Energy crisis in Europe: Spain lowers the temperature thanks to strict rules on air conditioning

The Spanish government is turning down the heat – literally – on a heated debate over limiting the use of air conditioners.

Last week the the government announced plans to prevent offices, shops and other places from setting the air conditioning below 27°C in the summer, as part of a drive to reduce the country’s energy consumption and limit dependence on Russian gas.

The new rules would also prevent heaters from being worn above 19C in winter.

If the government holds firm on the whole plan, in the face of a wave of criticism, it bends a little.

A new list of establishments that will be exempt from the new rules has been published and includes hospitals; universities, schools and kindergartens; and hair salons.

Bars, restaurants and some businesses will also be able to use the air conditioning “at around 25 degrees” and not the 27 degrees initially announced.

The amended rules are meant to cater to workplaces where staff have “exercise requirements”, as opposed to sedentary workplaces like an office or store where employees don’t engage in much physical activity. These locations will still need to meet the original air conditioning limits of 27°C.

Hospitality industry hits

There has been a particularly strong reaction to new projects in the Spanish hotel sector.

“What they had dictated is nonsense,” said César García, owner of one of the Vips group restaurants in the city of Segovia.

“Hotels and restaurants have already suffered the consequences of the restrictions during the pandemic and now they want to impose more. We are not going to comply until we are sanctioned,” he added.

Although García argued that allowing a temperature of 25 degrees is more realistic, he says that’s still not low enough.

“We set the air in the restaurant at 18 degrees because between the machines we use people’s body heat, the temperature is never the temperature set by the air conditioning machine. The restaurant stays at 24 degrees.

“People are walking down the street at 40 degrees, so when they come in they want it to be cool. If I set the air conditioning to 25 degrees, between the machines in the dining room, the kitchen and the doors to the street that are constantly opening up, the place would be 28 degrees,” he says.

At the Casa Paco tapas bar in Madrid, worker Francisco Martínez also wants to be allowed to lower the temperature of the air conditioner further.

“With the heat at the moment it is difficult to stay at 25 degrees inside the premises, and even more so in our bar where the sun shines all day,” he said.

“It’s 42 degrees outside!”

Even so, Martínez is pleased that the temperature limit is not 27 degrees and is not worried that fewer people will come to eat and drink.

“Of course customers will protest, but I don’t think we’re going to lose customers by applying the measure. I don’t think it’s going to affect them,” he said.

Restaurants and bars are still unclear on how the Spanish government will enforce the new rules and ensure compliance.

Loss of customers?

Hairdressers are also breathing a sigh of relief at not having to comply with the government-imposed temperature cap.

Mari Paz Osorno has been running a hair salon in Palencia for several years. Every summer, when she opens her business each morning, she regulates the air temperature between 24 and 25 degrees.

“Knowing that we use three hair dryers as well as a solarium which gives off hot air, it was impossible to have the air conditioning at 27 degrees. The clients were sweating a lot and the hairstyle was not holding. good service,” Osorno said.

As a company that is now allowed to lower the temperature of the air conditioner a few more degrees, the hairdresser says nothing will change much for her, and she will continue to set the interior temperature at the same level as before the new energy savings plans have been unveiled.

“Twenty-five degrees is a good temperature. It’s neither too hot nor too cold, so you can maintain an optimal temperature,” she said.

What worries the hairdresser the most is the heating limit that she will have to respect in winter. “The client can’t stay at 19 degrees with her head wet for two hours, that’s how long it takes to dye a hair color. It has to be at least 22 degrees, otherwise it’s impossible . It’s cold,” she says. .

“I wouldn’t go back to a living room that kept me at 19 degrees!”

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