Among the systems in your house that are far from green, air conditioning ranks near the top of the list, making up for almost 50 percent of the energy we use during peak summer months. It is also the cause of nearly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. In other terms, people are using air conditioners to protect themselves from the effects of global warming which is to certain extent caused by those very same devices. Non-green air conditioning has a bad effect both on human health and the environment, but luckily, green options are available for homeowners who are ecologically aware and wish to reduce carbon footprint without experiencing the stifling heat of the summer months.
Air Conditioning and Ecology
In order to function, air conditioning uses hydrofluorcarbons, which are slowly being eliminated because of their destructive influence on our planet’s ozone layer. As it is powered by electricity made by burning fossil fuels, if the continuous cycle of using it for protection against heat, which is partly caused by the very same devices, is not put out of use, carbon emission will spike, especially in big cities.
Air Conditioning and Health
Air conditioning can intensify symptoms of arthritis, neuritis and sinus problems. If you are constantly in an air-conditioned space, the level of mold spores and off-gassed chemicals that you breathe, will increase. Individuals who live and work in environments which are constantly air-conditioned are prone to upper-respiratory illnesses. This is the case because the body goes through significant stress when moving through extremes of temperature quickly and because an air conditioner promotes flow of airborne viruses. Additionally, when the body gets used to artificial cooling it will have a hard time coping with summer temperatures.
What are the alternatives to air-conditioning?
First of all, let us examine how heating and cooling work.
Heat moves via three processes:
When you want to control conducted heat you insulate your roof. When you put shades on your windows to prevent sunlight from shining in your window you are controlling radiated heat. If you install attic vents and fans to make heat rise and leave your house through the roof you are controlling convected heat.
Convention cools you when air moves over your skin while the warmer air rises and is replaced by cooler air from below. You will radiate your heat to your environment, if the environment is cooler than you. Since air conditioning is such a huge ecological problem, there are many solutions for a better way to cool interior air, some of which are already used in modern eco-friendly houses.
- Hydronic Cooling
Also referred to as radiant hydronic cooling, is cooling by using chilled water instead of chilled air. The heat discharged by the people in a room is absorbed by the cool water, hence the term radiant. Aluminium pipes that carry concealed tubing and is mounted on a ceiling is the most residential system. A hydronic heating system of tubes placed in the floor can be used for both heating and cooling.
However, because the interior air needs to be dry so that there is no condensation, hydronic cooling can be difficult in humid climates. A good solution would be to mix hydronic cooling with a dehumidifying air conditioning system, if possible.
- Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans work on the principle of a “wind chill”, meaning that they provide a breeze that makes you feel cooler instead of actually lowering the temperature in a room. You can save a lot of energy as you can set the thermostat of your air conditioning to 27c, for example, and one of those energy-efficient ceiling fans will make it feel like it is 22c. What’s more, by using one of these, you can also cut down your energy bill during the winter, we learn from reputed Sydney-based suppliers of ceiling fans, as running it in the slow reverse mode will pull the hot air from the ceiling down to the floor. Another benefit is that a ceiling fan does not require annual servicing and is generally very reliable.
In humid climates, the majority of air conditioning energy employed to cool buildings is used to simply dehumidify them. The technologies relying on desiccants, improved condensers and compressors, and electrostatically-induced precipitation of water vapor are still in the early stages of development. A good example of the applied solutions here are green roofs, which cool buildings by protecting them from the sunlight and making use of evaporative cooling.
Eventually, when choosing an air conditioning system for your home or work space, you need to consider how much energy the system spends, as well as its effect on the environment and its feasibility.