Living in the city with AC isn’t easy – but it can be

Living in the city with AC isn’t easy – but it can be

After the long, hard, cold hours of winter, Canadians relish the days when summer officially arrives. We tend to love everything about the season; accessing parks, convening with friends for summer libation and soaking up the heat almost of us desperately crave. What we don’t love so much is the humid, sweltering heat and urban centres feel most intensely.

Cities are prone to experience higher summer temperatures because of the urban heat island effect. It’s caused by additional heat released from furnaces, building exhaust, and vehicles. In addition, cities have less canopy cover for shade. In fact, large cities like Toronto or Montreal can be 12 °C warmer than rural areas at night, leaving less room for nighttime cooling. So, for most city dwellers and urban properties, air conditioning (AC) is one of the only solutions for immediate, comfortable, heat quenching relief.

While AC might be the only summer solution for urban buildings, it is, unfortunately, one of the biggest energy-suckers out there. A 2019 air conditioning study found 69% of survey respondents suspect air conditioning to be the largest contributor to electricity bills in the summer. Some sources say air conditioning units will cost an urban Canadian household on average $180+ a month. On hot summer days, units could run up to 6 – 12 hours. So it’s no surprise that 45% of respondents said energy efficiency was their number concern if they had to buy a new unit.

Managing and regulating AC energy use can be challenging, especially if you don’t have direct control over the central system or access to your unit.

There are easy checklist items to minimize how much you use your AC this summer. Simple things like using ceiling or box fans in occupied rooms, opening windows and balcony doors for airflow and closing curtains over windows to reduce the heat coming into your home.

Unfortunately, these cooling tactics might not work as well in multi-residential buildings as they would in a single-family home. High-rise buildings are made of heat-absorbing glass and often only have small window openings which limit the amount of air that can be let in to cool the space. As a result, AC might be the only option to cool these enclosed and small living spaces.

If you are concerned about how much AC your building consumes in the summer, go to your condo board and ask or even suggest AC alternative solutions like allocated run times per floor, running AC units in sequential order and rotate rest periods, encourage the opening of windows or encourage building maintenance to increase positive building pressure for increased airflow.

If your property manager is keen on reducing AC energy costs this summer, suggest the installation or upgrade to a smart energy management system with HVAC optimization features that can reduce hydro costs associated with your AC up to 50%.

Being aware of how much energy AC uses in summer months is important for more efficient building management, indoor tenant comfort and regulating summer energy costs throughout. But more importantly, it’s important to stay calm, cool and collected when the sweltering summer heat and the hydro bill comes in too.

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