Are the French massively equipped with air conditioners? The question is not settled. The manufacturers claim this by highlighting the increase in 30% sales between 2002 and 2003 and relying on the continuation of this trend in 2004. The Ademe (Association of the environment and energy management) tempers this figure by emphasizing that this increase is explained by the low level of departure of equipment from the housing stock. "Moreover, we do not know exactly what is the share of independent professionals in these sales, adds Michel Carré Ademe engineer, Nothing says that there is actually a craze from individuals for these products. According to a Sofres survey carried out after the 2003 summer heat wave, 80% of respondents said they did not want to install air conditioning systems.
France could therefore remain an exception in industrialized countries with much higher equipment rates. The hexagon represents only 2% of the global air conditioning market, against 29% for the United States. And this relative under-equipment is rather good news for the environment because air conditioners are very polluting systems, especially if they are not treated properly. "It's not so much the energy consumed by these devices that remains relatively low, notes Michel Carré, that the presence of refrigerants inside that are greenhouse gases 1 500 times more harmful than the CO2. "
However, according to the specialist, not only air conditioners almost always suffer from leakage problems (very important in cars), but fluids are often poorly recovered on end-of-life devices. A charge that professionals deny. "The recovery of fluids is a legal obligation dating from the decree of 7 december 1992 and installers respect it," says Pascal Folempin, deputy general manager of an association of manufacturers of air conditioners.
Ademe still advises individuals to think carefully before getting equipped. "Air conditioning is not inevitable, even in the south of France," notes the practical guide "Summer Comfort" recently published by the agency and available on the Internet (see below). The experts list many alternative and very practical solutions to protect themselves from heat, to keep cool or to create cold weather. On the protection side, the windows and shutters must remain closed, the west facade protected (for example by trees) and the insulation well ensured between any glass parts (like verandas) and the rest of the house. On the fresh side, the Ademe admits its weakness for fans hanging from the ceiling and invites individuals to buy air conditioners only from professionals.
The ADEME guide: