Monday, September 14, 2009

Ozone and Climate Friendly Air-Conditioning Units Anyone?

Will increased consumer demand of supposedly ozone-friendly HCFC-based air-conditioning unit causes it to become a new threat to our still recovering ozone layer?

By: Ringo Bones

There has been an increasing demand for air-conditioning units, especially in emerging economic powerhouses like China and India during the past few years. Even though HCFC-based air conditioning units which are supposedly twenty times less damaging than the CFC-based units that they replaced become our ozone layer’s latest threat due to the sheer number of units being sold?

HCFC-based refrigerants - like R22 – is the refrigerant currently being used in air conditioning units is less damaging to the ozone layer than its CFC-based predecessors – which were phased out during the late 1980s in compliance with the Montreal Accord. Unfortunately due to its high specific heat rating, R22 is a very potent greenhouse gas – which also made it to be phased out by the latest revision of the Montreal Protocol by either the year 2020 or 2030.

Fortunately, some air conditioning unit manufacturers due have a sense of corporate social responsibility. Like GREE of China whose R&D engineers are busy searching for alternatives to produce a truly environmentally friendly air-conditioning unit.
Under evaluation of GREE’s R&D engineers is the refrigerant R410A which is much less ozone depleting than R22. Unfortunately, R410A is a more potent greenhouse gas than the HCFC-based R22 and is currently used as a stop gap measure before more ozone and climate friendly alternatives can be found.

Another refrigerant evaluated for air conditioning use is R290 – which for all intents and purposes is propane – a cooking range fuel. It is totally ozone layer friendly, but it has some greenhouse effect causing properties like its cousin methane. The primary caveat of R290 is its flammability, but since it is already produced on an industrial scale, it also has an advantage of relative cheapness in comparison to other refrigerants.

Existing / conventional air conditioning unit technology that’s currently being sold on the market still uses refrigerant gases that has a specific heat much higher than that of liquid water to make them work efficiently. All of them have greenhouse effect causing properties, and halogen-based refrigerants – especially those containing chlorine and fluorine in their molecular structure – will certainly deplete our still recovering ozone layer. There are other air conditioning unit technologies that doesn’t use refrigerant gases that has ozone and greenhouse effect potential. Like air conditioning units that cools a room using ultrasonic sound far above the audible range of our hearing. It has been proven to work. If only some major appliance manufacturers start making them to be sold at a keen price.