Is Air Conditioning Environmentally Friendly

Air conditioning simply means cooling the indoor air so as to obtain thermal comfort. It refers in a broader sense; any form of cooling, heating, ventilation, or disinfection that modifies the condition of air. Any appliance that is manufactured to balance the air temperature and humidity within an area referred to as an air conditioner. Typically this uses a refrigeration cycle or evaporation, which is provides cooling in buildings and motor vehicles. Modern air conditioning emerged from advances in chemistry during the 19th century, and it invented and first used in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier in Buffalo, New York. The first air conditioners and refrigerators make use of flammable gases or toxic like methyl chloride, ammonia, and propane which could result in fatal accidents when they leaked.

Air conditioning can be divided to process applications and comfort. In Process Applications it aims at providing a suitable environment for a process being carried out, regardless of internal heat and external weather conditions. Whereas Comfort Applications it aims to provide a building indoor environment that remains relatively constant in a range preferred by humans despite changes in internal heat loads or external weather conditions. In addition to buildings, air conditioning can be used for many types of transportation like motor-cars and other land vehicles. However, often in the comfort range, it is the needs of the process that determine conditions, not human preference. In both comfort and process applications, controlling the temperature is not the only objectives, but also humidity, air quality and air movement from space to space.

Though air conditioning is built for human comfort, it can constitute air pollution. The introduction of particulate matter, chemicals, or biological materials is air pollution and can cause harm or discomfort to humans or damages the natural environment or other living organisms. We all know the atmosphere is a dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth; its pollution will affect Earth’s ecosystems as well as the human health.

Since chronic, low-level exposure to various chemicals, e.g., lead exposure – even at relatively low levels – and can also result in a number of adverse outcomes, and continuous exposure to air conditioning can have severe effects, such as anaemia, malaise, and damage to the nervous system. Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead. Their IQ levels can be reduced due to low levels of exposure, cause learning disabilities, poor school performance, and violent behaviour, and this may contribute to reduced lifetime earnings.

Stratospheric ozone depletion is not the only problem; in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World’s Worst Polluted Places report, both the indoor air pollution and urban air quality are listed there. Though atmospheric pollution can be caused by other combustible materials such as open burning of both old and new tyres, refuse, exhaust pipes of engines and many other locomotives which constitute to the pollution of the environment, yet pollution from air conditioners are very dangerous. Diseases like respiratory tract infections can occur when atmospheric pollution is not prevented.

Conversely, air conditionings, including filtration, humidification, cooling, disinfection, etc., are used to provide a safe, clean, atmosphere in hospital operating rooms and other environments where an appropriate atmosphere is critical to patient safety and well-being. Air conditioning can also help people suffering from allergies and asthma. In serious heat waves, air conditioning can save the lives of the elderly. Some local authorities have even set up public cooling centers for people without home air conditioning.