There’s an interesting fact about air conditioning that many of us never consider. The more we use AC to cool our homes, the hotter the planet gets. Modern air conditioning systems, meaning those that use chemical-based liquid refrigerants, use as much as 10% of all the energy consumed in the world. In peak usage months, your older central air conditioner could be responsible for up to 50% of your energy costs.
While taking an enormous bite out of our fossil fuel reserves to run our systems, HVAC equipment also releases environmentally harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) into the atmosphere. These chemical compounds were found to be causing holes in the protective layer of ozone that surrounds the planet. Aptly named “greenhouse gases,” these chemical by-products allow sunlight and heat to pass through on the way to the earth’s surface but block the dissipation of that heat back into the atmosphere.
Since the start of the twenty-first century, there has been a significant rise in natural catastrophes like wildfires and global warming. Finding methods of air conditioning and heating that aren’t destructive environmentally or financially has become a primary goal.
What Types of AC Systems are Eco-Friendly?
We all know how important air conditioning is since most of us spend 90% of our time indoors. There are many areas in the US (and indeed in other parts of the world) where life without air conditioning would be nearly impossible. Picture what life in Houston would be like if we suddenly found ourselves without AC. It’s a bleak, sweaty vision.
Today’s air conditioning manufacturers are focused on improved performance and greater energy efficiency.
Modern Central AC Units: are located on concrete slabs directly adjacent to the house with the compressor and outdoor heat exchanger and a large fan. Today’s most efficient central air conditioners utilize variable speed compressor motors that allow the unit to use less energy during less demanding cycles.
Modern central AC units run far quieter than their earlier models, so locating it outside a bedroom or home office won’t be a noise concern.
Ductless Mini-Splits: are installed in homes that do not have an existing air duct system or in rooms with more significant air conditioning needs than the rest of the house. Mini-split AC units are self-contained, smaller versions of central AC units that allow greater control over the indoor comfort of your home.
Several brands of mini-split air conditioners can connect up to 4 indoor air handler units to a single outdoor compressor unit.
Installation of ductless mini-split systems differs from conventional AC units by not using in-attic or in-wall ductwork to deliver treated air. Connecting the indoor units to the outdoor unit is achieved by passing a 3” wide conduit through the wall, from which air and a control cable emerge. The outdoor unit can be located as far away as 50 feet or as close as the other side of the wall. Like modern central AC units, mini-splits are incredibly quiet compared to window-mounted ACs.
How Can I Make My Current AC System More Eco-Friendly?
Air conditioning is absolutely essential in certain climates. Consider that it wasn’t until the proliferation of air conditioners in the 1950s and 1960s that inhabiting the southernmost states in the country was almost impossible. It’s no coincidence that the population of the southern US didn’t start to explode until the 1960s. You only have to look at the growth of the Houston area to appreciate the influence of modern air conditioning.
If you’re in a newer home or just feel that you’re not ready to commit to installing an entirely new, modern HVAC system, there are some steps you can take to make your existing system just a little “greener.”
ADD CEILING FANS
Box fans, oscillating fans, and window fans are suitable for keeping the air in your home circulating, but ceiling fans are the most effective type of fan. Ceiling fans work off the concept of “heat rises,” drawing warmer air toward the ceiling, creating a draft in the room. Using ceiling fans in conjunction with an HVAC system will allow you to set the thermostat 4 degrees higher with no reduction of comfort.
Ceiling fans also work as “double agents” in the cooler months. By reversing the rotation of the fan blades, the fan forces any warm air that has collected near the ceiling to move back into the living space. And since everyone (including me) gets it confused, it’s counter-clockwise to cool a room in the summer and clockwise to warm it up in the winter.
INSTALL A SMART THERMOSTAT
It’s been many years since the reign of the simple, mechanical thermostat. Once upon a time, you actually had to be at home to make adjustments to your home’s comfort system. Horrors! Thanks to modern technology, with a smart thermostat, you can monitor and adjust the activity of your HVAC system from anywhere in the world.
Smart thermostats allow the homeowner to take more direct control over energy usage related to heating and air conditioning. Almost every maker of smart thermostats includes an app that allows for control and learns your home’s HVAC routine, automatically setting up a schedule to run specific systems at certain times.
Want your air conditioning to remain off while you’re at the office and only cool the house down fifteen minutes before you arrive? Consider it done. Need the heat to fire up a half-hour before you wake up in the morning? Smart thermostats have got that covered, as well.
Treat yourself like a rockstar and hang some hotel-style “black-out” curtains on windows that get direct sun exposure. By just keeping radiant heat from entering the home, you could reduce energy costs by as much as 10% and keep the more sun-prone rooms comfortable in the summer months.
Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning is proud to be a local dealer for some of the best brands of HVAC systems currently available. Call us today to find out about installing a new unit from Trane, Mitsubishi, Carrier, or any of our other popular, cost-effective options. Nick’s has been in Houston since 1979, and we look forward to adding you to our list of already satisfied customers!