Will we have to give up air conditioning to fight against climate change?

For obvious reasons of comfort in summer, many people agree to bruise a wall in their house to install air conditioning. But the increasing use of air conditioners warms the air outside cities and considerably increases energy consumption. According to a latest report from Ademe, air conditioning today generates nearly 5% of the CO2 emissions associated with energy production. So, in the future, will we have to do without this luxury, to fight against global warming?

An important environmental issue for the years to come

Based on the results of a household survey and a specifically developed modeling tool, thestudy of Ademe assesses the power consumption of air conditioners and their greenhouse gas emissions. The air conditioning equipment market would have benefited from the increase in heat waves in recent years. “In 2020, and for the first time, the number of equipment sold exceeded 800,000 units while it had stabilized around 350,000 per year previously” warns the report. As heat waves are more and more frequent and long, many households and businesses have equipped themselves with air conditioning for more comfort. While 14% of households had air conditioning in 2016, this rate rose to 25% in 2020. Same trend for businesses. Today, with businesses, households and even shopping centers, more systematically equipped with air conditioning, the environmental consequences are significant.

Cooling systems evolve to find a way to cool efficiently at a lower environmental cost

Researchers have long tried to find ways to produce cooling systems without polluting gases, but none have succeeded in replacing conventional air conditioners. Most air conditioners, to cool the air before discharging it, use refrigerant gases called hydrofluorocarbons, but are not so efficient, expensive, and highly flammable. This may change with Exergyn, a small Irish company, spotted by The Economist, which claims to have found a solution. The company is currently testing a technology that would have the capacity to cool 15 to 20 apartments with a solution based on nitinol, an alliance of nickel and titanium, which would absorb the heat emissions emitted by air conditioners. to cool them before throwing them outside. A technique more respectful of the environment than hydrofluorocarbons, and also less expensive!

What solutions to minimize the environmental cost of air conditioning?

According to Ademe, despite the high environmental cost of air conditioning, changes in uses, as well as technological developments, could make it possible to consider an improvement in the environmental balance of this equipment. A sensitized consumer would lead to more reasoned use. What can consumers do at their own level? Ademe advises avoid the use of air conditioning systematically and limit it to the times strictly necessary. “For example, going from a setpoint temperature of 22 ° C to 27 ° C can halve the energy consumption of appliances, just like turning on the air conditioning from 30 ° C outdoors. instead of 27 ° C divides energy consumption by 3, ”explains the Ecological Transition Agency. Having your equipment maintained by a professional, as well as choosing the right air conditioning system, are also good reflexes to adopt.

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