Sales of home air conditioners soared last week as the UK sweltered under a heatwave that saw temperatures exceed 34C for more than six days in a row.
Thousands of people cracked under the high temperatures and ordered portable air conditioning units to keep their homes cool, data reveals.
Google search data reveals interest in air conditioners jumped to a five-year high last week, almost double levels in the previous week. Interest was highest in London and the South East, which also saw the highest temperatures and warmest nights during the heatwave.
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Online retailer Air Con Centre said last week was the busiest of the year, with sales double that of the previous week. Commercial director Ryan Kandola told i the sales growth was driven almost entirely by demand for portable air conditioners for home use, as people struggled to cope with the week’s tropical nights and very warm days spent in home offices.
Longer, hotter summers
He said the UK’s changing weather patterns is extending the traditional busy season for air conditioner sales. “Summer for us was a two-week period, normally in July, where we would get very, very busy and pretty much, that used to be the summer,” he said. “More recently, the season has started to kick in earlier. It’s becoming warmer, at least one of the months in April, May or June would be warmer and you would have a mini spike in sales.”
This year’s warm spell during early summer drove unprecedented growth in sales, he said, with June sales up a record 50 per cent on previous years.
Scientists agree climate change will shift Britain’s weather towards longer, hotter summers and warmer, wetter winters. Episodes of “extreme” heat are likely to become more common, and by 2070 summer temperatures could be on average 5C hotter than today.
Mr Kandola said air conditioning was already becoming common for homes in the hottest parts of the country. “It’s certainly becoming much more important for someone to have an air conditioning unit in their home now,” he said.
But there are fears a surge in air conditioning use will only exacerbate the climate problem. The International Energy Agency predicts the growing use of air conditioners in homes and offices will be one of the top drivers of global electricity demand over the next three decades. Unless the extra electricity demand is met by renewable power, cooling technologies could push emissions up.
The Committee on Climate Change has called for urgent action to retrofit homes and buildings across the country to prepare for higher summer temperatures. Natural cooling methods, such as shade from trees and effective ventilation, should be prioritised, it says.