Select Page
Is propane a solution for more sustainable air conditioning?

Is propane a solution for more sustainable air conditioning?

propaneCredit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Current severe heatwaves that will likely increase in severity and frequency in the future are driving a rise in the use of air conditioners, threatening the environment with their high energy consumption and refrigerants with high warming potential. A new study finds that switching to propane as a refrigerant could lessen the global temperature increase from space cooling.

We spend enormous amounts of energy on fighting off the heat in the summer, or throughout the whole year at lower latitudes—about one-tenth of the total worldwide electricity supply. If current temperature trends continue, the energy demands of space-coolers will more than triple by 2050. Apart from the rise in energy consumption, space-coolers also threaten the environment in different ways: by using halogenated refrigerants with high global warming potential.

Split-air conditioners (Split ACs) that use an indoor and an outdoor air unit connected by pipes are the most common appliances used for space-cooling. They mostly utilize HCFC-22 and HFC-410 as refrigerants, both of them characterized by a very high global warming potential score, up to 2,256—meaning that they trap up to 2,256 times more heat than carbon dioxide over 100 years. Urged by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, many manufacturers are looking for alternative refrigerants with lower global warming potential scores, such as HFC-32. However, with a global warming potential score of 771, HFC-32 still poses a significant climate hazard.

A study led by IIASA researcher Pallav Purohit in collaboration with researchers from the United Nations Environment Program and the University of Leeds, showed that by switching to propane, an alternative low (<1) global warming potential refrigerant for space cooling, we could avoid a 0.09°C increase in global temperature by the end of the century, thereby making a significant contribution towards keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C.

In the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used the IIASA Greenhouse Gas—Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) model to compare the baseline halogenated refrigerant emission scenarios with scenarios of switching to HFC-32 or propane. While the switch to HFC-32 also lessened the global temperature increase (0.03°C by the end of the century), propane proved to be the superior solution in terms of sustainability.

“Propane exhibits significant environmental advantages through good energy performance and a global warming potential of less than 1. In split-ACs up to 7 kW, propane can be classified as a technically valid alternative to HFC-driven split-ACs,” says Purohit.

Energy-efficient split-ACs using propane are already available commercially in the Chinese and Indian markets. Despite performing similarly to split-ACs using HFC-32, and even better than the currently widespread appliances using HFC-410A and HCFC-22, some national regulations prohibit their use, primarily due to standards and codes restricting the use of refrigerants with higher flammability, hindering their wider adoption.

“To achieve the EU’s ambitious 2050 climate neutrality targets, early and aggressive action is needed. In the short term, converting new air-conditioning systems to more environmentally-friendly refrigerants can reduce their climate impact significantly, underlining the urgency of updating standards for policymakers,” concludes Purohit.

More information: Pallav Purohit et al, The key role of propane in a sustainable cooling sector, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2206131119

Journal information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

Citation: Is propane a solution for more sustainable air conditioning? (2022, August 16) retrieved 16 August 2022 from

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

This content was originally published here.

Who invented air conditioning, and why there’s more than meets the eye to his humble invention

Who invented air conditioning, and why there’s more than meets the eye to his humble invention

With all the heating around us, god bless the man who invented the air conditioner, right? Air conditioning is surely a marvel of modern technology, so marvelous that it is considered the 10th greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century. But how does it work, and who invented it? Oh, and why is air conditioning a sort of mixed blessing?

Interestingly, the air conditioning (AC) wasn’t originally invented to cool down our homes, offices, and cars. Instead, the AC technology was actually developed to reduce humidity levels in printing plants so that the printed material would stay protected from moisture.

Later, scientists and engineers figured out various uses of the AC and today the technology not only helps us to stay chill on hot summer days but also plays an important role in the storage of goods, management of power plants, food preservation, medical treatment, and various other fields.

Who invented the AC?

American engineer Willis Haviland Carrier is the inventor of the first modern air conditioner (also AC). He built it in 1902 for Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company, a Brooklyn-based publisher.

The hot and humid environment inside the printing facility was causing the freshly produced paper to accumulate moisture. Due to the high moisture content, the paper brought for printing in the facility would shrink and lose its smoothness, and therefore ink could not be printed on it in the desired manner. 

Carrier solved this problem by developing a simple belt-driven system that pulled in the hot air from the room and passed the same through a fine spray of water (washing down dust particles). The treated air was further passed through coils with cold water, getting rid of the extra humidity while lowering the air’s temperature and finally, the dehumidified air was sent back into the room.

The printers loved this simple system. Not only did it solve their problem, but it also cooled the air down, making the printing room atmosphere more comfortable for the workers. On January 2, 1906, Wills H. Carrier received US Patent 808,897 for his air conditioner system named ‘Apparatus for Treating Air’. His system became the world’s first spray-type air conditioning equipment.

Later, Carrier founded the AC company which is now known as the Carrier Global Corporation, a home appliance manufacturer that currently sells its products in more than 150 countries. Interestingly, Carrier wasn’t the one who came up with the term “air conditioning”; it was Stuart W. Cramer, another American engineer who developed humidity regulating systems for textile manufacturing plants.

Sorry to interrupt, but you should really…

…Join the ZME newsletter for amazing science news, features, and exclusive scoops. More than 40,000 subscribers can’t be wrong.

 Daily &nbsp &nbsp  Weekly 

 I have read and agree to the terms & conditions. 

It took some time for air conditioning to take off. The first practical room ACs were developed by inventors H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman in 1931 and the first car AC was invented by Chrysler Motors in 1935. It took a few more decades for them to become popular.

How does an AC work?

An air conditioning system’s job is to pull in heat from your room and dump it outside your house. However, as simple as that may sound, there’s a clever bit of physics and engineering involved. So before you dive into the mechanical function of an air conditioner (AC), you must understand a few basic concepts of thermodynamics. 

Now that you have a fair idea of how heat transfer happens, let’s look at how the four major components of an AC work and provide you with the much-needed cooling on a hot summer day. 

The evaporator turns the liquid refrigerant (such as R-22 or R-410A) into a gaseous vapor by absorbing heat from your room and moving it to the refrigerant inside its coil. Due to heat absorption, the liquid refrigerant turns into a vapor that is then sent to the condenser. The evaporator’s temperature is always colder than your room in order to allow heat transfer to the evaporator coil. 

The condenser is located in an air conditioner’s outdoor unit (ODU). It has a network of metallic fins through which the condenser transfers heat from the vaporized refrigerant to the surrounding environment. Condensers are also known as heat exchangers because of their role in expelling heat out of the system. When the hot refrigerant vapor passes through a condenser, a drop in temperature forces it back into a liquid stage, ready to be fed back into the compressor. 

Expansion valve

Boiling occurs when a liquid gains heat and changes to the vapor state, whereas superheating happens when a vapor is heated above the boiling point of the liquid. Superheating is an essential part of the cooling process. It ensures that before leaving the evaporator and reaching the compressor, the liquid refrigerant of the air conditioner is completely vaporized. The vaporization of refrigerant is essential because the compressor can undergo severe damage if it comes in contact with liquid refrigerant. 

The thermal expansion valve between the evaporator and condenser controls the flow and amount of refrigerant that moves towards the evaporator and ensures a steady flow required to achieve superheating. 

The compressor is the heart of an air conditioning unit. The gaseous refrigerant is reduced in volume by compression and sent to the system in a liquid state. Next, the compressor receives a cooled-down refrigerant from the vaporizer and converts it into liquid form. Finally, it is ready to be fed to the vaporizer to continue the cooling cycle.

Applications of air-conditioning systems

From increasing our quality of life to keeping our surroundings comfortable even in extreme climatic regions and preserving food and medical supplies while they are transported from one corner of the world to the other, air conditioning has played a major role. Here are some other important applications of air conditioning systems:

Apart from these heavy applications, there are many more simple uses of AC units; for example, many animal farm owners use air-conditioning systems to keep their livestock comfortable during the summers so that the milk yield is not affected. So now you know air-conditioning is much more than just a means to feel relaxed, it helps factories function well and businesses grow fast. 

So is the AC a perfect invention?

Not everything is positive about ACs. In fact, they are highly responsible for increasing our carbon footprint and releasing harmful chemicals into our environment. Until recently, air conditioners used CFCs or chlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants (now, hydrofluorocarbon or HFC is used which is believed to be less dangerous to the environment). Upon release into the atmosphere, the CFCs damage the ozone layer, and form what is known as the ‘ozone hole.’ 

Since the beginning of CFCs production in the 1920s, the thickness of the ozone layer, on average, has reduced by three percent, and this has immensely contributed to the climate change threats that we are facing at present. Another big issue arising from widespread air conditioning use is the huge energy consumption. 

On average, a typical air conditioning unit consumes about 3000 to 5000 watts of electricity every hour, leading to increasing global electricity demand. Since most of the electric power in many countries still comes from burning fossil fuels, the increased demand is causing environmental pollution and more carbon emissions. 

Moreover, ACs can also lead to skin diseases and various health-related problems (such as arthritis, eye infection, respiratory ailments, etc.). A study was conducted on two groups, one working in air-conditioned cabins and the other in a naturally ventilated office, revealed that people who spent their working hours in the AC free office faced fewer health-related issues that the ones who worked in an AC equipped office

According to researcher William Fisk “A large body of research has found that occupants of offices with air conditioning tend to report more sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms than occupants of naturally ventilated offices.”

The cost of the comfort that ACs provide is very high, and by cost, here you should not only consider your electricity bill but the environmental problems that are caused due to the use of ACs. In the times, when humanity is focused on creating more earth-friendly and sustainable solutions, we definitely need better cooling solutions, so the next time you see an air conditioner turned on, even when there’s no need, switch it off!   

This content was originally published here.

How to use a fan to cool down a room – expert hacks to try | Livingetc

How to use a fan to cool down a room – expert hacks to try | Livingetc

You might think you know how to use a fan to cool down a room already – you just switch it on, right? But in actual fact, fans don’t cool down your room in the way that an air conditioning unit can. 

They do relieve some of the struggles of living in high temperatures, circulating air and making you feel cooler, but even the best modern fans won’t actually lower the temperature of your room by themselves. 

There are, however, still good reasons to use a fan. ‘While air conditioning systems are powerful and undoubtedly effective in cooling down a room, fans are easily the most energy-efficient and, therefore, cost-effective solution,’ says Chris Michael, managing director of Meaco. 

‘A fan blowing cool air around a room is far cheaper than running an air conditioner,  in fact, the difference in energy consumption is quite staggering,’ he adds. 

There are also simple hacks to make your fan work harder for you during hot weather, helping to bring down the overall temperature of your home if you use them in the right way. Here are our top hacks you need to know for a heatwave. 

How to use a fan to cool down a room

Think of it this way, a fan cools down your body thanks to the sensation of air movement, but not the room at all, so there’s no point putting a fan on in a room you’re not using. With a few simple additions, or by using the fan in a specific way at a certain time of day, you can help shift the balance in your favour and keep your room cooler. 

1. Try the ice trick 

This idea isn’t new, but it’s a tried and trusted hack to make a fan act more like an air conditioner that can help you better sleep in the heat. ‘A simple trick is to place a bowl of ice in front of the fan to cool the air,’ says Hayley Thistleton, a sleep expert at SleepSeeker (opens in new tab). Make sure to put the bowl on a tray, or similar, to catch any condensation as the ice melts. 

If you find that ice cubes are melting too quickly, ‘try bottles of frozen water instead,’ Hayley adds. These should last longer and still cool the air being circulated by the fan. 

Here are some of our top-rated fans…

We check over 250 million products every day for the best prices

2. Use a fan to cool your home at night 

One of the best ways to use a fan in extreme weather is to cool down a room once the temperature drops outside. 

‘Instinctively, the first port of call is often to open a window as far as possible, but consider this: is the air outside cooler than the air inside?’  ‘If the answer is no, you may want to keep the window shut.’

Once the evening sets in, you might find that your home has retained heat from the day, while the outside temperature has dropped. Here’s where your fan can help to cool your home effectively. 

Once the temperature outside is lower, open windows on either side of the house to create a cross-draft. Then place a fan by one of the windows, facing outwards. This will help to draw out and displace the hotter air inside your home with the cooler air outside. If you have another fan, use it in the room to help circulate the air coming in from outside, too.  

3. Ensure ceiling fans are going in the right direction 

Ceiling fans can feel like a lifesaver in absence of air conditioning, but did you know that the direction they rotate matters? In summer, fans should be set to rotate counterclockwise. This creates a downdraft that generates that air movement factor that generates that cooling sensation. In winter, they can be set to rotate clockwise, which creates an updraft that can help distribute warm air from your home’s heating system. 

This content was originally published here.

error: Content is protected !!