Cool down your home without heating up the globe

26 July 2016

How can we lessen the environmental impact of the burgeoning air conditioning industry?

The world is embracing air conditioning technology at a wholesale rate with no sign of slowing down any time soon.

While this trend is undeniably good news for the HVAC industry, a recent report from the US’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory investigates what this might mean for the planet.

Evidence from the report suggests that hundreds of millions of air conditioning units will be installed by 2030, with 1.6 billion to be installed by 2050. When greenhouse gas and electricity use is considered, that can be compared to adding several new countries to the world.

Lawrence Berkeley identifies two key ways to help reduce the environmental impact of this growth, both of which require commitment from the industry. First, is for all 197 United Nations member countries to agree to an approach on how to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol, and second, to make air conditioners more energy efficient.

Improving air conditioner efficiency is technologically possible, and can have an enormous impact on peak demand for electricity going forward, according to the Lawrence Berkeley report. These efficient technologies are already available in some markets.

“Some mini split air conditioners available in Korea are already 50 per cent more energy efficient than the standard model on the market today,” the report states.

Findings also show that increasing air conditioner efficiency by just 30 per cent, and phasing out HFCs could effectively offset the construction of as many as 1,550 peak power plants.

A HFC reduction would work toward avoiding the equivalent of up to 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and more than 0.5 degrees of global warming by 2050. Members of the UN from Australia are hopeful that an agreement can be made effective by 2017.


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