We all know that air conditioning uses a great deal of electricity. Well, those of us who regularly use our air conditioners know that, anyway. We get a monthly reminder from the electric company to hammer the point home.
The amount of money people are spending to keep their homes cool is having a profound effect on the heating and cooling industry. Homeowners are in hot pursuit of efficient cooling systems, hoping to reduce both the sizes of their bills and their carbon footprints.
We all know that summer electric bills can get high and that gives us some clue about the levels of energy consumption associated with cooling. However, our personal experiences don’t provide us with a look at the big picture. When you examine the overall levels of AC power consumption, you begin to understand just how much we’re spending in money and natural resources to stay cool.
Air conditioners use a great deal of electricity because they’re basically doing battle with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that temperatures will always tend to even themselves out. Heat flows to cold. An AC will try to “beat” nature by taking a refrigerant through states of compression and expansion.
That refrigerant will absorb heat from the interior of your home and will then be pushed outside where it will “dump” the heat. This only works because of the compression and decompression of the gas and that relies on electrically-powered pumps and compressors.
To make a long story short, when you’re fighting entropy you’re going to use some energy. A lot of energy, actually.
Consider the fact that almost twenty percent of the electricity used in the US every year is used for cooling. That’s right, one-fifth of our electricity consumption is AC-related. That amazing level of use has actually been one of the chief reasons why our power grid is outfitted with excess power generating equipment. The spikes in power use for which those systems are built come from our air conditioning use.
You can think about it this way. If you add up the amount of power we use for cooling, the total quantity is actually more than the TOTAL electricity consumption for Indonesia and India added together. We use more electricity to stay cool than the fourth and second largest countries in the world (in terms of total population size) use for everything.
When you realize just how much juice is mainlined by air conditioners, it’s easier to develop an appreciation for a growing trend of looking for ways to cool homes more efficiently. Air conditioner power consumption is more than just a way to inconveniently raise your summer electric bills. It’s a truly massive use of natural resources.