The primary environmental impacts of AC units come from their power consumption and the ozone depletion and greenhouse effects of their refrigerants. Most air conditioning systems run on electricity that is typically supplied by coal-burning plants. As units work harder, they draw more power, which translates into increased carbon emissions.
The refrigerants used are mostly newer hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) types designed not to harm the ozone layer, though some older chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) coolant systems are still in use. Unfortunately, HFCs used to address ozone depletion created another problem because they contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The good news is there are some ways to minimize the power consumption and environmental exposure when you use your AC. Some simple maintenance steps could help you stay cool without all the guilt, so you can enjoy summer with a little less sweat.
Clear Some Space
The exterior condenser of your AC works much better when it is clean and the area around it is <ahref=”https://pge.opower.com/ei/app/tip/tip021_let_ac_breathe”>uncluttered. Trim back trees and shrubbery, and gather up leaves and other debris. If you’re willing to engage in a bit more work, you can also clean off the condenser coil and fins. To do this, you would need to cut power to the unit and wait at least 30 minutes to allow the capacitor to discharge, so it will be safe to remove the coil covers and gain access. Once inside, carefully use a brush or your fingers to remove material stuck in the fins. You could also use your garden hose.
Don’t Block the Air
Clean the indoor vents and air intake grill with a vacuum cleaner. Check that the return and vents have adequate clearance and move furniture, toys, blinds, curtains, and anything else that could impede air flow away from the ACs vents.
Any exposed ducting should be inspected for leaks. Leaking duct lines make the system work harder and should be sealed with properly rated, purpose-built duct tape. It’s also a good idea to insulate your ductwork with adequately thick material designed for the application.
Change or Clean Filters
This easy step is often overlooked. A clogged, dirty air-conditioning filter can choke off the flow of air at your AC’s intake, making the system struggle and increasing the energy it draws. Follow the instructions from your unit’s manufacturer and the maker of your filters. There are also permanent filters on the market that can be cleaned out and reused to cut waste.
Check for Leaks
Whether your system is old enough to still be using the ozone-depleting CFC refrigerants or the newer HFCs, leaks could be problematic for the environment.
Visually inspect your AC coolant lines for signs of leakage such as discolored or damaged insulation. Look for stains on the concrete and check the lines to make sure there aren’t any kinked or bent sections. If you find any of these signs, you will need to call a professional for immediate AC repair.
Staying Cool Doesn’t Have to Hurt
Taking steps to help your air conditioner run more efficiently can allow you to stay cool during the hot months without being horribly negligent in your environmental stewardship. Doing your part before you use your AC can translate into guilt-free comfort.
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