Borrego Sun - Since 1949

About That Air Conditioner

 

Last updated 8/19/2022 at 9:23am



Days and nights are definitely getting hotter in Borrego, cooling your home during the dog days of summer is expensive both in terms of electricity and the environment. In Borrego, as much as 50 percent of your annual energy use can go to cooling your house. This can account for as much as 15 percent of your household carbon footprint. On the hottest days with heat advisories, Borrego is fortunate to have the library as the designated community, cool space. In addition to reducing home air conditioning use and costs, the library is never boring. There are books to read, places to use your computers, people to play with, and lots of daily and weekly activities.

But there is almost no way around the need for home air conditioning in Borrego Springs, even with Swamp coolers. The problem is that most air conditioners are power-hungry appliances that use a lot of electricity to run. They also use coolants that are potent, man-made, greenhouse gasses. The hotter the climate, the more we need air conditioners, and the more our air conditioners contribute to climate change through carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. A self-perpetuating problem.

Air conditioners impact the environment in several ways. Like all appliances, there are some negative impacts throughout their lifecycle, from manufacture to operation to disposal. These include things like the impact of the raw materials used (chiefly metal and plastic), the impacts of carbon and other greenhouse gasses emitted during operation, the problems that arise when it is time to dispose of the unit and how to handle the waste from it.

However, the biggest environmental concern associated with air conditioners is their contribution to global warming and climate change, through carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2021, the US used around 392 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity for indoor space cooling in 2020. That amounts to around 10% of the country’s total energy consumption and 16% of residential energy consumption in 2020. The majority of the electricity used for indoor cooling is generated by burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and promotes global warming on a massive scale.

In addition to electricity usage and CO2 emissions, air conditioners use refrigerants (coolants) called fluorocarbons that are potent greenhouse gasses. Fortunately, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your ac in a number of ways. In the past, most air conditioners used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which had a severe impact on the earth’s ozone layer and CFC production in the US ceased in 1995. The majority of air conditioners manufactured from 1995 onwards use halogenated chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are less damaging. However, HCFCs are also being phased out with most production and imports stopped by 2020 and the aim of complete removal by 2030. That said, HCFCs will still be available for many years to come as they are recovered from old units and re-used in the units that are still in operation. As HCFCs are phased out, they will be replaced by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),which do not contain chlorine and pose less of a threat to the environment. However, they still have high global warming potential (GWP) and are not an ideal solution.

Climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs include ammonia, which is a natural coolant and does not contribute to ozone depletion and global warming. At present, HFCs are the most common coolants in air conditioners and, when managed effectively, they’re considerably less damaging than the fluorocarbons that came before them. However, alternatives like ammonia, are starting to be more popular and more widely used. Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to move away from man-made coolants completely. Until then, there are eco-friendly air conditioning options on the market.

When you’re looking for an eco-friendly air conditioner, you’re looking for one with the least environmental impact. The most effective way to do this is to reduce electricity consumption and limit the potential fluorocarbon emissions. There are several ways to make an air conditioner more eco-friendly and reduce emissions. These include choosing energy-saving models, servicing them regularly to reduce leaks, and using the most efficient size and design for your needs.

Correctly Sized Air Conditioners: Choosing an air conditioner that is the right size for your space and best suited to your climate is an important step. According to the experts at Machine Wonders, if your air conditioner is too small, you will need to run it on full power, for longer periods to cool the space. If it is too big, you will be using more power than you need to achieve the same result. Both will cost you more than you need to pay in electric bills too! Choosing the right size air conditioner will allow you to be as effective and energy-efficient as possible. Asking a professional for help is going to be the most precise way to find the perfect unit for your space but, in general, here is how to size your unit: Air conditioners use British Thermal Units (BTUs) as an indicator of their cooling capacity. A good rule of thumb is that you need 20 BTU per square foot of space that you’re trying to cool.

To find the square footage of your space, multiply the length by the width (e.g. 10 ft. long x 10 ft. wide = 100 square ft).

If you have adjoining spaces that aren’t separated by doors, like an open plan kitchen and dining area, you will need to measure both spaces and add them together because the air conditioner will need to cool both spaces. However, you will also need to take into consideration the characteristics of the space and adjust accordingly. Rooms with high ceilings and large windows and doors may need more cooling power than more compact spaces, even if the floor size is the same. So will heat-intensive rooms like kitchens and rooms that are occupied by more than two people.

Here are some handy adjustments to keep in mind:

- Heavily shaded rooms that do not get a lot of sunlight – reduce capacity by 10%

- Rooms that get full sun for most of the day – increase capacity by 10%

- Rooms regularly occupied by more than two people – add 600 BTU per additional person

- Heat generating rooms like kitchens – add 4000 BTU. The Air Of Authority to see all the aspects they consider when sizing an air conditioner: The compressor in your air conditioner is the component that uses the most power.

Energy-Efficient, Variable Speed Compressors: The compressor in your air conditioner is the component that uses the most power. Choose one that is energy-efficient because it can regulate itself based on the ambient temperature. For example, a two-stage compressor has two different modes, one for hotter days and one for cooler days. Having these two modes allows the air conditioner to be more energy efficient by working harder only on hotter days and using less power to do its job on the cooler days.

Easy Maintenance: Regular maintenance not only improves the efficiency of your air conditioner but also prevents and rectifies any coolant leaks.

When coolants leak from old or badly maintained air conditioner units, it evaporates into the atmosphere and, as a potent greenhouse gas, contributes to global warming. It is recommended that you have your air conditioner serviced twice a year, in the spring and autumn to make sure that everything is working optimally and there are no cracks or leaks. Consider this when you’re buying the unit and choose one that local technicians can service and that does not need specialized or imported parts for their regular maintenance.

Customized Systems: Customized systems allow you to choose the most efficient components for your specific needs. Some customized systems allow for different energy sources for heating and cooling, which allows you to be even more effective and efficient. Customizing specific components within the unit also allows for more efficient systems, that are uniquely suited to your location, climate, and building requirements. It is worth talking to a local professional to see if they can help you here.

Programmable Thermostats: An air conditioner with a programmable thermostat will allow you to set specific parameters for its use. You can set specific temperatures and you can set it to automatically turn on and off at specific times. This level of control is great because you can set it to cool the space down before you arrive home or you can set it to turn off when the temperature reaches a specific setting. Fine-tuned adjustments like these make it nice to own and even more energy-efficient.

User Friendly and Easy to Operate Efficiently: The most efficient air conditioner in the world won’t be that efficient if you can’t work out how to use it effectively. Look for a model that is easy to operate and easy to program. Instructions and buttons should be clear and simple. Setting it correctly should be easy. The settings should be unambiguous – look for units that show an actual temperature rather than just vague levels or settings like ‘cooler’ and ‘warmer’.

Geothermal heat pumps are not just for heating! A geothermal heat pump allows your air conditioner to use the earth as a heat sink to absorb heat from your home. Geothermal air conditioners are generally more energy-efficient and can result in a 25% to 50% energy reduction!

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