Lost Heat

Heat lost on a warming planet

Heat lost on a warming planet, lost from where we are trying to keep it – in our houses and shops. Having spent time, money, and energy making heat, shops prop their doors wide open in winter carelessly letting the heat escape before it adds any benefit at all, and instead adds to the very thing we are worried about – global warming.

And it is precious heat that takes a lot of effort to produce. It’s expensive, and yet shops throw it away out of the door.

So, we are two people – David and Tamara – each with our particular way of looking at the problems the world faces. My wife Tamara started this ball rolling by going into shops and talking to the people who worked there. She asked why the doors were open when the heating was on and it was winter outside? Or why the doors were open and in the middle of summer and the air conditioning was on? That’s how it started.

At first the attitude seemed to be to wonder what exactly this person thought the problem was. But the world has changed – costs are rising – the knowledge about global warming has sunk in.

So the matter eventually boiled down to these issues. Shopkeepers were worried that passersby would think they were closed if the shop doors were closed. And if not that then that the extra step of opening the door would put shoppers off. Or if not that, then that shoppers might go to the shop down the street that had its doors open.

How Much Heat?

We are not talking about a small amount of heat. Cambridge University Department Of Engineering did a study in December 2010.

The team set up sensors in two shops to measure the heat loss with the doors left open. Lots of factors affect how much heat is lost. For example, is the shop deep and narrow with a small frontage or is it wide with lots of frontage. Is the shop in a snug spot or is it on a windy street?

But the findings were clear. They showed savings in heat that would otherwise pour out of the door of between 30% and 54%.

Is that such a big surprise? Stand at your front door on a cold winter’s day and prop the door wide open for half an hour and you know how much heat pours out. Now think about the more than a quarter of a million shops in the UK and you see the size of the problem.

And the study showed that air curtains above shop doors don’t work, particularly in a busy shop. People coming in and out of the shop disrupt the air flow and reduce the effectiveness of air curtains.

The solution that works is to keep the door closed. If all shops kept their doors closed, that would solve the problem. Nobody would worry that shoppers might think a shop was closed when all shops had their doors closed.

Changing Mindsets

It’s all about changing the mindset of shopkeepers, and giving them reasurrance that they will not suffer because of it. So hats off to those shops do keep their doors closed. They deserve applause because they are going against the flow, and leading the way.

But shops that keep their doors closed are a minority.

Voluntary campaigns in the past have failed. That means it needs regulation to make it happen.

We have sympathy for the retailers – they have genuine concerns that closed doors could mean lost trade. We understand these concerns, but if every shop was legally required to close their doors, this would level the playing field.

Ultimately, the environment the world is facing tops any argument. Retailers need to accept they have a responsibility to lower their carbon footprint and keep their the doors closed.

Name And Shame?

While I am debating whether it is right to name and shame shops that keep their doors open, the heat continues to pour out.

I ask myself, is it good to drive people apart in anger in a world where people need each other more and more? On the other hand, if people don’t face up to their responsibilities then nothing gets done.

Now is the time to do what we should, shopkeepers included.

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