Personal air conditioners may be less wasteful

by Katharine Schwab, Fast Company

July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded. And in all likelihood, summertime temperatures are going to keep going up—and so will energy bills, if we continue to rely on traditional air conditioning to keep our bodies cool. The sheer number of A/C units is already a threat to the climate because of the amount of energy these devices consume. According to one report, there are already 1.2 billion A/C units pumping cool air into people’s homes, and that number is on track to reach 4.5 billion by 2050; energy demand is expected to triple in the same amount of time. It’s a vicious cycle: Cooling ourselves is actually contributing to the climate change that’s heating up the planet.

Cooling individuals could be a lot cheaper and less wasteful than cooling entire buildings. The home cooling industry is a large market: Air conditioners cost Americans $29 billion per year, according to the Department of Energy. Still, staying cool isn’t just about saving money or energy. People with health conditions like cancer can experience hot flashes and find regulating their temperature difficult. As global temperatures rise and energy efficiency becomes ever more important, and a group of companies, startups, and research groups are racing to build wearable and portable devices that can act like mini A/C units, personalized just for you—whether you want to save money, regulate your health, or lessen your carbon footprint.

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