More Than One Kind of Cool

We’re all familiar with the cooling comfort of air conditioning. But have you heard of a swamp cooler? How about geothermal cooling? There are many different home cooling technologies out there—and they’re always evolving. Here’s a rundown of different systems and a look at the future of air conditioning after the phase-out of R22 refrigerant.

Air conditioning.  Whether it’s a window unit or a central air system, air conditioners all use a pressurized refrigerant to circulate the heat from inside your home and release it outside. The most commonly used refrigerant in air conditioning systems is called R22, which is also marketed under many brand names, including Freon®. Air conditioning is a highly effective means of cooling a home, and it offers the added benefit of dehumidification.

Evaporative cooling.  An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler or a desert cooler, uses the evaporation of water to cool air, which is then circulated throughout a home. A fan forces dry, warm air over cool water, which evaporates and reduces the temperature of the air. In dry environments, evaporative coolers also help increase the humidity within a home.

Geothermal cooling.  A geothermal system employs special pipes that are buried deep underground where the earth’s temperature typically ranges from 50˚-60˚F—much cooler than the outside temperature during the summer. A fluid is circulated through pipes in the home, absorbing heat. The warm fluid is then pumped below ground, where the cool earth acts as a heat sink and absorbs the fluid’s heat. The fluid then returns to the surface to continue the process. During the winter, geothermal systems can also be used to heat a home.

What’s next for home air conditioning?  The Environmental Protection Agency has required manufacturers to completely phase out the production of R22 by 2020. As a result, supplies have become more limited, and the price has risen from less than $10 per pound in 2010 to over $50 per pound and more today, in some cases.

Even simple air conditioning repairs may cost significantly more as a result. Technicians commonly add 1-2 pounds of refrigerant on a routine service call. A more complicated repair or replacement can require up to 10 pounds. As you can see, the cost can add up quickly.

from AHS August Newsletter – Inside & Out

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