PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA - It's going to get warmer indoors in 2014 as shopping malls, tall buildings and offices raise temperatures to cut electricity costs.
The Malaysian Association for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management is advising its 400-odd members nationwide to set their air-conditioning at 23°C or 24°C.
Air conditioning, according to the association, takes up the largest share of energy - about 65% - in commercial buildings.
Its president H.C. Chan said most malls in the country are now too cold, with temperatures ranging from 21°C to 23°C.
"We can and should move up a few degrees especially now with mounting energy costs. The reality is that we need to be energy efficient and eliminate waste because electricity is our single, largest expenditure," he added.
Chan noted that the government in countries like China and Singapore issues guidelines to regulate temperatures in commercial buildings at between 24°C and 26°C.
Building Management Association of Malaysia and International Real Estate Federation of Malaysia committee member Richard Chan said air-conditioning accounts for the bulk of the electricity bill in malls and high-rises.
"The bigger malls or complexes pay anything from RM2mil (S$772,000) to RM3mil monthly on air-conditioning alone," he said.
He said raising the temperature setting of the air conditioner "even by one degree" could significantly reduce bills.
Some buildings feel warm because of poor ventilation, and Chan proposed the management look into improving air circulation. Buildings with glass domes or glass panelling let in more heat, making it more expensive to maintain a comfortable ambience.
"Buildings where employees wear jackets should adjust the temperature. Operators must ensure that air-conditioners are set at an ideal level, properly maintained and regularly serviced," he said, adding that faulty timers can cause lights and air-conditioners to run non-stop.
Common facilities at medium cost apartments like libraries and gyms may also have the air-conditioning on for certain periods or only in certain corners.
"The saunas will be turned on only when residents request for it (no longer fixed hours)," said Chan.
He said an "energy wheel" (see graphic above) is a simple guide to monitoring electricity use.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bar-dan said companies must take measures to mitigate the tariff hike.
"Set your air conditioners at optimal temperature to avoid waste and switch everything off when staff are out for lunch," he said. "The costs of converting to energy savings devices like LED lights are expensive but effective in the long term."
MEF represents 4,500 member companies and 18 affiliate trades associations.
Shamsuddin said employers "may be tempted" to cut back on staircases and parking area lighting and cautioned them against compromising their employees' safety.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharma-seelan said stand-alone clinics that are already struggling to meet rising overheads are certain to replace air-conditioners with fans. "This is especially so for 24-hour clinics," he said.
He said government hospitals had already set the air-conditioners at 24°C for the common spaces and 22°C for the operating theatre and Intensive Care Unit.
"The highest you can go is 22°C Celsius but 18°C is best.
"The operating theatre and ICU must be cold to prevent germs that cause infections from breeding," he said.
Private hospitals will not risk making their patients uncomfortable, so the cost of keeping the place cool will have to be passed on to the patients, he said. There are over 7,600 private clinics and hospitals nationwide and the association has over 3,000 members.