Is air conditioning environmentally friendly?

Shannon Church
Marketing Executive

With global warming and environmental health concerns becoming more and more prevalent, there is a greater focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly building practices. Air conditioning is considered by many to be bad for the environment for a variety of reasons we explore in this article.

What are the environmental concerns surrounding air conditioning?

Use of refrigerants

A common perception is that air conditioning is toxic to the environment because of its use of refrigerant gases, which are not necessarily eco-friendly. In many older systems, older refrigerants provide the cooling, and these outdated refrigerants have a high ODP and GWP (Ozone Depleting Potential and Global Warming Potential).

However, these refrigerants only become an environmental hazard when a system leaks, generally due to poor or insufficient maintenance, which is why it’s important to have your air conditioning system regularly serviced by a qualified contractor, and upgraded when necessary – for more on this read our editorial here. Furthermore, newer and far less harmful refrigerants are being developed all the time to have lower ODPs and GWPs – and contractors working with refrigerants are required to have F-gas certification from Refcom, which ensures that every care is taken to prevent the leakage of refrigerant, and any removed refrigerants are recycled to prevent any possible environmental impact.

Energy usage

Another concern around the environmental impact is the high energy usage. Air conditioning requires electricity to run, which means it can be responsible for burning fossil fuels and contributing to global warming. The increase in power drawn from the grid for air conditioning during the summer months is viewed by many to be highly detrimental to the environment.

However, much like air source heat pumps (as discussed here), its energy usage does not necessarily mean a negative environmental impact. Put simply, it is as green as the source of energy by which it is powered, whether renewable or non-renewable. Furthermore, energy usage by air conditioning units in the summer is far outstripped by the seasonal usage of electrical energy to heat homes in the winter by air source heat pumps – which are becoming more and more commonly fitted and drawing far more energy from the grid than air conditioning is, so from an energy usage perspective, air conditioning is actually more sustainable than most heating systems.

New build properties are also relevant to this – as building regulations continue to evolve and tighten, today’s new properties are much better insulated. This means far less energy is required to change the temperature of the house because the heating and cooling load on the property is significantly reduced.

How can I make my air conditioning more environmentally friendly?

There are several ways to ensure that your air conditioning system is as eco-friendly as possible. By engaging with a specialist to design the system at the outset, equipment can be appropriately designed and specified for your individual property to work at maximum efficiency, minimising its carbon footprint. Using a programmable controller and integrating it with home automation can also assist by setting specific times for it to turn on and off to optimise its usage – this also enables you to monitor it and turn it off even when you are away from your property if it was left running accidentally.

Shannon Church

Shannon's day-to-day focus is driving development of our brand identity and ensuring cohesive company-client messaging. Her deep knowledge and understanding of the prime residential sector allows her to solidify and promote our position in the market.

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