Air Conditioning: Small Changes Can Save Significant Energy

Nov 30
08:25

2011

Aaliyah Arthur

Aaliyah Arthur

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Air conditioning units in most homes are similar in design and operation to systems that were used twenty or thirty years ago.

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The different types of air conditioning units available have not really changed dramatically over the past several years. While the technology has remained mostly the same, Air Conditioning: Small Changes Can Save Significant Energy Articles central air cooling units have become more and more commonplace. Around 80 percent of all newly constructed homes are equipped with these units. People living in warmer parts of the country in particular are taking advantage of this luxury during several months out of the year. Even people who live in areas with varying climates still enjoy using cooling units during the summer. In recent years, the heating and cooling industry is one of many industries that are becoming more concerned with finding ways to save energy and lessen environmental impacts.

Today, most air conditioning units utilize chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants, which are harmful to the environment. These refrigerants have been in use for nearly twenty years, and they help cool the air in your home. Emissions from these organic compounds are far more dangerous than carbon dioxide gases, and they contribute to the depletion of the earth's ozone. For this reason, the use of these refrigerants is being phased out, and they are being replaced by safer refrigerants. However, even some of the new refrigerants are still being criticized for their harmful effects on the atmosphere.

With air conditioning in buildings consuming a large percentage of energy every year, an efficient system has a great effect on the amount of money people spend on electricity. Some sources even claim that almost half of the money people spend on electricity each year is on heating and cooling costs. In attempts to lower this high level of energy consumption, the US Environmental Protection Agency has created efficiency guidelines for newly manufactured heating and cooling devices. Replacing a central air unit that is more than twelve years old with a new Energy Star-rated unit can lower energy bills up to 30 percent. It is important to replace heating units as well because central air units typically operate using the blower motor on a furnace.

While efforts continue to make existing air conditioning units more efficient, there are also advances in technology leading to completely new ways of cooling the air. One of the most promising concepts combines more efficient pumps and fans with evaporative cooling systems and the use of desiccants. Desiccants are water-absorbing compounds that help remove the humidity from the air. This type of cooling unit is known as a desiccant-enhanced evaporative, or DEVap, system. It has been developed by a group of engineers in Colorado. The evaporative cooling system is similar to swamp coolers, but the added desiccant can eliminate even more moisture from the air.

New air conditioning units like the DEVap coolers are still in development, and are not available yet for consumers. However, the measures that have been taken to lower environmental impacts and energy consumption on existing units have been very successful. Continuing to operate older heating and cooling devices is not a good idea. The outdated equipment will cost more money than newer ones, and negatively affect the atmosphere. Few people can afford to spend excess dollars on electricity in today's economy. In addition, most people are interested in finding ways to preserve the earth and its natural resources.