Is electricity for air conditioning unsustainable?

Posted: August 16, 2022 by oldbrew in atmosphere, climate, Energy, Temperature
Tags: ,

Air conditioning sign
[image credit: BBC]


‘Is propane a solution for more sustainable air conditioning?’ asks TechXplore. We put the question another way in our headline. The article asserts: ‘Apart from the rise in energy consumption, space-coolers also threaten the environment in different ways…’. So someone has concluded that rises in energy consumption – meaning electricity here – are a threat of some sort to the environment. One question then might be: where does that leave electric vehicles, or data centres, for example? The IEA estimates ‘that by 2025, data centres will consume 1/5 of the world’s power supply’.
– – –
Current severe heatwaves that will likely increase in severity and frequency in the future are driving a rise in the use of air conditioners, threatening the environment with their high energy consumption and refrigerants with high warming potential.

A new study finds that switching to propane as a refrigerant could lessen the global temperature increase from space cooling.

We spend enormous amounts of energy on fighting off the heat in the summer, or throughout the whole year at lower latitudes—about one-tenth of the total worldwide electricity supply.

If current temperature trends continue, the energy demands of space-coolers will more than triple by 2050. Apart from the rise in energy consumption, space-coolers also threaten the environment in different ways: by using halogenated refrigerants with high global warming potential.
. . .
A study led by IIASA researcher Pallav Purohit in collaboration with researchers from the United Nations Environment Program and the University of Leeds, showed that by switching to propane, an alternative low (<1) global warming potential refrigerant for space cooling, we could avoid a 0.09°C increase in global temperature by the end of the century, thereby making a significant contribution towards keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C.

In the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used the IIASA Greenhouse Gas—Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) model to compare the baseline halogenated refrigerant emission scenarios with scenarios of switching to HFC-32 or propane.

While the switch to HFC-32 also lessened the global temperature increase (0.03°C by the end of the century), propane proved to be the superior solution in terms of sustainability.

Full article here.

Comments
  1. ilma630 says:

    They should just ban electricity and have done with it.

  2. catweazle666 says:

    “…we could avoid a 0.09°C increase in global temperature by the end of the century…”
    So not 0.1°C or 0.08°C?
    Looks like a serious case of false precision syndrome to me.

  3. oldbrew says:

    We’re dealing with a planetary climate. They talk and act like it’s a giant central heating system, needing a few tweaks 🙄

  4. Gamecock says:

    Let’s all bring flammable gases into our homes !!!

    The development of Freon as a refrigerant in the 1920s was held as a huge leap forward, replacing dangerous refrigerants . . . like propane.

    These people are neanderthals.

  5. Damian says:

    Wasn’t the fridge that started the Grenfell blaze a propane model?

  6. catweazle666 says:

    “…replacing dangerous refrigerants . . . like propane.”
    And ammonia.

  7. JB says:

    My sister’s new portable A/C has propane for the refrigerant. Great another potential fire source.

    Go back to R12

  8. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Severe and increasing heatwaves? Any evidence for that? Just build enough power stations and frack on.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Climate-friendly Refrigeration with Propane
    November 11, 2021

    R290 is replacing super-potent greenhouse gases in commercial fridges and freezers.

    Propane returns
    Propane’s flammability, combined with the absence of any warning odor, limits its use to commercial applications where professional installation and careful monitoring minimize the risk of leakage, explains Bryan Cordill, director of residential and commercial business development at the Propane Education & Research Council.

    https://propane.com/environment/stories/climate-friendly-refrigeration-with-propane/
    – – –
    R290 is only allowed in small amounts as the linked article explains, and not at all for retrofits of existing units, for safety reasons.

    On that basis, saying ‘by switching to propane, an alternative low (<1) global warming potential refrigerant for space cooling, we could avoid…' (etc.) looks like wishful thinking.

  10. Jollygreenman says:

    I see almost no reference to the hunger stones which are uncovered in the German rivers. Some of these hunger stones were chiseled in the 16th century showing low levels of the Rhine occurred before Benz invented the dreaded motorcar.

  11. catweazle666 says:

    So, cold, hungry Germans… Never a good idea!

  12. oldbrew says:

    German forestry better keep a close eye on its timber cuts this winter 😉

  13. dscott8186 says:

    Oldbrew,

    Propane’s flammability, combined with the absence of any warning odor, limits its use to commercial applications where professional installation and careful monitoring minimize the risk of leakage, explains Bryan Cordill, director of residential and commercial business development at the Propane Education & Research Council.

    Actually, propane like natural gas in the US has an odor added to it to warn of leakage. The real issue is one of efficiency. Does propane really use less electricity than other refrigerants? If not, then no. However, are they advocating the use water source heatpumps, because unless they use absorption instead of compression there really isn’t a significant energy savings to be had?

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