Welcome to Chandigarh, the AC city

As a scorching heat wave sweeps across the area, City Beautiful’s air conditioners are working fully. And why not, Chandigarh has the highest availability of air conditioners per capita in the country. According to the 2021 Fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 77.9 percent of city households have air conditioners in their homes. It is followed by Delhi (74.3%), Punjab (70.2%), and Haryana (61.8%).

According to NFHS data, Meghalaya households have the lowest concentration of A/Cs having only 0.7 household items. This is also true in most other northeastern states due to the healthy climate.

Experts attribute the excessive use of air conditioners in northern India to the high day and night temperatures. Last week, Mercury reached 49 degrees Celsius near the city of Gurugram. Chandigarh also experiences yearly high temperatures in the months of May, June and July. This year, the city is experiencing its warmest May in decades.

Another reason for the constant addition of air conditioners to homes—many of its schools have air-conditioned classrooms—is the relatively low consumption of electricity as modern air conditioners have become more energy efficient. Harmandeep, an AC dealer, says the energy consumption of a five-star air conditioner is comparable to that of refrigerant. “But the lack of certain features like the inverter built into the split air conditioner can make it use a lot of energy,” he warns.

However, the excessive use of air conditioners is a cause for concern because the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) emitted from them produce pollutants that cause ozone holes. Environmental scientist Pavila Bali is concerned about the future of Utah’s environment. “It’s time to create air-conditioning or eco-friendly alternatives to combat the heat wave.”

Ohers are concerned about escalating electricity bills. Sudesh Sood, a retired civil servant, who blames the high concentration of air conditioners on Chandigarian’s higher disposable income and buy-now-pay-later mentality, says it’s important to take more environmentally friendly measures like a chuna coat on rooftops to bring the heat down a few degrees. “Surround yourself with potted plants and you will notice the difference.”

The architects advocate following Corbusier’s principle of allowing air to flow to keep heat in place.

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