nine huge air conditioning units gutted and stolen for its copper. The New York Times said that the damage amounted to $60,000 for what was worth about $400 worth of scrap metal. In Georgia, police stopped a van and discovered 6 air conditioning units inside, and arrested 3 people shortly after. But there are a few things companies and organisations can do to make their air conditioning units less of a target – summers not over just yet! Build a fence – A fence with a padlock could be installed around the air conditioning units to deter thieves (remember to leave enough space for maintenance and servicing!) Build a cage – Air conditioner cages could be anchored to the ground to stop thieves from stealing the cage and the air conditioning units inside. Get an alarm – A professional could install an alarm on the working parts of the unit so that it makes an alarm if taken apart. Install lights – Another idea would be to add security lighting to deter thieves as well as alert people who are around the building. Taking these precautions could not only help protect your air conditioning units from being stolen, but could also deter thieves from damaging your property or stealing anything else from your building. Getting the most out of your air conditioning unit It doesn’t happen very often for us in the UK, but when it does, we can definitely get hot under the collar from the summer heat. It’s nearly August and some of us have started to get uncomfortable at night. But don’t lose sleep because of the heat! For those of us who have air conditioning units to keep us cool at work and at home, sometimes we can be wary of turning the units on because of the costs of running them. However, here are some top tips for getting the most out of your air conditioning unit. Filters, filters, filters! You may have heard it all before, but keeping them clean is vital for peak efficiency, and can be ignored. Close the doors and windows to keep the cool air in and hot air out when using your air conditioner. It may be an obvious tip, but we’ve all seen it happen before, whether it’s at work or at the gym. At home, you could also block the vents in unused rooms, if you have central air. If you work in a shop or store, close your doors and don’t let the cool air fly out the window. Some countries have rules to fine store owners, who leave their doors open and air con running. Each degree lower increases cooling costs by 6%, so set the thermostats no lower than 78 degrees. To save money on cheap air conditioning units, turn off your appliances that you aren’t using and turn off your lights, set a timer to turn them on and off if necessary. Run appliances such as washing machines, ovens, dishwashers and dryers in the late night or early morning when it’s generally cooler. With the British summer, it’s a great excuse to cook outside with your barbecue – make the most out of the sunshine, if possible! Straining your Back with the Air Conditioning Unit For offices that don’t have permanent air conditioning in their building, most still have portable air conditioning units to keep their staff cool while at work. The portable air conditioning units can be a struggle to drag to the window and most people will wonder why they weigh so much. The answer to why they are so heavy is because of the copper that’s inside of them. The systems have three important components including a compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. They are all loaded with copper which is weighs an enormous 558 pounds for each cubic feet of metal – pretty heavy! You may wonder what the components actually do. The condenser helps ready the system’s refrigerant for the cooling process, the evaporator helps cool the air and the compressor helps move refrigerant back and forth between them. These copper components make up almost 60% of the weight of the air conditioning unit! Copper is the number 1 choice among air conditioning manufacturers as it’s abundant, a good conductor of heat and it’s relatively inexpensive which enables us to have access to cheap air conditioning units to help keep us cool in the heat. With air conditioning units being around for some time, we would have thought that lighter, smaller, powerful units would have been invented by now. However, engineers are more interested and focusing on making the units more environmentally friendly. A technique called ‘dew-point cooling’ is being experimented on at the moment. Rather than using fossil fuels, this technique relies on the natural energy produced by evaporating water. Greener units may become available in the future, but it’s not clear if they’ll be significantly lighter.