By far the largest proportion of the population uses refrigerant based air conditioning systems of a wide variety of formats, sizes, capacities and output ratings to cool homes or offices during the hot summer months. The industry that supports this is huge and the availability of systems, individual units and the backup in servicing and repairs stretches nationwide and even worldwide.
For this website that is primarily concerned about the way that energy is used to keep people in cool comfort when it would otherwise be too hot to handle, looking at air conditioning is important. For that reason, this entire section of the site has been given up to investigating and researching the ins and outs of this massive industry and the commercial implications that underpin it.
Is AC The Only Way To Be Cool in Summer?
A lot of people are curious if refrigerant-compressor-condenser powered air conditioners are the only devices they can use to keep the climate inside their homes and workplaces comfortably cool when the outdoor temperatures are soaring, so let's start there. The short answer is, "No!"
There are other ways to stay cool including low-cost evaporative cooling devices and systems that are growing in popularity. There are some disadvantages to this type of system which explains why it is not more widespread, but I'll cover that aspect in a separate section of the site with is dedicated to that kind of cooling strategy.
For the majority of situations where climate control is an issue, traditional AC is the answer. It works in almost all climates and can deliver powerful temperature reduction in most buildings. The only major downside is that it uses a lot of energy to produce the cold air it is used for and that works out ever more expensive as energy costs continue to rise as the world's natural resources dwindle.
Why Is AC So Expensive to Run?
The main reason it costs so much to run AC is down to the mechanics of the air cooling process going on inside the box(es). In a similar way to a domestic fridge, an AC has a refrigeration process that compresses a special gas that rapidly cools inside thin pipes in a lattice that warm air is forced through, chilling it.
That now cold air is then forced into the room by a powerful fan, which is what cools the temperature down. But that's not all that's going in inside there.
The compressor takes a lot of energy to work in forcing the gas to compress and drop in temperature, but there is a by-product of that process called a heat exchange. For every degree drop in temperature, an equal and opposite degree rise in temperature is produced by the machinery, which produces hot, moist air.
This hot air is not wanted inside the building for obvious reasons, so it has to be expelled into the outside air by external fans and a condenser to take the excess moisture away from the machinery and allow it to run away outside as well. All that processing uses a lot of power, which is costly.
Unfortunately, the power companies are in no great hurry to develop ways of producing cheap electricity because they are driven by huge profits already made from existing systems and methods. It is in the industry's interest to ensure those prices stay high and keep rising so they keep making fat profits to satisfy their shareholders.
How Can You Economize but Still Have a Cool Home?
There are some very simple yet effective ways of economizing while still enjoying the luxury of a cool interior during the hot season. I'll outline the most effective and simple to initiate below:
- Erect shading around the house to keep the sun off the walls and prevent the building getting so hot in the first place. This will make it possible to run the AC at a lower power setting and save power and money.
- For walls that cannot be effectively shaded for any reason, if they are a dark color, paint them white. This reflects the sun's rays to a greater extent helping to keep the building from heating up quite so much, allowing you to reduce the load on the AC and save power.
- Ensure the building is effectively insulated, including the attic. Also make sure there are no gaps in window or door frames that would allow hot air to get in and cool air to escape. This will also allow you to reduce the load on the AC and use less energy.
- Simply turn the thermostat up by a degree or two! Often you'll find the inside of a home is actually colder than is comfortable and its occupants are sitting around wearing sweaters in the middle of summer. This is unbelievably foolish!
The main point that you can take away here is that you don't need a science degree or be an expert engineer to take relatively simple steps to reduce your home's air conditioning system's energy consumption. There are more things you can do of course, but the points above are probably the easiest to apply for most people.
Remember, you can still be comfortable with AC running if you set the thermostat to between 22 - 25 degrees rather than as is often mistakenly set at 20 or lower. Those few degrees extra won't make you feel hot but they will save you a great deal of money every season.
While it mat not seem like much at the time, those pennies saved each day add up to a lot of dollars over the course of the hot season. So make the most of what you have and do what you can do to make your home more temperature efficient, because it will save you money! See this Energy Star article for more information.
Want to Know More?
I assume because you are reading this that you are interested in learning more about the machinery that keeps your home cool when its hot and often doubles to keep it warm when it gets cold outside. For that reason, I have researched and written several informative articles covering a variety of aspects of this important subject. The titles that you can click on to open the respective pages are listed below:
- Does a Ventless Portable Air Conditioner Exist?
- Portable vs Window Air Conditioner (Which Should You Buy?)
- Air Conditioning Diagnostics, Repairs and Maintenance