Despite the rain the UK experienced in July and August, last summer (2023) was the hottest ever recorded on the planet. We saw extreme weather across the world. Here in the UK all four home nations reported their warmest June on record. Keeping cool and comfortable in the summer months can be just as important to our health and well-being as keeping warm in winter. In this blog we are going to investigate solutions to help keep homes cool in the summer and explain how energy utilities can advise their customers on solutions to help cool their homes down when temperatures soar.

“Climate change is causing hotter summers for us all, and we must learn to adapt better. The number of heat-related deaths is already too high, and the trend seems to be upwards. We need to break the cycle of using energy-intensive cooling solutions – like air-conditioning – to manage the higher temperatures we are experiencing. There may well be better and more sustainable alternatives, and our Committee will seek to explore these further.” Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, Environmental Audit Committee Chairman

What are the current cooling solutions?

Air conditioning

Having air conditioning in the home is more common in regions and countries with consistently hot summers. While it is a common feature in many homes abroad, its adoption in the UK is less widespread. The cost of purchasing and installing air conditioning systems, combined with infrequent hot weather doesn’t really stack up for most UK homeowners. 

Air conditioning is also very energy intensive, which poses challenges, particularly in the UK where the electricity grid relies heavily on fossil fuels. This reliance contributes to increased carbon emissions, making air conditioning a big contributor to environmental concerns. Predictions from the Intergovernmental Energy Agency suggest that between now and 2050, cooling technologies, including AC units, will substantially drive up energy demands, exacerbating the reliance on fossil fuels.  

The other drawback with most AC models is that they utilise refrigerants that contribute to planetary warming. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the predominant refrigerants in ACs are potent greenhouse gases, possessing a heat trapping efficiency thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. Some air conditioners do use the more environmentally friendly refrigerants such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), yet even these alternatives can can have ecological implications. Other alternatives include ammonia and propane, but both of these can be harmful to humans when they leak.

Heat pumps

The majority of homes in the UK are equipped with a central heating system that operates by circulating water to heat the home. The water is typically heated by a boiler and distributed through pipes and radiators. However, the UK’s plan to decarbonise home heating is to replace these boilers with heat pumps, while keeping the central heating system intact.

There are three main types of heat pumps connected by ducts: air-to-air, water source, and geothermal. They collect heat from the air, water, or the ground outside your home respectively, and concentrate it for use inside. 

Some models of heat pump can both heat and cool your home. When heat is needed, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into the house. During the summer months, heat pumps move heat from your house into the outdoors. Because they transfer heat rather than generate heat, these types of heat pumps can efficiently provide comfortable temperatures for your home. What’s more, depending on the model you choose, heat pumps can dehumidify more effectively than conventional AC on hot, humid days. In a world where heat waves happen more often, joint heating and cooling could be a very attractive proposition.

The higher the SEER rating of your heat pump model, the better they’re expected to perform at home cooling. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is calculated by dividing the total cooling output of the season (BTUs/hour) by the total energy consumption during that time (Watts/hour). The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient a heat pump cooling system is.

For more information on heat pumps, why not visit our sister company’s website. Plug Me In specialises in air source heat pump installation, as well as EV charging. 

Alternative cooling options

Of course there are other methods for keeping our homes cooler during the hot months. These include:

Shade: You could plant trees or install shading devices such as awning to block direct sunlight.

Natural ventilation: Use cross-ventilation by opening windows on opposite sides of the house to allow air to flow through.

Insulation: If you hoe is properly insulated it will keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans can make you feel cooler by creating airflow.

Reducing heat generation: You can also limit or avoid using heat generating appliances such as ovens, stoves, tumble dryers etc. during the very hot weather.

What can energy suppliers do to help customers?

Energy suppliers are uniquely positioned to help keep their customers cool and comfortable in the summer months, whilst at the same time pushing the sustainable agenda and helping the UK reach its net zero target. With a specialist customer engagement platform and solution likes ours, we can help target customers with tailored advice and information appropriate to their household and circumstances. 

By using data and data science, we can understand customer behaviour and preferences and then deliver personalised communications based on behavioural science techniques that really resonate with customers. This tailored approach not only raises awareness of challenges, but also educates and informs customers and motivates them to take meaningful actions that are relevant to them, such as installing a heat pump, to reduce their environmental footprint, save on their bills and, keep cool in the summer months. 

Of course the appropriate solution will vary depending on the household and specific home characteristics. The appropriate solution may involve combining several methods to help reduce energy consumption, environmental impact and pressure on the grid, whilst keeping the home cool. Why not give your customers a very much welcome helping hand and educate them and advise them on their options?

We’d love to help. So why not get in touch today and find out how our customer engagement solutions are already helping energy and water suppliers keep their customers happy.