The cool air conditioning businesses keeping the economy from melting

The world is about to crank up the AC. Companies are looking to ride the trend — and refine it.

Last week, Mother Nature cranked up the thermostat enough to make it the hottest day on record — and the economy, entrepreneurs, and certainly the thermostat dads are all starting to notice.

Air conditioners in use globally

Chilling stats

Extreme heat costs the US $1B in health care each summer and $100B annually in worker productivity losses, a number that’s projected to reach $500B by 2050.

Developing countries will foot much of the incoming AC bill. That’s good for their body temps, but not for the planet’s: AC accounts for ~4% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions across energy use, refrigerant leakage, manufacturing, and transportation.

Chill seekers

Private HVAC companies have raised ~$350m annually in recent years. Startups like Windmill and July are going the “Tesla of AC” route, promising sleek designs, energy efficiency, and easy installation.

In 2020, Chinese giant Midea’s American subsidiary debuted a popular U-shaped window unit that keeps the noisy parts fully outside. We say “popular” because there’s literally a fan club, and because it’s on track to sell 1m units this year.

A breath of fresh air

Last year, Bill Gates’ clean tech fund led a $20m investment in AC startup Blue Frontier, whose salt-based solution produces up to 87% less emissions than traditional systems.

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