The Vicious Cycle of Air Conditioning


Air con was a luxurious, or one thing solely wanted in desert climates. However common temperatures have risen as a consequence of local weather change and extra individuals take into account air-con a necessity. Right this moment, 90% of all U.S. households have an A/C unit. That may sound like a win, an instance of know-how enhancing high quality of life. Sadly, it is usually an ideal instance of a vicious cycle. The extra air conditioners we run, the quicker the local weather modifications and the extra we want aid from excessive temperatures.

Air Con and the Ozone

Air conditioners contribute immediately to local weather change by releasing ozone-depleting greenhouse gases. Though the Montreal Protocol banned using CFCs, air conditioners nonetheless use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. These refrigerants can leak as much as 10% every year. And if we don’t correctly dispose of outdated models, the refrigerants could also be fully launched into the ambiance.

The mostly used refrigerant in air conditioners is the HFC often called R-410A, a greenhouse fuel greater than 2,000 occasions stronger than carbon dioxide. Eliminating HFCs the way in which we eradicated CFCs a technology in the past might stop as a lot as 0.5ºC of warming over the following century. That will obtain one-third of the targets of the Paris Local weather Settlement.

Air Con and Power

Air conditioners are horrible vitality hogs, consuming 3,000 to five,000 watts of electrical energy each hour that they run. The local weather impression of utilizing that a lot electrical energy will depend upon the vitality supply, however it’s a big a part of a family’s complete, particularly in sizzling climates. For most People, dwelling vitality use is the second-largest supply of greenhouse fuel emissions (after transportation). Temperature management makes up greater than half of dwelling vitality use, and air conditioners particularly account for 23% of electrical energy use in all American buildings.

Throughout a 2019 heatwave in France, every diploma above regular seasonal temperatures correlated with further electrical energy consumption equal to powering a further metropolis of Bordeaux, a municipality of a couple of quarter-million inhabitants. Not solely does this lead to considerably increased greenhouse fuel emissions and related local weather impacts, however it additionally taxes vitality infrastructure and may end up in energy outages, just like the one in Portland in 2021. Whereas energy outages will briefly cut back emissions, in a heatwave, in addition they improve the danger of heat-related deaths. Sociologist Eric Klineberg’s analysis on the 1995 Chicago warmth wave revealed that individuals who die throughout heatwaves are amongst society’s most susceptible, victims of environmental injustice that has led to unequal upkeep of infrastructure in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Air Con and Well being

Though obligatory in extraordinarily excessive temperatures, reliance on air-con additionally presents its personal well being dangers. Air con can result in fatigue and complications, dry eyes and pores and skin, and dehydration. Publicity to fixed air-conditioning can stop our our bodies from acclimatizing to sizzling climate, which can be making us extra susceptible to heat-related sickness. And except air ducts are very properly maintained, air-con contributes to allergic reactions, decrease indoor air high quality, and even sick constructing syndrome.

What Can You Do?

In case you are constructing a house, use passive photo voltaic design ideas. Though individuals are likely to affiliate photo voltaic design with heating, it’s actually about designing for compatibility with the native local weather. It makes a house extra comfy year-round.

Even if you happen to’re not constructing a brand new dwelling, you may make your current dwelling extra environment friendly. Upgrading insulation and sealing air leaks, putting in applicable window remedies and planting shade timber, and changing asphalt tiles are a few of the methods to fight the city warmth island impact. When it’s time to reroof, sustainable roofing selections like a cool roof or a residing inexperienced roof may also make a distinction.

When the temperature rises, earlier than turning on the A/C, strive utilizing old-school cooling hacks. Open home windows strategically, bust out the kiddie pool, sleep with damp sheets, and drink a number of iced tea to remain comfy.

Higher Air Conditioning

These methods could also be sufficient in some locations, a minimum of more often than not. However excessive warmth kills about 700 individuals within the U.S. every year, so there are occasions and locations when smokestorms and excessive temperatures make air-con obligatory. Researchers are engaged on solid-state coolants, and the Rocky Mountain Institute launched the International Cooling Prize to encourage improvement of greener air-con applied sciences. Two successful prototype A/Cs are extra environment friendly than present designs and use safer refrigerants. However they gained’t be commercially obtainable till 2025.

Within the meantime, a warmth pump/warmth exchanger is essentially the most environment friendly cooling system. Should you can’t afford one, cooling solely the most-used a part of the home with a window unit makes use of a 3rd as a lot vitality as cooling the entire home with a centralized A/C. No matter cooling technique you utilize, don’t use it greater than it’s important to, and purchase inexperienced vitality to reduce the impression.


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