Our world is changing in ways we could never have imagined just a few months ago. Our fast-track shift into a ‘new normal’ has many implications for the old framework for sustainability, and it is already evident in the world of air conditioning.
Kelly Butler, Group Marketing Director of Aspen Pumps Group, explores how behaviours have altered as a result of the pandemic.
The definition of sustainability hasn’t changed since I first became involved in energy efficiency over 20 years ago. ‘Meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ has long been a very neat and tidy reference point for all things sustainable.
However, whilst the definition hasn’t changed, our day to day lifestyle has. Recent experience may indeed call for us to reframe that definition as we seek to resolve how to sustain our working lives, standards of living, mobility, and many other things we just took for granted.
The Covid-19 outbreak has resulted in 2020 becoming a life changing year, marking a notable shift in consumer and occupational behaviour. Let’s have a look at just a few of these and how they impact our potential interaction with cooling, or buildings generally.
Naturally the most obvious shift in behaviour for many people around the world in 2020 has been where we work from. Our key workers have tended to remain in formal working conditions, such as hospitals or care homes, but for the rest of us we have entered the age of home working and digital networking. From a sustainability standpoint, this is a huge shift as we reduce our dependence on travel; not only commuting but also air travel for business.
What does this have to do with cooling? Simply the fact that increasing numbers of UK households are turning to some form of air conditioning, be it portable or fixed systems. Successive hot summers had begun to shift perceptions, and cooling is not a discretionary item anymore.
Both British Gas and Boxt have made announcements this year about their intention to invest more in cooling, and we also know from our installer colleagues that there was a lot of interest in residential air conditioning during the Spring heat wave. More time at home, a very warm Spring and working in small home offices: all of these factors have contributed to consumer decision making. But we have a different relationship with our home environment over the workplace; we care about aesthetics, peaceful environments and home comforts.
This fits precisely where Aspen has seen the market moving for some time anyway, and our Silent + mini condensate removal pump range has been engineered specifically to ensure minimum noise in quiet domestic areas. Our Mini Orange and Mini Aqua pumps are particularly suited to bedroom environments, both being suitable for mounting in the ceiling void. Being installed outside of the room provides the obvious bonus of eliminating the need for trunking. Aesthetics and quiet operation are vital proof points for customers now investing in cooling solutions and the innovation agenda always remains focused on evolving application.
Regular Maintenance For Energy Efficiency and Infection Control
The Carbon Trust promotes regular cleaning and maintenance of cooling systems as a necessity to sustain energy efficiency. AC technology is becoming progressively energy efficient, but it is equally important to maintain that optimum performance. In fact, effective cleaning of an older system can save more money than installing a new unit.
Research shows dirt can increase an AC system’s energy usage by up to 30%, so for an AC system to work at its peak efficiency and performance it needs to be clean. Dirt deposits form an insulating barrier on coils, restricting heat transfer capability and making the unit work even harder than usual reducing the lifetime of the unit.
In 2020 we have seen a new and equally important driver for regular cleaning and maintenance as Covid-19 has raised our awareness of the importance of infection control. Aspen’s chemical experts at its Advanced facility in Basingstoke have been working hard to handle customer enquiries and meet new demands as the marketplace prepares itself for closer attention to disinfectant cleaning.
Typically, in flash point situations we see many erroneous claims to offer a solution. This year has been no different with many companies claiming their products can combat Covid-19. The reality is that whilst many disinfectant products are effective against bacteria, the only true test for tackling Covid-19 at the point of application (i.e. treatment of the unit itself) is to have a product tested against the most stringent standard – BS/EN 14476.
This is a full-spectrum viricidal efficacy standard for one-step cleaners and disinfectants. Advanced’s biocidal products are tested and benchmarked against the standard and the results proved that its biocidal formulations have a 99.99% kill rate against all bacteria, fungi and, most importantly, the full viral spectrum including all coronaviruses.
In practice this means that Advanced now offers independently certified biocidal products that are effective against all enveloped viruses including all coronavirus as stipulated in BS/EN 14476:2013+A2:201. Always check the right tests are in place to back up your customer claims.
How We Shop – As Customers and Building Services Contractors
Sticking to the theme of chemicals and how new practices are affecting demands, 2020 has also marked the launch of the Advanced Gels range. Small half-litre pouches of chemical cleaners making up to eight litres of finished product, one of the key drivers for the Gels’ introduction was to enable easy next day shipping – something that has long been a problem for chemical wholesalers.
One of the consequences of recent distancing rules has been the rise in online ordering and click and collect services, not just in retail but also in the building services supply chain through wholesalers. This phenomenon presents all sorts of challenges for equipment manufacturers but with the Gels, we now have a product that absolutely fits the new model for ‘just in time’ courier distribution. Coupled with the added sustainability benefits of reduced packaging (Gels use 84% less packaging than conventional alternatives) and lower transportation energy use (70% less) owing to smaller and lighter quantities, the new Advanced Gels range has been the real sustainability hit for Aspen this year. They also cost 10-20% less to ship.
These are just a few examples of how the world is changing, affecting the claims we all make, product specification, our investment in innovation and our focus on supporting engineers in the field. Using the right products for the right job has never been more important in this changing world.