Air conditioners and the environment: Tips to improve indoor air quality

By Vuthisa

My blog hopes to alert people’s attention to indoor air pollution in the developing world – but what about the developed world? In the next couple of weeks I plan to post some more articles related to indoor air pollution in developed economies. Since most of us like to control our micro environments I figured air conditioners would be a good place to start.

The Good: The use of air conditioners raises productivity and worker morale in the work place by providing a comfortable working environment and is more increasingly being used in residential areas.

The Bad: The power required to run air conditioning consumes fossil fuel, depleting reserves, and adding to global warming. Artificially changing the temperature from ambient levels confuses the body’s regulating mechanisms, designed to synchronize our bodies with seasonal variations and lowers resistance to infection – infections we are more likely to get as a result of breathing recycled air.

The effect of air conditioning on the environment does not concern this particular post, but we might be able to lessen the impact on the environment:

By supporting companies that sell systems that use safer refrigerants in order to stop ozone layer depletion; develop energy-efficient air conditioners and recover refrigerants from used air conditioners.

Switching to mini-duct; ductless or split air conditioning systems, although in some cases more expensive, are more energy-efficient, which means less greenhouse gases.

See these useful hints to increase your indoor air quality below provided by Rosalind Dall who has a personal blog dedicated to help people consume less energy and purify indoor air:

Rain and high humidity may bring moisture indoors, creating dampness, mold and mildew – big problems for healthy indoor air. Check your roof, foundation and basement or crawlspace once per year to catch leaks or moisture problems and route water away from your home’s foundation.

Help keep asthma triggers away from your house by fixing leaks and drips once they start. Standing water and moist areas encourage the growth of dust mites, fungus – some of the most common triggers that can worsen asthma. Use a dehumidifier or AC unit when needed, and clean both regularly.

High amounts of moisture in your home increase dampness and the growth of mold, which not only damage your house but threaten health. Install and run exhaust fans in bathrooms to get rid of unhealthy moisture and odors out of your home.

Ventilate your kitchen stove directly outside or open a kitchen window when you cook. Keeping emissions (including cooking odors and particles) outside of your home prevents dangerous fumes and particles from harming you or your family.

Here are some ways to save energy (and improve your home air quality):

Be sure your thermostat is located in a spot that isn’t too cold or hot. Install an automatic timer to maintain the thermostat at 68°F (20°C) during the day and 55°F (12.8°C) during the night time.

Use storm or thermal windows in colder areas. The layer of air between the windows acts as insulation and helps maintain the heat inside where you want it. Also if you haven’t already, insulate your attic and all outside walls.

Insulate floors over unheated spaces like your basement, any crawl spaces and your garage.

Close off the attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms and storage areas. Heat just those rooms that you use, seal gaps around any pipes, wires, vents or other openings that could transfer your heat to areas that are not heated.

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