Is Your Air Conditioner Bad for the Environment?

Environmental Health in Puyallup, WA

Air conditioners are a useful convenience in the summer months, but they can also negatively impact the environment by causing air pollution. Ditching your air conditioner altogether may be nearly impossible, but thankfully, there are some ways you can reduce the risks of pollution when using them. It’s helpful to start by understanding the different ways that air conditioners can cause air pollution.

Thermal Pollution

Air conditioners are effective cooling devices because they take the extra heat out of your home. The problem occurs when that heat is released outdoors. This causes the temperature outside to rise. So, the more air conditioners in use, the warmer the outdoor air becomes. Warmer air outside feeds the need for people to rely on air conditioners to keep them comfortable inside and creates a vicious cycle.

The effects of our reliance on air conditioners can lead to something called the urban heat island effect. This occurs when a city or other neighborhood that has a lot of tall buildings and concrete becomes much warmer than the more rural areas that surround it. All the air conditioners running in those huge buildings on full blast is part of the reason urban areas are so warm.

To reduce thermal pollution caused by air conditioners, you can work to improve the ventilation in your home so that you don’t have to constantly rely on artificial cooling methods. Planting trees and plants is another great way to reduce your reliance on air conditioning and help cool down the rest of your neighborhood. You can also use a fan as much as possible to circulate cool air. That way, when you do use your air conditioning, there isn’t as much of a risk for pollution.

Toxic Refrigerants

Refrigerant chemicals have changed quite a bit over time, but the current compound is referred to as HFC. Compounds like this can trap more heat than carbon dioxide leading to a potentially harmful greenhouse gas effect.

As we continue to look for ways to rely less on fossil fuels and improve the environment, HFCs have come under fire. Many environmentalists believe they should be phased out completely. Others feel they can be used in moderation for instances where there is no other option. Although many scientists have discovered newer chemicals that don’t pose as much risk, there’s still some risk involved. As a result, this debate is likely to continue as everyone scrambles to find more ways to lessen greenhouse gas emissions.

Thankfully, refrigerants are put to work inside your air conditioning unit. In other words, they don’t pose a problem unless your unit is not working properly and begins to leak refrigerant. One of the most common signs you may have a leak is if your unit is not cooling as well as before. You may also notice a sharp increase in your utility bills since your air conditioner will need to work much harder to try to cool off your home.

If you suspect your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant, be sure to call a professional as quickly as possible. Refrigerant can be a dangerous chemical, so it is not something that should be handled unless you know what you’re doing. In addition, if your unit is beyond repair and you need to dispose of it, be sure to elicit help. Improper disposal can cause refrigerants to leak.

To reduce the risk of toxic refrigerants polluting the environment, be sure to do some research before you buy your air conditioner. Try to ensure it’s using the safest refrigerant possible. It’s also important to take good care of your air conditioner and dispose of it in the proper manner to avoid unnecessary leaks.

Fossil Fuels

Air conditioners rely on electricity to run, but unfortunately, some electrical power comes from the process of coal-burning. This can cause carbon to be emitted, which in turn leads to greenhouse gas emissions.

If your home is able to rely on cleaner sources of energy, carbon emissions might not be as much of a concern. It’s important to do your research and check the level of carbon emissions from your energy sources. Try buying air conditioners that are energy efficient and replacing older units that are known to not be energy efficient.

Our staff at Puyallup Heating & Air Conditioning can provide you with regular air conditioning maintenance and repair to keep your cooling system running properly and reduce possible pollution. We provide expert heating and cooling repair, installation and maintenance to Puyallup, WA and the surrounding areas. Call us today for more information about all our cooling services that will help you keep your air conditioner running as smoothly as possible.