Fossil fuels account for over 60% of the US’ electricity generation with under 20% generated through renewable sources. This leaves plenty of room for improvement, and in the world of HVAC, new technologies are being trialed and developed to improve the green credentials of the units being designed. Similarly, there are actions homeowners can take to improve the eco-friendly operation of their system, which we’ll look at later.
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Technologies encouraging Greener HVAC Operation
Small changes to the components or function of your HVAC system can be the difference between its operating in an eco-friendly way, or the opposite. Similarly, there are new systems being developed from scratch that boast better energy output and more sustainable operation. Here are some of the key technological developments making our HVAC greener and more eco-friendly.
On-Command Hot Water Recirculation
Ensuring hot water is delivered efficiently, while also saving money and energy, on-command hot water recirculation involves installing an “on-command” pump which connects to both cold and hot water lines under the kitchen or bath fixture. When activated, the pump allows for the cool water being drained to circulate back into your water heating system through the cold water supply. This allows for hot water to be delivered whenever it is needed and it minimizes the wastewater the home produces as it is cycled back into the system for reuse.
Ice-Powered Air Conditioning
Californian HVAC company, Ice Energy, asserts that its ice powered conditioning units can cut the power needed for air conditioning by up to 30%. It works by freezing gallons of water overnight in a tank, making this ice available to cool the building down during the next working day. Further research carried out in Malaysia corroborates this statement, as they found Ice Thermal Storage applications capable of reducing the power consumption of the HVAC system as the peak of electricity consumption is moved from on-peak to off-peak hours.
Thermally Driven Air Conditioning
Research published by the AIR Conference Proceedings suggests technology for cooling and heating which uses hot water as the driving heat source can also contribute to energy savings. A low-cost alternative to traditional air conditioning units, this technology works using waste heat or solar thermal energy. The development of the adsorption heat pump means wasted solar heat can be reused, saving waste and cutting costs.
Zoned HVAC systems are not a new idea, but they are becoming more popular, and they allow for targeted heating or cooling, ensuring no energy is wasted in rooms or spaces which are not in use. A zoned HVAC system splits the building into two or more heating and cooling zones which separate controls. It ensures every room maintains its ideal temperature and unused spaces can be fully closed off, so you do not have to waste unnecessary energy.
Sustainable Duct Wrap
Duct wrap is also a known component of traditional HVAC systems, but companies committed to a greener future are developing new materials and more sustainable alternatives to traditional wrap. There are duct wraps on the market which are made from recyclable fabrics diverted from landfill with low VOCs and minimal irritants. Fiberglass and other materials are no longer necessary for duct wrap and this minimizes the risk to the environment when using insulation for duct wrapping.
Energy Analysis Software
Real-time smart meters have helped many home and business owners cut their energy consumption, as seeing the spend in real-time makes them adapt their usage and consider ways to cut costs. At a more sophisticated level, energy analysis software helps to project and recommend the most energy efficient and wallet-friendly HVAC systems for a particular space before installation has even happened. Software has advanced to a level where architects and engineers can consider different options and have a good projection for the best and most eco-friendly option for any space, depending on factors such as dimensions of the space and insulation. The latest software can be used to forecast the lifetime energy use of a building considering HVAC-related factors as well as other energy saving and sustainable features such as reflective roofing.
Dual Fuel Heat Pumps
Dual fuel or hybrid heat pumps combine renewable heating elements with a traditional system. It can switch between energy sources dependent on the efficiency offered by each at any given time. With a choice of air source heat pump (ASHP) and ground source heat pump (GSHP) options, there are ways of benefiting from this technology in different types of property. AHSP systems use the air outside to distribute heating and cooling indoors. GSHP systems extract heat from rocks, riverbeds and soils and are a more complicated option for installation but are much easier to maintain in the long term.
Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant floor heating is an innovative and invisible heating system option which reduces energy costs and provides an efficient level of heat throughout the home. Heat is distributed through hot water tubes or electric wiring which runs through the floor. Hot water radiant heating is the most energy efficient option available, but it comes at a cost.
Geothermal Heat Pump
Geothermal heat pumps are far from a new creation. The first were available on the US market in the 1940s, but they have become much more popular due to the modern consumer’s interest in and commitment to more ethical and eco-friendly living. Geothermal pumps work by using heat from the Earth through looped piping which is placed in the ground. When it gets colder, the fluid in the piping loops underground and absorbs heat which is then carried back into the house and provides heating. Geothermal heating systems can be as much as three-to-four times more efficient than traditional HVAC systems and they can offer cooling functions as well as heating.
Running a More Efficient and Eco-Conscious HVAC System
Ensuring your HVAC system is running as efficiently as possible doesn’t have to mean you invest in the latest technology, and there are ways of making the most of the system you have in place. Modern air conditioning units are equipped with a range of eco-friendly features and whether you’re looking to upgrade your existing system or starting from scratch, keep these considerations in mind:
The right size of air conditioning unit can make all the difference in your home or business. If it’s too small it won’t keep your home properly cool and you’ll be wasting electricity as it tries to work hard enough to cool the space. A unit which is too large will also be wasting energy and not running in an efficient and eco-conscious way.
To fully commit to eco-friendly and energy saving air conditioning, it is vital that your unit has a thermostat which is fully programmable so you can set the program to suit the time’s when you are at home. This helps to prevent wasted energy as you can ensure the system is switched off when you’re not at home and if you have a regular schedule, you can automate this process and remove the need to remember to switch the system on and off.
If your building is poorly insulated, your conditioned air will go to waste. Consider adding to or improving your home’s insulation. Pipes, outlets, and ducts are also areas where you might find energy and air is lost, so consider wrapping them in insulated material to further save energy.
The compressors within your air conditioning unit consume the most energy of all elements so finding ways to minimize its impact is vital. Two-stage compressors are designed to work differently depending on the temperature; they’ll automatically compress more on hot days and less on cool days, thereby saving energy.
Customized Matched Systems
Some of the newest air conditioning units on the market have eco-friendly at their heart. They achieve high levels of energy efficiency by separating their energy sources. They use separate energy sources for heating and cooling, which allows for full customization for your property.
Power Off Electronics
All your electronics should be switched off when not in use. Not only is this a great way of cutting energy consumption, it can also minimize heat generation. Keeping all your electronics switched on increases the temperature in your space and means your air conditioning unit needs to work harder. When it comes to cost cutting, powering off unused electronics can make a significant difference. The Department of Energy has found dormant, plugged-in appliances account for 5-10% of total residential energy consumption.
Maintaining your HVAC System
To ensure your system always works efficiently, regular maintenance is essential. Your HVAC unit should be inspected and serviced regularly by a qualified air conditioning engineer. As a general rule, you should consider having your system fully serviced twice a year, just before summer and just before winter. Your system breaking down or failing just as the sun comes out or the frost sets in, is the last thing you need. Engineers can fully service your unit and should test the refrigerant pressure and check for any leaks. You can even ask your engineer if he has any recommendations on energy efficiency and cutting costs.
Replacing your HVAC System
If you have an older HVAC system or air conditioning units, you may find that all the measures that can be put in place can’t improve their energy efficiency enough. Check the age of your system and accept that if it’s over a certain age, it simply won’t be able to meet the energy efficiency and environmental standards you want for your home. In this instance, you will have to consider replacing the whole system, and when starting from scratch, you can choose the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly model on the market.
The Future of Eco-Friendly Air Conditioning
There are a range of ways your HVAC system can be more energy efficient and eco-friendly. With the right tweaks and changes you can reduce energy consumption, minimize overspending on electricity and even cut wastewater in the home.
The HVAC market is growing at a speed that requires us to slow down and look at the environmental impact it’s having on the world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that without action to address energy efficiency, the demand for space cooling will more than triple by 2050, with consumption reaching as much electricity as all of China and India currently expend. The industry as a whole needs to do more, but the same IEA report shows that consumers are not doing all they can to opt for the most efficient units. The average air conditioner sold today is less than 50% of what is typically available on the shelves and investing in more efficient air conditioning units could cut the future energy demand in half.
Energy efficiency and environmental friendliness come hand in hand and all data points to us needing to do more to cut costs and energy use in the HVAC sector. With the right technology and a commitment to energy-saving practices in the home and workplace, it is possible for HVAC units to run in an environmentally friendly and efficient way. It may require upgrading and updating current systems, but if this ensures lower costs and less environmental damage, it should be something everyone is willing to consider.