Worried about being gassed in your home?

Don’t be. I do wish mainstream media outlets would at least do some basic research before parroting complete nonsense. The “Jenson Button knocked out with anaesthetic gas” story, as reported on the BBC, for instance. It would be quite fun to watch a potential burglar, having lugged the many heavy cylinders necessary to fill a large villa with a sufficient concentration of gas, opening the valves next to the external aircon condensers and wondering why nothing’s happening.

Two minutes’ reading – or, frankly, two minutes just thinking about the physics, would have made it obvious to the BBC, and to the burglar, why this was never going to work. Air-conditioning is based on heat-exchange. The air inside the building is drawn by internal fans over internal radiators. Its heat is transferred to cooling fluid running through these radiators. The fluid then circulates to external radiators where it gives up this heat to the atmosphere. The outside air and inside air never mix. Otherwise you’d be constantly trying to cool down hot outside air, rather than keeping internal air cool, which would use much more energy.

Why do I care – apart from sloppy journalism? Because properly understanding risk is the only way to design appropriate mitigating controls. Preventing access to the external condensers, as suggested by SRX in the BBC article, will cost money, achieve nothing and potentially give a false sense of security.

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