As the weather heats up, Australian households won’t just be cranking up the air conditioning for themselves. Some households will be turning it on for their dogs or cats.
Our research on energy demand and household cooling highlights a recent trend towards air-conditioning rooms or homes for pets. As well as cooling homes occupied by both humans and their furry friends, air conditioners may be left on when dogs or cats are home alone.
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Some pet owners also leave doors and windows open for their dogs and cats to move between indoor and outdoor areas. This means that air conditioners have to work harder and use more energy to maintain indoor temperatures.
Our research is consistent with an emerging international trend towards the "humanisation of pets", which is contributing to energy use in households.
A 2013 study released by E.ON UK (a UK power company) on "hot-dogs and thermo-cats" found that more than half (52 per cent) of UK pet owners turn up the heating for their pets when they go out. Some UK households also leave radios or televisions on for pets so that they don’t get lonely when their owners leave the home.
In other areas of everyday life, cats and dogs now play iPad games, eat specialised diets, have heated mats or air-conditioned kennels, and have their own fashion accessories and electronic toys.
The energy impacts of home cooling.
On average across Australia, heating and cooling make up 40 per cent of our energy use in households, not including hot water.
Most Australians who live in southern states use cooling in their homes sporadically, turning it on during hot summer afternoons and evenings when they get home from work or other activities. The rapid growth in residential air conditioning for this purpose has been one of the main contributors to Australia’s peak electricity demand, which has increased energy bills.
Trends in pet cooling could change the energy demand for cooling in homes. Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 63 per cent of households keeping an animal as a pet.