Does AC Cause Pollution?

HVAC repair in Meridian, ID

Air conditioning is a common technology in warm climates or anywhere that gets uncomfortably hot during the summer season. Four in five American homes have air conditioning, and those families likely couldn’t imagine coping with the heat without their HVAC systems in place. However, many of those households are also worried about the global environment and wonder whether or not their AC units cause pollution.

An Unfortunate Reality

The sad truth is that any air conditioning unit can cause air pollution. This is a technology that needs a lot of energy, and the result is emissions being released up above into the atmosphere. Also, AC units don’t always work well or efficiently when temperatures get high, and that can result in even more pollution. Energy-efficient models and proper maintenance can help reduce this pollution, however.

Fossil Fuel Use

HVAC units need power to operate. On average, they need 318 watts each hour, and that can spike into the thousands just to startup a cooling cycle. Unfortunately, many homes get their power from power plants burning coal or natural gas. Coal, in particular, creates a lot of carbon dioxide. Some homes are switching to solar air conditioning, but it’s only a fraction of the market at the time of writing. Fortunately, the newest air conditioners are more energy efficient than ever. They use less power, and your monthly utility bills are lower. Also, the power air conditioners use installed in a home doesn’t even factor in the energy consumption involved in their manufacturing, transport, and distribution.

Dirty Ducts

Not all air conditioner pollution is global. Local air pollution can happen inside your home’s ductwork, where dust and bacteria accumulate over time. Simply keeping up with regular changes of your air filter can do wonders for this, and that will keep everyone in your home healthier and breathing easier. Keeping your HVAC system and ductwork clean also means your system doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver conditioned air throughout your home, again minimizing both pollution and your energy bills. You can also skip ductwork altogether with a mini-split system.

Refrigerants Can Be Toxic

The Montreal Protocol is perhaps the only international treaty to ever be ratified by every country in the world. In shifting products and appliances around the world away from CFC refrigerants, the ozone layer that shields the world from some of the sun’s worst UV radiation not only stopped growing but actually started repairing itself. However, the replacement of HFCs is not without risk.

HFCs don’t usually hurt the ozone layer the way CFCs do, but they’re still a greenhouse gas. In some cases, they’re even worse overall. However, properly maintained air conditioners work in a closed-loop format that prevents HFCs from leaking and getting into the atmosphere. Keep up with your regular inspections and service calls, so your own air conditioner doesn’t get involved with pollution this way.

Construction Materials

Air conditioners used to be made primarily out of metal, but plastics have been growing in popularity for quite some time. Plastic is, unfortunately, something that is not bio-degradable, and the production of plastic releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Metal air conditioners are heavier, so their production and transportation use even more energy just to get them around.

Thermal Pollution

Your air conditioner works by taking the heat inside your home and pushing it outside. That makes the temperature outside even hotter. You probably wouldn’t think that one home would add that much, but the effect can be quite pronounced in crowded urban areas where many AC units are all running at once. Developed areas are also more likely to have most of their ground covered by buildings and pavement that reflect the sun’s heat instead of letting the ground absorb it. That all adds up to urban areas sometimes having temperatures nearly 10F higher than rural areas.

We Can Help

Proper use and maintenance can minimize how air pollution happens. If you live in the Idaho communities of McCall or Meridian, then contact us at [company name] for heating, cooling, and electrical services that keep your home’s air conditioner running as optimally as possible. We can maintain your home’s comfort and help prevent AC pollution, and we also offer services for indoor air quality, zoning systems, and duct sealing. Contact us right away for anything from new construction HVAC to commercial needs.