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Ed’s note: Why cooling technology matters

It is autumn in South Africa, but the days are still hitting mid-to-high-20oC. This temperature can be very uncomfortable indoors without some form of ventilation or cooling system. 

Air-conditioners, ceiling fans and cold drinks are the order of the day. Why does this have my attention? The unfolding challenge is on achieving high levels of energy efficiency when the use of air conditioning is a negative factor.

As average temperatures rise, the need for cooling technology becomes more apparent, especially in countries where heat is a major health threat.

Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are common in the peak of South Africa’s summer months. Also, heat can cause headaches, impair concentration, and be especially harmful to infants and the elderly.

As a safety risk, heat is especially evident in mining communities, informal settlements and affordable housing developments, which provide much-needed homes for thousands of families.

Denise Lundall, the project officer for energy efficiency and cooling at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), explains that one way to improve health and safety for these communities is through cooling technology.

However, the cost of air-conditioning can be exorbitant (the unit and the electricity), and such devices impair energy efficiency efforts.

Therefore, the institute is actively rolling out a cool surface technology project to help passively cool communities. It is a brilliant, cost-effective solution. By painting a unique substrate onto roofs and walls, the indoor temperature dramatically decreases.

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This cooled environment is helpful for those living in corrugated metal structures. Anyone who has spent time in such a structure will understand the urgent need to roll out this cooling technology.

While referring to this as a ‘technology’, it is, in fact, the absence of electrical technology that makes this initiative so impactful. The substrate reflects heat and mitigates the need for fans or air-conditioners, making living conditions more comfortable while remaining energy-passive.

Sounds ideal, right! Well, it gets even better.

Another major threat in informal settlements is fire – a year-round problem as community members frequently cook on open flames. Lundall explains that an added benefit is that cool coatings have excellent fire retardation properties to prevent and mitigate the spread of fires.

Also, SANEDI has used the passive cooling technique in communities where local, unemployed people are trained as coating applicators to support the project rollout, further adding to job creation.

Cooling down our ambient temperature benefits everyone, the environment and what better way to do it than using an inexpensive solution that provides jobs, a bit of comfort, and health perks.

I say: spray the town red with this energy-passive cool surface technology today!

Until next week.

PS – Also read the SANEDI Analysis and Documentation of Experiments on Cool Roofs and Walls in KwaZulu-Natal

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.