Air Conditioning 101
A refrigerator and an air conditioner operate in basically the same way and have similar components. They both use energy to transfer heat; the refrigerator transfers the heat from the inside of the refrigerator to the warm surroundings of your home, and air conditioning transfers the heat from inside your home to the outside environment.
The compressor, a pump, moves refrigerant between the condenser and the evaporator, forcing the fluid through a circuit of tubing and fins in coils. The evaporator is a cold indoor coil and the condenser is a hot outdoor coil and releases the gathered heat from inside your home outside. The coils of the evaporator and condenser are snakelike tubing that is surrounded by fins made of aluminum, with the tubing usually being copper.
The refrigerant evaporates in the indoor coil, drawing the heat from inside your home causing it to cool. This hot refrigerant turns to gas and is pumped outside where it releases its heat by turning back to liquid. This process is caused by outdoor air moving over the metal tubing and fins.
For most of the late half of the last century air conditioning mostly used CFCs, otherwise known as chlorofluorocarbons, for refrigerant. It is now widely known that these CFCs are damaging the Earth’s ozone layer and production was halted in the U.S. in 1995. What is now widely used is HCFCs, or halogenated chlorofluorocarbons, but these are also being phased out to be stopped by 2030. Despite the attempt to phase out these dangerous chemicals they will probably be available for a long time due to the refrigerants being recovered from old redundant systems. The good news is that with this phasing out of ozone unsafe CFCs and HCFCs safe HFCs, hydrofluorocarbons, and other alternatives will most likely take over the market.
Air Conditioning uses around 5% of the electricity produced in the U.S., costing homeowners more than $11 billion yearly. With two-thirds of homes in the U.S. having A.C. the result is approximately 100 million tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere yearly, averaging around two tons per home that uses air conditioning.
Not only can switching to more efficient A.C. systems reduce your energy use by 20%-50%, but the latest technology available can greatly help improve our environment.