Why is it that cold?

by Stefan Breit

To recharge our batteries, we spend a day at the beach in Cartagena. But a free weekend doesn’t prevent us from reflecting about the daily life in Colombia. Especially among Swiss students, a popular topic to discuss is the constant use of air conditioning in all indoor spaces. A central air conditioner (AC) is generally used to alter the properties of air to more comfortable conditions, namely to improve thermal comfort and indoor air quality. In common use, an air conditioner is a device that lowers the air temperature. And logically, this process needs much energy. To calculate how much energy we use during our stay in the hotel and how much this costs, a simple energy use calculator is used.

It’s assumed, that an AC is used for 8 hours overnight, the average power consumption of the device is 860 watt and a kWh costs 0.94 USD. This results in a consumption of 6.88 kWh/day and costs 0.65 USD/day. It’s simple to calculate the 9.10 USD, which needs to be paid for the two weeks – only for cooling purposes in my room.

This amount might seem insignificant. But imagine the countless indoor spaces in the city of Barranquilla, which are cooled down. And we not only talk about rooms, we also talk about cars and buses. In tropical countries, the cooling costs can be significant, around 70% of the electricity bill.

But we as Swiss should not judge this issue. In contrast to the sun seeking Swiss population, Colombians like to hang around in cooled down indoor spaces like shopping malls or other sun protected areas. That’s ok. We also use much energy and money for heating purposes. But still, to have to wear long pants and a sweater in a bus because it’s that cold is as perverse as wearing a T-Shirt in the living room during the winter in Switzerland.

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