How bad is air conditioning for the environment?

How bad is air conditioning for the environment?

As global warming increases and heat waves intensify in many areas around the globe, the easiest way to beat the heat is by turning on an air conditioner. However, air conditioners require large amounts of electricity, generated by burning fossil fuels—the primary human source of carbon emissions—which in turn contributes to global warming.

It’s a vicious cycle, and the best way to stop it is simply to turn off your air conditioner! Air conditioners are responsible for about one-sixth of electricity used, or 43 percent of the peak electric power load on a hot summer day, according to

Cooling and heating systems in the U.S. emit over a half-billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, and 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from household electricity use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So finding alternative ways to keep cool is essential.

Adding to the energy and emissions issues is the fact that utility bills constitute the second-largest household expense. Cooling down without the air conditioner can really add up to big earth-friendly savings.

How can you minimize the environmental impact of an air conditioner?

Here are some tips for cutting emissions and saving cash:

  • Insulate well to keep your home cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.
  • In the summer, much of the heat absorbed by a house comes through the attic floor. By insulating the attic floor, you can prevent a lot of heat from blazing down into the house.
  • You can also install double pane windows for extra insulation and caulk or weatherstrip doors and windows to prevent air leaks.
  • Understand that house color plays a role in how much heat a house absorbs. Dark-colored homes absorb more heat than light-colored homes. If you can’t repaint, offset the heat absorption by installing radiant barrier insulation.
  • Use shading to cover your windows and cut up to 40 percent of your cooling costs. Drapes are the most effective means of blocking sunlight, especially on south-and west-facing exposures. Blinds are also a good measure of blocking sun, and you can use “black out” fabric (available at fabric stores) to even more effectively keep the sun out.
  • Let nature work for you. Landscaping with trees and quick-growing vines in the hottest areas around your home provides a cool surrounding. Be sure to allow some space between the plants and your home for the cool space barrier. Native shrubs provide excellent sun blockage on the lowest points of walls where sun seeps in.
  • Install roof vents. At $5-10 each, roof vents are an inexpensive way to help cool your home in the summer, without cooling your home during the winter.
  • Install Coolvent on your roof. Coolvent is an inexpensive material that helps cool your attic and therefore your home as well and prevents wind-driven rain from entering.
  • Change air filters in heating and cooling systems regularly to knock 2
    percent off your CO2 output each year.
  • Install ceiling fans. They are a low-energy usage alternative to air conditioning because they use a lot less power. Some models are also effective for winter use, as they pull warm air down from the ceiling.
  • Avoid using incandescent (traditional) light bulbs which waste 75 percent of their energy use on creating heat! Instead use cool compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs).
  • Air dry clothes instead of using the dryer. When clothes are hanging inside, they also have a natural cooling effect. When the weather is too cold for clothes to air dry, leave the door to the laundry room open, and the dryer will help to warm up the rest of the house.
  • Air-dry dishes to avoid using the heat cycle and wash only full loads to minimize energy use.
  • Use a window fan when the air outside is not too hot. Be sure to leave doors and windows open to maximize airflow from this source.
  • Turn off the gas supply to fireplaces and heaters during warmer months. Keeping a pilot light lit generates excess energy and it is easy enough to turn it back on in the fall.
  • Close the chimney to minimize cool air loss from inside your home.

Your efforts on this simple step will lower your greenhouse gas emissions and
are certain to lower your energy bills as well

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