Sustainable design for homes and businesses has become the right thing to do.   Twenty years ago, I don’t recall anyone getting graduate degrees in sustainable design.   In the 1980’s it was still common to throw aluminum in the garbage and rebates for energy efficiency upgrades were non-existent.   Now there are tax incentives and rebates for installing wind and solar energy generators.  One of the most common side businesses for HVAC repairmen is to simply plug air leaks and provide better insulation on ducting—energy upgrades reduces electricity bills for the homeowner, reduces toxic pollutants to our atmosphere, and lets us as a society more efficiently use resources for other essential needs.

I am amazed by the constant improvements in every aspect air conditioning design, construction, and installation. 

Compressors have become efficient and quieter.   These new compressors are often used on heat pumps and are advertised as scroll compressors.   I attached a link on youtube for how a scroll compressor works.  I think they are mind-boggling in design.  

Heat exchangers leverage the environment for greater efficiency.   In the old days, AC systems would try to put heat into a hot environment and the heat exchangers were often in direct sunlight.   I’ve seen systems that pump heat to groundwater or the subsurface for cooling homes, or vice versa for heating homes.    I’ve seen systems that pump excess heat from homes into a swimming pool.   All of this just seems to make sense. 

I suppose all this makes sense now because of the environmental/green movement.   I thought about this and think we have Al Gore, the USEPA, and China for all this.   Most people can figure out Al Gore (climate change noble prize winner) and the USEPA (mission).  But China?  

China because of their incredible growth has taken us very close to the edge of resource limited output.   In 2010, we demand for energy (for example oil) approached theoretical production capacity.   Basic materials such as fertilizers, concrete, iron, and copper have all grown faster than supply and we may not be able to produce enough with our current lifestyle expectations.

Somehow as a society we have begun mindset change in lifestyle.  Green is chic and sustainable growth may avert possible wars over oil and minerals.  

This environmental movement has impacted everyone’s world.  For my world, I need to learn about insulation, energy rebates, city and federal tax incentives, and sourcing the most energy efficient AC models.   But I think our evolution in lifestyle expectations will still undergo much change.

Air conditioning is a necessity in Las Vegas on some days.  But there are other times when it is a luxury.   Already residents shift their activity to cooler times of the day.  Perhaps this is why night life in Vegas is so great.   We also learn to turn up the thermostat and let our bodies adjust.  We can adjust our activities to include sitting in shady spots.  We can use shades to reflect the sun.   We could paint all of our roofs white as DOE suggested but this goes back to design and public perception—white reflective roofs for homes are not chic yet—but is a low-hanging fruit for saving energy and the environment.  Maybe if Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a white reflective roof, it will become the trendy thing to do.

I’ve been thinking about solar powered air conditioning but believe painting your roof white has better cost/benefit.   Solar panel construction and installation have an enormous environmental cost built in—but it’s just hidden.   Our rulers (life cycle analysis) are not sophisticated enough to show the consumer the best investment when it comes to being green.   Currently, wind power is the only green energy that is truly green by any measure and the cost/benefit to society is good.   As an air conditioning guy, I do not recommend solar powered AC systems yet.   I know some customers have huge tax incentives and in these cases there are quality solar powered AC systems if you have enough roof space.  

There are other aspects to AC that have changed.  Freon has become bad as most people know.   Freon is reclaimed by EPA certified reclaimers.    Manufacturers have gone to use chemicals that are similar to Freon but cause less environment damage.  Ultimately, the industry will go back to the original chemical—ammonia.   Currently, HCFCs are acceptable but in reality, they cause the same damage as the Freon they replaced.  Ammonia is everywhere and used for fertilizer, unfortunately, pure ammonia is dangerous.   But if safety engineering improves, ammonia technology may become universal for home air conditioners.

The EPA has created the “GreenChill” program which gets to greener forms of air conditioning.  This webpage is replete with event and webinars for green air conditioning.  You should check it out—being from Nevada, I don’t often recommend EPA for anything but I think they are doing something right here.