The relationship between air conditioning and climate change is important to understand. The New York Times recently published an article about how improving the efficiency of air conditioners and using more environmentally friendly refrigerants (aka coolants) can be part of the solution to climate change goals. As summer heats up and we turn on our air conditioners, you might wonder about the impact of air conditioning on the environment.
Air conditioning is here to stay. In fact, it is just now becoming affordable to ordinary people in countries such as India, Brazil, Indonesia, and China. 1.6 billion new air conditioners are expected to be installed by 2050. I’m planning a few blogs to address topics related to air conditioning and climate change to help you understand where the air conditioning industry has been, where it is, and where it’s going. Being an informed air conditioner owner will help you be part of the solution. We all need to help make sure we “get it right”!
The first few posts will focus on refrigerants, which are the gas in your air conditioning system that transfers heat from the warm inside air and releases it outside. It can be confusing to figure out which are banned, which are still OK to use in some situations, what the best refrigerant is today, and what is likely to be used in the future. Treaties and agreements signed by almost all nations,that are in various stages of ratification by the United States, as well as EPA regulations impact the condenser in your backyard and the technician who services it. I’ll try to sort that out for you too.
Where would we be without refrigerant? We depend on it to keep comfortable in the summer in our cars, homes, and places of work and recreation. Coolant helped pave the way for modern skyscrapers made of fixed glass panes and steel, and helped fuel population booms in hot cities such as Houston. Refrigerant also freed us from iceboxes, although there are still people around who fondly remember following the iceman’s cart in order to pick up refreshing chips of ice. The early, first generation refrigerants were toxic and flammable gasses such ammonia, sulphur dioxide, and propane. The invention by Thomas Midgley of the first chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerant in 1928 ushered in the second generation of stable and non-toxic refrigerants.