What experts urgently advise against, however, is the rapidly increasing installation of air conditioning systems, especially among private individuals in traditionally less heat-plagued countries. If the majority of buildings were cooled in this way, the outside temperatures would rise by several degrees due to waste heat. It would make more sense, for example, to green office buildings, explains Professor Maarten van Aalst, who conducts research on climate impacts and disaster prevention at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. He also works in Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on climate risk assessment. He says that anyone setting up a new office building today should not only think about energy efficiency, but also about how to deal with extreme heat.
This advice, which is primarily aimed at companies, also applies to the private sector – like residential buildings, apartment buildings, and single-family homes. With well thought-out ventilation concepts, the insulation required for energy-efficient heating, for example with heat pumps, can in turn also keep cooler interior temperatures in the building for longer.
Extreme heat increases accidents
Extreme heat is noticeable in many areas of life – including road traffic. DEKRA accident researchers, for example, point out that concentration and reaction times drop rapidly at high temperatures. This applies to the operation of machines, but also to driving. In this context, the correct use of air conditioning systems in vehicles is also important. Whenever possible, parking in the shade or a cool parking garage should keep the temperature in the vehicle low from the start. Even sun protection mats and roller blinds have an effect.
Advice for rapid cooling once on the road: With the car windows closed, set the air conditioning to circulating air, a high fan output, and low temperature, then readjust it later. To ensure that the heat shock when getting out of the car is not too great, the interior should not be cooled down too much. Experts recommend a difference between the interior and exterior temperature of six to eight degrees Celsius.
More caution when spending time outdoors
When spending time outdoors, DEKRA experts also point out the important role of effective sun protection. This applies not only to leisure activities, but also to outdoor work. Sunglasses, headgear, and protective clothing are obligatory when spending time in the blazing sun. The material from which the clothing is made is also important. Under no circumstances should you work with your upper body exposed, emphasizes DEKRA medical expert Dr. Jana Kreß. On the other hand, it is essential to apply sunscreen with sun protection factor 30 or more to uncovered areas. In addition, one should avoid, if possible, the intense radiation at midday and stay in the shade during this time
DEKRA reminds us that companies must also carry out a risk assessment for employees with outdoor activities and implement appropriate occupational safety measures. Employees must be offered precautions if they work outdoors for at least one hour at a time between 11 am and 4 pm CEST (Central European Summer Time) on at least 50 days between April and September. This would include textile sun protection, head and neck shading protection, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
However, it is also clear that in order to limit the growing probability of extreme weather events and rising average temperatures, there is no alternative to far-reaching and efficient climate protection measures. This applies equally to private and professional life, as well.