Mercury rising

Cooling your home can cost more than heating it – at least if you’re on the other side of the world. John Leary, sales and marketing director at Emplas, explains.

A recent poll of Australians revealed that 69% believed that the running air conditioning was the largest contributor to their power bills. According to the study, operation throughout the day during peak summer months cost an average of $1,296 over a 90-day period. This compares to just $540 for winter heating costs.

With temperatures regularly topping 48ºC, energy efficiency down under is as much about keeping cool in summer, as it is keeping the chill out in winter.

The UK is not Australia – summer temperatures here are more modest, despite one of the best summers on record in the last year – but there are learning points that can be drawn from the experience of other warmer countries in how energy efficiency is sold to the consumer.

The Australian experience is a commercially relevant one for Emplas. Set up in June 2011, our Melbourne-based retail business, Ecostar, has gone from a standing start to a turnover in excess of $15 million, becoming one of the largest home improvement businesses in Australia.

It means that Emplas ships an average of five 40ft containers per month, each carrying up to 150 windows, to the other side of the world.

Temperatures in winter tend to be less severe. It’s the summer heat and particularly solar gain which presents the greatest challenge. Temperatures can approach 50ºC, which gives a totally different slant to the conversation about energy efficiency.

This is apparent from the weight the Australian Window Alliance applies to SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient).

This, in common with the UK, provides a measure of solar gain, the AWA’s guide, emphasising the importance of orientation, location and house design – things that are still overlooked by many installers.

I’m not personally convinced that, as an industry, we’re necessarily that good at selling glass performance. Our interpretation of Window Energy Ratings is focussed firmly on the U-value, not the complete performance of glass.

That means that we’re missing out on an opportunity to up-sell glass performance, not simply from the perspective of heat loss but also solar gain.

Summer 2018 was the joint hottest in the UK since records began, with temperatures consistently topping 30ºC. This may still register as a slight chill on the Australian scale but it is still significantly high enough to drive a shift in the way that we think about energy efficiency.

There are lots of associated risks to higher temperatures, particularly for older people – a growing UK demographic. This creates a requirement to cool our homes, hospitals, schools and workspaces. Doing this more energy efficiently through intelligent application of glazing based on orientation, aspect and application, is key. That creates commercial opportunity.

We acquired our own IGU business, Padiham Glass, in May this year. The acquisition insulates Emplas and our customers from fluctuations and quality issues in IGU supply but also delivers scope to support them in bringing new products to the market.

There are innovations in glass supply, which are allowing retailers to up-sell product, delivering added-value to the end user, while generating greater margin.

If you look at what Saint Gobain has been doing to communicate the benefits that glass can deliver, not only as an insulator but also in acoustics and solar control, there are some very significant opportunities to upsell glass specifications.

The stepping stone to these is thinking about energy efficiency, not simply in terms of thermal efficiency – but also solar gain.