There’s simply no way around it: the air conditioner you probably depend on all summer is emitting a constant stream of greenhouse gasses contributing to the warming of the Earth. While it’s true that the coolants used today, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are much less damaging than the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) initially used in air conditioning, they are still harmful to the environment.
Environmentally Friendly Coolants
Recently, research has led to the development of more environmentally friendly coolants. One in particular, HFO-1234yf, is scheduled to be introduced for use in the air conditioning systems of all GM cars beginning with the 2013 models. This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to address this growing problem before it’s too late.
Electricity and Carbon Dioxide
The use of environmentally friendly coolants will only go so far towards curbing the environmental impact of air conditioning. That’s because air conditioners are universally powered by electricity, and electricity is almost universally produced by the burning of fossil fuels like coal. When coal is burned, it generates a great deal of carbon dioxide, a substantial pollutant on its own.
An Intensifying Cycle
Of course, the more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are introduced into the atmosphere, the hotter the planet will become. And as the average temperature rises, air conditioning will be used more and more to combat these effects. This is a cycle that could quickly spiral out of control if something is not done to disrupt it.
What You Can Do
There are several things you can do if you’re concerned about how your air conditioning usage impacts the environment. First of all, make the switch as quickly as possible to HFO-1234yf or a similarly environmentally-friendly coolant when it becomes available. And remember that the air conditioning in your car counts too.
You can also go a long way towards reducing your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by keeping your overall energy consumption down. Try relying on other, natural methods of cooling your home as much as possible. And when you do turn on your air conditioner, make sure you use all of the energy being consumed as efficiently as possible.
That means keeping your unit in good shape to maintain its energy efficiency and making sure that your home is properly sealed and insulated so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work overtime maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature.