Air Conditioning’s Energy Consumption And The Environment

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — Many recent studies have explored the exact toll that air conditioning use around the world, including in developing nations, is taking on the environment. The findings are staggering and if we’re going to be responsible stewards of the planet, they shouldn’t be ignored.

“Air conditioning is here to stay because it is crucial for the comfort, safety and technology that modern day life runs on,” says Gabriel Carini. “However, the energy heating and cooling consumes can be minimized to reduce the impact it has on the environment.”

According to a recent NYTimes.com article, air-conditioners draw copious electricity, and deliver a double whammy in terms of climate change, since both the electricity they use and the coolants they contain result in planet-warming emissions. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/sunday-review/air-conditioning-is-an-environmental-quandary.html)

“We simply can’t live without air conditioning, but we need to adjust how we live with it,” says Carini, who owns and operates a San Diego air conditioning and heating company. “There are many ways that everyone can save energy — and money — without giving up air conditioning altogether.”

Many changes only require minor adjustments to everyday life and have minimal effect on indoor comfort. These steps also reduce the number of necessary air conditioning service appointments, help extend the life of the air conditioning unit and save the homeowner money on their electric bill.

  1. Adjust the thermostat. Bumping up the thermostat by just one degree can save as much as one percent on your electric bill. During the summer try to keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees. The utility bill will be lower and the energy consumption will be much less.
  2. Use fans instead of turning down the air conditioning. Energy Star approved ceiling fans can help people feel much cooler without requiring the air conditioning to be cranked down.
  3. Keep the filters clean and the unit tuned up. It doesn’t matter whether your house has a central air conditioning installation or a room air conditioner: a dirty filter and unmaintained unit cuts down on its efficiency. That means the unit will be using more energy and costing more money to do the same job. Filters should be changed monthly and you need biannual air conditioning service appointments.
  4. Program that programmable thermostat and use it regularly. A lot of homeowners in the U.S. have a programmable thermostat but have never programmed it. Just setting the thermostat back when you are asleep or away from home can save money and energy. According to Department of Energy website, homeowners get a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.
  5. Use non-energy dependent tools to keep temperatures more comfortable. Installing blinds or window dressings and keeping them drawn during the sunniest part of the day can keep indoor temperatures cooler. Planting trees or bushes that shade the window during the sunny parts of the day can also cut down on the need for air conditioning.

Replacing older air conditioning units, adding insulation to the attic and sealing ductwork are more involved ways to save energy, but they are also very effective. Homeowners may not be able to implement these right away, but they can plan for them.

“These are not revolutionary steps, but they can make a big difference when you add them all up,” says Carini. “We can help people identify ways to save and improve the efficiency of their system.”