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Air conditioning was a luxurious, or one thing solely wanted in desert climates. But common temperatures have risen attributable to local weather change and extra individuals take into account air-con a necessity. Today, 90% of all U.S. households have an A/C unit. That may sound like a win, an instance of expertise enhancing high quality of life. Unfortunately, additionally it is an ideal instance of a vicious cycle. The extra air conditioners we run, the sooner the local weather adjustments and the extra we want reduction from excessive temperatures.
Air Con and the Ozone
Air conditioners contribute directly to local weather change by releasing ozone-depleting greenhouse gases. Although the Montreal Protocol banned using CFCs, air conditioners nonetheless use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. These refrigerants can leak up to 10% each year. And if we don’t properly dispose of previous models, the refrigerants could also be fully launched into the environment.
The most commonly used refrigerant in air conditioners is the HFC often called R-410A, a greenhouse gasoline greater than 2,000 instances stronger than carbon dioxide. Eliminating HFCs the best way we eradicated CFCs a era in the past may stop as much as 0.5ºC of warming over the following century. That would obtain one-third of the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Air Con and Energy
Air conditioners are horrible power hogs, consuming 3,000 to 5,000 watts of electrical energy each hour that they run. The local weather affect of utilizing that a lot electrical energy will rely upon the energy source, nevertheless it’s a major a part of a family’s complete, particularly in sizzling climates. For most Americans, house power use is the second-largest supply of greenhouse gasoline emissions (after transportation). Temperature management makes up greater than half of house power use, and air conditioners particularly account for 23% of electricity use in all American buildings.
During a 2019 heatwave in France, every diploma above regular seasonal temperatures correlated with further electrical energy consumption equal to powering an extra city of Bordeaux, a municipality of a few quarter-million inhabitants. Not solely does this end in considerably larger greenhouse gasoline emissions and related local weather impacts, nevertheless it additionally taxes power infrastructure and can lead to power outages, just like the one in Portland in 2021. While energy outages will quickly cut back emissions, in a heatwave, additionally they enhance the danger of heat-related deaths. Sociologist Eric Klineberg’s analysis on the 1995 Chicago heat wave revealed that individuals who die throughout heatwaves are amongst society’s most weak, victims of environmental injustice that has led to unequal upkeep of infrastructure in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
Air Con and Health
Although essential in extraordinarily excessive temperatures, reliance on air-con additionally presents its own health risks. Air conditioning can result in fatigue and complications, dry eyes and pores and skin, and dehydration. Exposure to fixed air-conditioning can stop our our bodies from acclimatizing to sizzling climate, which can be making us more vulnerable to heat-related sickness. And except air ducts are very nicely maintained, air-con contributes to allergy symptoms, decrease indoor air quality, and even sick constructing syndrome.
What Can You Do?
If you might be constructing a house, use passive solar design rules. Although 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 snug year-round.
Even when you’re not constructing a brand new house, you can also make your current house more efficient. Upgrading insulation and sealing air leaks, putting in applicable window treatments and planting shade trees, and changing asphalt tiles are a few of the methods to fight the city heat island effect. When it’s time to reroof, sustainable roofing selections like a cool roof or a dwelling green roof also can make a distinction.
When the temperature rises, earlier than turning on the A/C, strive utilizing old-school cooling hacks. Open windows strategically, bust out the kiddie pool, sleep with damp sheets, and drink plenty of iced tea to remain snug.
Better Air Conditioning
These methods could also be sufficient in some locations, at the very least more often than not. But excessive warmth kills about 700 people in the U.S. each year, so there are occasions and locations when smokestorms and excessive temperatures make air-con essential. Researchers are engaged on solid-state coolants, and the Rocky Mountain Institute launched the Global Cooling Prize to encourage development of greener air-con applied sciences. Two successful prototype A/Cs are extra environment friendly than present designs and use safer refrigerants. But they gained’t be commercially accessible till 2025.
In the meantime, a warmth pump/heat exchanger is probably the most environment friendly cooling system. If you’ll be able to’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 power as cooling the entire home with a centralized A/C. Whatever cooling methodology you utilize, don’t use it greater than you need to, and purchase green energy to reduce the affect.