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Your AC unit is hurting the planet (and your wallet). Here’s how to fix that

If households around the world stop using poorly made air conditioning units and ACs are manufactured twice as efficiently as they are now, this would make a significant contribution to keeping to the Paris Agreement’s targets of a global temperature rise of 1.5C by 2050, according to a new UN report.

Air conditioning plays an important part in many climates — and that’s only going to increase with rising temperatures. But as the United Nations reports:

Many air-conditioning units emit carbon dioxide, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons (which have thousands of times the warming potential of carbon dioxide), and increasing demand for cooling is contributing significantly to climate change.

If we improve that:

The Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report, from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), shows that up to 460 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions — roughly the amount produced over an eight-year period — could be cut over the next four decades.

Countries can implement minimum energy performance standards, introduce building codes that ensure homes and offices are well insulated and require less cooling, and make temperature-controlled food supply chains more efficient and sustainable.

Sixty-five countries ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which came into affect on January 1, 2019. It will reduce the projected production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in AC units, by more than 80% over the next 30 years. This can can avoid up to 0.4C of global warming by the end of this century.

Electrek’s Take

If you’ve got air conditioning, turn your temperature warmer by even a couple degrees. It’ll save energy and reduce emissions. And if it’s not absolutely necessary? Shut it off and open your windows. It’ll save you money, too. And once you can afford it, invest in a more efficient unit — it’ll save you money in the long run.

India mandated a default temperature of 75F (24C) for units made or sold from the beginning of 2020 instead of the standard 68-70F (20-21C). This is something every country should emulate.

Further, better building design could also help by reducing consumption or the need for cooling. It would also create jobs.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.