AC’s Impact on the Environment

How does your home’s AC system impact the environment?

Take a look at what you need to know about residential air conditioning, its impact on the environment, and ways to minimize eco-effects.



The Refrigerant

What type of refrigerant does your central air conditioner use? Every air conditioner uses refrigerant to cool. This liquid chemical absorbs the heat from the air and converts it into a gas. The AC system’s condenser compresses the gas, turns it back into a liquid, and sends it into your home again for another cycle.

If your system is older, chances are it uses HCFC-22 (also known as Freon or R-22). This hydrochlorofluorocarbon is no longer manufactured in the United States, due to the serious environmental impact it can have.

Known as an ozone-depleting substance, HCFC-22 degrades the protective layer around the planet. This allows harmful UV light in and can lead to problems ranging from skin cancer in humans to marine ecosystem damage. If you want to reduce these types of environmental effects, you may need to replace your older AC system.

Newer air conditioners use refrigerants such as R-410A. This option doesn’t have the same ozone-depleting effects as HCFC-22. To minimize the ecological impact of your home cooling system, discuss R-410A options with a qualified HVAC contractor. The professional can help you to upgrade your air conditioner to a more environmentally friendly model.


The Energy Usage

Even though your newer air conditioner may use R-410A, the refrigerant alone isn’t enough to make your system eco-friendly. While reducing ozone-depleting emissions is a major factor, you also need to understand how much energy your AC system uses.

The more energy your AC system uses, the more of an environmental impact it can have. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioners account for six percent of total electricity use in the United States. Not only is high energy usage costly for you as the homeowner (and electric bill payer), but it can damage the environment.

Air conditioner-related energy usage releases nearly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s air annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This greenhouse gas also contributes to ozone depletion. Couple this with issues older refrigerants (such as HCFC-22) cause and air conditioners can have a major negative impact on the environment – such as increasing climate change.

A new high-efficiency AC unit uses less energy than an older model. But this doesn’t mean your high-efficiency air conditioner will always function at its peak performance level. Clogged filters, dirty air ducts, drafty windows, poor home insulation, and other interior air leaks can force the unit to work harder.

The harder your air conditioner works, the more energy it uses – even if it’s labeled as high-efficiency.


The Solutions

Along with refrigerant choice, you can take other steps to reduce your AC system’s environmental impact. These include limiting energy usage and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Whether you have an older or new AC unit, a qualified HVAC professional can help you to overhaul the environmental effects of your system.

To reduce electricity usage and help the planet, maintain your air conditioner. Regularly clean or replace the filter, fill air leaks (around windows or doors), replace old drafty windows, and insulate your home. Along with these simple steps, schedule annual professional maintenance.

A clean, damage-free system will use less energy than one with significant wear and tear.

Other options, such as a programmable thermostat or high-quality filter, can also reduce the environmental impact of your air conditioner.

Do you need a new air conditioner or routine maintenance? Contact Chrismon Heating & Cooling for more