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CLIMATE CRISIS

What are the limits on air conditioning in France?

From new laws to practical availability, here's a look on the limits on air-conditioner usage in France.

What are the limits on air conditioning in France?
A man looks at air conditioners in Bordeaux, France in 2004 (Photo by MICHEL GANGNE / AFP)

The repeated heatwaves in France might leave you gasping for AC, but long-standing environmental concerns coupled with new fears about energy shortages have lead to extra restrictions on the use of climatisation.

Temperature limits

The French government has laid out temperature guidelines for heating and AC – in the winter the heating should be no higher than 19C while in the summer the air-con should be no lower than 26C.

These will become compulsory for government ministries and offices as part of France’s sobriété énergétique (energy sobriety) plan, but voluntary for private homes and businesses.

Some of France’s leading supermarket groups have created their own energy-saving plan for all stories that includes limits on heating and air-con levels.

READ ALSO: Air con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through the winter without blackouts

Shutting doors

Shops are permitted to use air-conditioning, but those that do must shut the door, in a new law designed to cut waste. Shops that do not comply will be fined.

Availability 

But for most people, what limits AC use is simple availability. While it’s fairly common in shops and offices, it is pretty rare in private homes – only around five percent of French homes have air-conditioning.

If you own your own house you can install it, although depending on the works that you need to do you may need planning permission from the mairie or préfecture and if you live in a historic or protected zone you may not be able to make any alterations to the exterior of your building. It’s also quite a costly undertaking.

If you live in an apartment or communal building which has a syndicat you will almost certainly need to get permission from the syndic to install air-conditioning – even if you own your apartment. If you intend to do any works that affect the exterior of the building you will likely also need planning permission. For Americans, the role of the syndicat might be comparable to a homeowner’s association…. 

If you rent your home you will need permission from the landlord (who in turn may need permission from the building syndic and/or planning permission).

Alternatives

The alternative to a full air-conditioning system is a free-standing AC unit, which has a hose like a clothes dryer that hangs out of the window. These are less effective than full AC systems but nonetheless provide some cooling.

You won’t need planning permission as you’re not making any structural alterations, but if you live in a building with a syndic you may still need their permission to install one, depending on the rules of your building (some syndics are very strict and even forbid things like hanging clothes out to dry or storing items on your balcony).

The other alternative is an electric fan – either a desk fan or a standing fan – which don’t require any kind of installation or permission. These are on sale in almost all electrical retailers and many large supermarkets (although they often sell out in the first days of a heatwave).

There are also lots of ways of keeping your home cool without AC, including using shutters or curtains to block out the sun.

READ ALSO: How to keep your home cool during France’s heatwaves

Cool rooms

If you’re really feeling the heat, the best thing to do is go to a cool location.

Most supermarkets, shopping malls and cinemas are air-conditioned and during a heatwave local authorities publish maps showing where the ‘cool spaces’ in the city are, including air-conditioned rooms at town halls and local government offices that are available free to go and sit in to cool down.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

French schools, renting property and vocabulary: 6 essential articles for life in France

From how to quit your job in France to choosing the best French school for your kids and learning all the vocabulary of France's cost of living crisis - here are six essential articles for life in France.

French schools, renting property and vocabulary: 6 essential articles for life in France

In the last two years, many people across the world have either considered leaving or have left their jobs amid the “Great Resignation” (or La Grande démission, en Français). 

If you have thought about quitting your French job, or perhaps you simply want to understand the procedure for resigning in France, we’ve put together a guide that should answer all of your questions. 

EXPLAINED: What you should know if you want to quit your job in France

Next, the French government is recommending that everyone become familiar with this website, and you’ll really to know how to use it if you will be living in France during the winter of 2022-2023. 

Ecowatt is the government’s ‘energy forecasting’ website. It will provide you with daily updates and give you an idea as to whether the electrical grid is under stress due to energy shortages. The Local put together an article on how to sign up for alerts, which will help you keep track of whether your area is at risk for short, localised power cuts this winter.

‘Ecowatt’: How you should use France’s new energy forecasting website?

Amid potential energy shortages this winter and the cost of living crisis, foreigners living with France have been faced with learning a whole new set of French vocabulary words.

It can be difficult to keep up to date with the French news – even for native-French speakers. To help you follow along and stay informed, The Local has compiled a list of French terms you are likely to hear when the government or media discusses inflation, along with their English translations.

The French words you need to understand France’s cost of living crisis

Parenting in a country you did grow up in comes with unique challenges and joys. One thing anglophone parents tend to wonder about is whether or not they should send their children to international schools (where English might be more widely spoken) or opt for local French schools.

The Local spoke with some anglophone parents, and compared the advantages and disadvantages of the various options in order to help you make the best decision for your family. 

What kind of school in France is best for my kids?

Many foreigners living in France prefer renting to buying. When looking for that perfect home or apartment, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost – renting in France depends largely on where you live. Renting in a rural or suburban environment will differ greatly from renting in a big city. Nevertheless – renters across France are faced with the same question: furnished or unfurnished? 

The two options differ in terms of price, convenience, and sometimes availability. You can read The Local’s guide to renting property in France.

Renting property in France: Should I go for furnished or unfurnished?

The 2024 Olympic Games are already on the horizon, even though they might seem far away. The city of Paris and its surrounding suburbs have already begun extensive preparations to host athletes, their families, and the thousands of fans who will come to enjoy the Games.

If you live in France and you are considering attending the games, The Local has put together what you need to know in order to secure your tickets.

How to get tickets for the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics

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