India Heat: What Record AC Sales Reveal About Heat Wave

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Comment on the photo, India is the world’s fastest growing market for air conditioners

Govind Ram, a scrap dealer who lives on the outskirts of the Indian capital, Delhi, bought an air conditioner in May after his children begged him.

A heat wave was sweeping the city and surrounding areas, and his school-going children complained of “suffocating” heat. Using his savings, Mr Ram bought an air conditioner for his children’s bedroom. The relief, he says, came at a cost: Last month, his electricity bill had risen to seven times the usual amount.

“I have endured the worst of summers under just one fan. But this year my children suffered so much that I had to buy our family’s first air conditioner,” said Mr. Ram.

Over the past five decades, India has faced more than 700 heat waves, but this summer’s scorching heat is among the worst, experts say. About 97% of Indian households have access to electricity, and 93% rely on fans for comfort, according to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. But this year, India’s air-conditioning market has seen an unprecedented boom.

“In my 45 years in the air conditioning industry I have never seen anything like this,” says P Thiagarajan, Managing Director, Blue Star, a leading refrigeration and air conditioning company. “The surge in demand has come as a complete surprise, with sales likely to more than double.” “This summer compared to last year.”

Comment on the photo, Nearly 1 billion people in 23 states face heat stress in India

Although only 8% of India’s 300 million households own air conditioners, some of which have multiple units, India is the fastest growing air conditioning market in the world. Of the 170 million units sold globally last year, China bought 90 million units, while India bought 12 million units.

The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based research organization, expects ownership of home air conditioners in the country to rise nine-fold by 2050, outpacing the growth in ownership of all other household appliances, including televisions, refrigerators and washing machines.

By then, India’s total electricity demand from residential air conditioners will exceed Africa’s current total electricity consumption, reflecting ongoing trends in the evolution of the energy system, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The increased demand reflects, at the same time, rising aspirations, disposable income and severe weather,” Thiagarajan said.

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Comment on the photo, High-rise apartments in India are often poorly ventilated.

It is worth noting that 95% of air conditioner buyers in India are first-time aspiring middle-class buyers; More than 65% come from smaller cities and towns; More than half of them buy through interest-free consumer loans. The average buyer is now in their 30s. Most sales come from the hotter northern region – since mid-May, for example, daily temperatures in Delhi have remained consistently around or above 40°C (104°F).

Experts say India’s cities have become “heat traps” due to uneven development. According to CEEW, nearly a billion people in 23 states are exposed to heat stress. Green spaces are scarce. Rapid growth is swallowing up water bodies that help cool the environment. Increased greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, factories and construction are further increasing temperatures. India’s skyscraper boom has created mostly poorly ventilated glass and chrome apartments and office buildings that absorb and reflect heat. All this is making cities hotter and less comfortable to live in.

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But this is only one part of the story. To measure people’s ability to cope with rising temperatures, a recent national study was conducted reconnaissance In a study conducted by Artha Global Rapid Insights (CRI), a research center, the following question was asked: “In the afternoon, when it is hot outside, is the interior of your home comfortable?”

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Comment on the photo, A man uses a cooler at his bike repair shop in Delhi in summer.

About 32% of respondents reported that their homes were hot and uncomfortable, highlighting India’s struggle with extreme temperatures. Of those who can cool their homes, 42% rely on energy-intensive air conditioners or chillers, suggesting that heat management often requires costly solutions.

Only one in eight four-wheeler owners found their home uncomfortable in extreme temperatures, compared to nearly half of non-vehicle owners. Conversely, around 40% of two-wheeler and four-wheeler owners rely on air conditioning or coolers to provide home comfort, while only 16% of non-vehicle owners use such cooling solutions.

The data highlights how poor people are coping with extreme heat even indoors, without direct exposure to sunlight, said Nilanjan Sircar, director of the Climate Research Institute. In other words, “the gap between rich households, who already have air conditioning, and poor households, who cannot afford it, is widening,” according to a study on air conditioning and global inequality by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Mannheim in Germany.

India needs to restore aquatic habitats—lakes, reservoirs, ponds, wetlands, canals. It also needs to build cool houses, use cool roofs—white-painted roofs that lower indoor temperatures—and supply buildings with chilled water through pipelines, and install more energy-efficient air conditioners.

Comment on the photo, India needs to regenerate aquatic habitats – lakes, tanks, ponds, wetlands and canals

Last year, 63 countries, including the United States, Canada and Kenya, signed the UNFCCC. First ever pledge India has made significant efforts to reduce refrigerant emissions. But India has not. However, India has made progress, says Shalu Agrawal of the Centre for Energy and Environment in Central and Eastern Europe. As one of the first countries to implement a refrigerant emission reduction system, India has been one of the first countries to implement a refrigerant emission reduction system. Refrigeration business planIndia has been pursuing policies for nearly two decades to improve the energy efficiency of air conditioners. More efficient inverter air conditioners now dominate the market, and companies specify a default temperature of 24°C for energy efficiency. Energy ratings for fans are also mandatory.

But the evidence on the ground is mixed. A recent survey conducted by community social media platform LocalCircles found that 43% of air conditioner users in Delhi and its suburbs say their units cannot cool to the 23-24 degree Celsius range. Temperatures in the capital often exceeded 45 degrees Celsius this summer.

No one doubts that air conditioning is a necessity. But the widespread use of air conditioners also raises outdoor temperatures by expelling indoor heat. And the refrigerant chemicals contained in air conditioners pose environmental risks.

Extreme weather events such as heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense with climate change. India needs to do more to protect its people from the heat. More than 140 people have died in the extreme heat in India this summer, according to officials. The real number may be much higher.

As India faces a severe heatwave, the surge in air conditioner sales highlights a stark reality: that the urgent need for equitable access to cooling solutions remains unmet.

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