How does my HVAC system affect the environment negatively? What can we do to help?
While our HVAC systems create a comfortable environment indoors, it's hardly ever a thought to consider their effect on our outdoor environment. HVAC equipment generates greenhouse gases which deplete our ozone layer and contribute to global warming. There are ways, however, to minimize our carbon footprint, and delay the depletion of this protective layer of Earth's atmosphere.
What does my HVAC system have to do with greenhouse gases?
First and foremost, we need to understand the science behind what our HVAC systems do, what greenhouse gases are, and how they affect the Earth.
In the atmosphere's natural chemistry, the quantity of ozone is stable. Ozone (O3), essentially breaks down harmful UV rays and emits heat as a result of this process. When a greenhouse gas (CFCs, HCFCs, Halons, or Methyl bromide) is introduced into this layer of atmosphere, it has the affect of breaking down ozone more quickly than it is regenerated. Without a stable quantity of Ozone, there is an increased amount of harmful UV radiation allowed to reach the Earth's surface - resulting in increased rate of skin cancers, eye cataracts, and genetic & immune system damage.
But how does my HVAC System contribute?
Your heat pump or air conditioning condenser moves hot air outside, while it pushes cool air inside. (A heat pump does this in reverse in the winter.) The refrigerant cycles through the system, changing from a liquid to a gas, as it absorbs and releases heat. The refrigerant is the source of danger to our atmosphere. The first air conditioners used a liquid refrigerant composed of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), which were later discovered to emit greenhouse gases. These refrigerants have been phased out, and will no longer be available for purchase as of January 2020. Because of the detrimental effects of these refrigerants, in 1995 manufacturers began using HCFCs (halogenated chlorofluorocarbons) instead, which have a reduced effect of breaking down the ozone layer. They do still contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer and will be phased out by 2030.
How can we help?
Atmospheric studies performed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) show that the ozone layer can be regenerated as less harmful chemicals are introduced. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA continues to study the effects of refrigerant on our atmosphere, and has compiled a list of environmentally safer options. There is no law yet that states homeowners must convert to the alternative R410A refrigerant systems, but they are also much more efficient, which can mean big savings for you if you do convert.
What's the bottom line?
If you have a system with R22, servicing it often can help to reduce its impact on the environment by preventing unnecessary leaks, and ensuring safer operation. If you choose to convert to an environmentally safer, more efficient, cost effective system, look for the EnergyStar rating. EnergyStar products can help you save money on your heating and cooling bills every month, and greatly reduce your home's carbon footprint. If you would like to learn more about safer, more efficient options for your home, call us today 478-225-9830 for a free in-home consultation with one of our trained Comfort Experts.