Remember the time when the world got obsessed with CFCs and the hole in the Ozone? Anyone and everyone knew that CFCs or Chlorofluorocarbons commonly found in our deodorant sprays were responsible for ozone depletion. What was missing from the discussion, however, was the most common use of CFCs - in air conditioners and refrigerators.
Used as in cooling appliances like AC and fridges, CFCs are a type of refrigerant. The Montreal Protocol in 1987 was designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out substances responsible for ozone depletion like CFCs. Since then it has been revised 8 times and CFCs have more or less been phased out completely.
CFCs were succeeded by HCFCs, which were still not free from ozone depletion. These were then succeeded by HFCs which have no impact on the ozone. The new breed of ACs and fridges are now supposed to have only HFCs. However not all ACs in the Indian market yet comply with these standards.
The loophole with HFCs is while they have no ozone impact, they still have 1000-2000 times CO2 global warming potential.
Coming to the question of what makes an air conditioner environment-friendly.
Environment friendliness is a relative measure, and also a new one. There's constant research to determine better alternatives. However, nothing can be given an absolute status of environment-friendly. We have to keep looking for better and better alternatives. While considering air conditioners, there are 2 things that place the final verdict on environmental impact. These are:
1. Refrigerant used
2. Energy efficiency.
According to research done by Drawdown, refrigerant management has the potential of avoiding emissions equivalent to 89.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the next few decades.
So what exactly is a refrigerant?
A refrigerant is a substance used to cool a heat source. It passes through the heat source, takes up the energy and then dumps it into a system with lower temperature. This is then cooled down again so the cycle can repeat itself.
Not all refrigerants are equal. Even amongst the ozone free ones, there are some that are much less harmful than others. This is decided by their Global Warming Potential (GWP).
GWP is an indicator of how a refrigerant compares to carbon dioxide. The most commonly used refrigerant in the market today is R410a. While it is ozone-free, it has a GWP of 1700. This means it contributes to global warming 1700 times more than CO2. Clearly not the ideal option, but definitely better than its predecessor R22 - which not only has a higher GWP but also depletes ozone. Here's a table to show which refrigerant is the better one:
Currently, there only 1 Air Conditioner that has R290 (the only low GWP available in the Indian market) and that is Godrej's NXW series. It boasts a high 5 ISEER rating and a 5 Star BEE rating.
You can find it here: https://goo.gl/BSPhny
A. Star Label
There are many ways to check if your air conditioner is energy efficient. The first and most obvious way is to check its BEE Star Label. 4-5 Star rating for the current year is the best option. The ISEER Rating of more than 4 is also another way of gauging. ISEER is a more versatile label, which measures electricity consumption over the year accounting for seasonal difference (more usage in summer, less in winter)
You can read more about energy efficiency in this post: https://www.spreeindia.com/blogs/the-spree-life/energy-efficiency
B. Condenser/Coil Material
ACs subtract heat from indoor air and transfers it outside. That transfer takes place in the coils usually made of copper and sometimes of aluminium. Copper has a heat transfer coefficient higher than aluminium. That means, copper is a better heat exchanger than aluminium and improves the efficiency of the air conditioner. Better to choose an AC with copper coil.
C. Room Size
The required cooling capacity for a room air conditioner depends on the size of the room. Many people buy an air conditioner that is too large, thinking it will provide better cooling. However, an oversized air conditioner is actually less effective — and wastes energy at the same time. Use our AC selection guide to choose an AC suited to your home:
D. Other factors
Other factors like presence of an eco-mode will make the compressor run at higher efficiency, but lower cooling capacity. These are useful when the outside weather is not searing. In sleep mode, the air conditioner increases the temperature by half a degree every hour for four hours reducing the power consumed.
We undertook a research project on AC product choices available to the Indian consumer for the year 2018. We vetted over 80 models and handpicked about 30 odd. Our selection criteria included:
1. Only 4-5 Star BEE rating
2. Rated for the year 2018
2017 and even 2016 models are still on the market, but their ratings drop significantly every few years. So those were excluded from our selection.
3. At minimum R410a Refrigerant
R410a is ozone-free and was the baseline for our products. We excluded models with R22. The cream of our collection under Eco-Friendly ACs has models with R290 and R32. Check them out here
4. Inverter Technology
All the ACs in our selection are inverter or variable speed ones. They save a lot more energy than the fixed speed ones.
You can choose from 8 air conditioner brands, suited to large and medium sized rooms and with the latest inverter technology. Visit our air conditioner section using this link:
90 per cent of refrigerant emissions happens at end of life. Effective disposal hence is essential. When your AC has run out its life, find an environment-friendly way to dispose of it. Read our post about how to sell your old appliances here:
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