Do HVAC Systems Emit Greenhouse Gases?

482981936Many scientists believe that greenhouse gases deplete the ozone layer and all HVAC systems release these harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. This is true whether they are central cooling systems, portable air conditioners or window-mounted ACs.

The ozone layer is responsible for protecting the Earth’s surface from harmful UV radiation in sunlight. As the ozone layer depletes, more radiation gets through and causes an increase in temperature. This is an effect known worldwide as global warming.

To reduce the effects of greenhouse gases on the ozone layer, the US government has taken steps to ensure air conditioner manufacturers produce equipment that is more energy efficient and safer for the environment.

An air conditioner consists of electrical coils and an electric pump that transfer air between the interior of a building and the outdoors. The condenser is responsible for moving warm air outside while the evaporator releases cool air to the interior. Refrigerant moving through the system alternates between transforming from gas to liquid and from liquid to gas to facilitate the movement of air. Refrigerant is one source of greenhouse gases.

The liquid refrigerant in air conditioners made during the late 1900s was made of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were found to contribute to the depletion of the ozone. Beginning in 1995, AC units manufactured in the United States began using halogenated chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). HCFCs contribute less to ozone depletion but they still cause damage. This is why the US government decided to phase out HCFC production by 2030.

To do their part for the environment, consumers in the US are encouraged to purchase environmentally friendly appliances that carry the Energy Star seal of approval. Energy Star is a program run by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to set national energy efficiency standards. Energy Star ACs use approximately 10 percent less energy, which saves consumers money on cooling costs in addition to helping the environment. Consumers can take additional steps to improve energy efficiency by adding more insulation and sealing ductwork to reduce heat transfer.

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