Dutch homes not built for high temperatures; Difficult to cool

Netherlands residents increasingly struggle to get their homes cool during hotter summers. Dutch homes are ill-equipped for the changing climate, and while policymakers put in a lot of effort to insulate homes to keep them warm, they think way too little about cooling them back down, experts told Financieele Dagblad.

Research conducted by six regional GGD health services at the end of June showed that 51 percent of the 140,000 people surveyed struggle to cool their homes in the summer. That increased to 61 percent in the cities.

According to Jeroen Kluck, an urban heat researcher at the Amsterdam Univesity of Applied Sciences, homes in the Netherlands are not built for hot summers. The typical sunny Dutch house has windows on two sides, and new homes often have big windows. “People like that, but glass is disastrous when it comes to coolness. It absorbs heat, and opening the windows at night no longer helps. Good sun protection during the day is crucial, but the Dutch don’t think about it or don’t use it to save costs,” he told FD.

In recent years, policymakers have focused a lot on insulating homes to keep them warm in the winter and keep energy bills down. So it was the residents of newly-built, well-insulated homes that first noticed the summer problem, Kluck told the newspaper.

In 2022, the Cabinet introduced new requirements so that builders and project developers also had to prevent a house gets too hot in the summer. In practice, that means installing awnings or a heat pump that can also cool, or reducing the number of windows on the south side of the home.

And as more and more older homes get insulated, the cooling down problem is affecting more Netherlands residents. And as a result, air conditioner sales are rising. Almost 20 percent of Dutch households now have an air conditioner, with nearly 700,000 units selling in the past three years alone, the NVKL, the trade association for suppliers of refrigeration technology, said to FD.

“The Netherlands must not want to go in that direction because air conditioners eat electricity. It is better for the climate to use little energy,” Jan Engels of the Netherlands Climate Association said to the newspaper. “Soon, we will have switched all our houses from natural gas, but without any climate gains.”

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