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Before you regrettably reach for your air conditioner’s remote again, wait a little!
What if we told you there were ways you could enjoy a cooler environment without feeling guilty about piling electricity bills or, worse, irreparably damaging the environment? If it sounds too good to be true, we are here with fantastic news.
Given the growing emphasis on sustainability, scientists and environment-enthusiasts worldwide have brought forth newer and more eco-friendly cooling models. Commercial and residential areas are looking at these alternatives to bring down their room temperature while also controlling carbon dioxide emission and other greenhouse gases from their cooling devices.
While the options are plenty, the knowledge about them is limited. To remedy that, we are here with this guide that’ll tell you all about air conditioning alternatives and their benefits. So, without further ado, let’s begin!
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Why Do You Need AC Alternatives?
With a massive rise in global temperatures, the need for an effective cooling system has taken the front seat. Heatwaves have enveloped several parts of Australia, Europe, South Asia, and America in the recent decade. And, the demand for air conditioners has been on the rise to combat these effects.
In fact, the unprecedented demand has far surpassed its supply and has strained the supply chains and manufacturing plants. But, that’s not all!
Although earlier limited to first-world countries, air conditioners have now gained prominence in growing economies too. And, why not? Developing economies are characterized by an ever-growing population, new wealth, and the lack of sufficient knowledge about sustainability. Therefore the demand for, and sales of, air conditioners have skyrocketed and are predicted to grow further in the coming decades.
The growing electricity demand will put pressure on power plants and an already faltering climate situation. Hence, the need of the hour is to look for sustainable alternatives that put less stress on global electricity demand.
So, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has taken it upon itself to encourage government bodies to opt for more sustainable cooling systems for future needs. In effect, systems that do not strain the environment and the global energy supply.
There are several alternatives to air conditioners, with some rivaling the forced-cooling system’s efficacy. From fans, evaporative coolers to radiant cooling systems, and wind catchers – the possibilities are limitless, and all that it needs is proper implementation.
Air Conditioner Alternatives And Their Benefits
Let’s look at some air conditioner alternatives and what makes them an excellent choice for your house or workspace.
Fans have been long-used as the most efficient alternative to air conditioners. Although a fan doesn’t bring down temperatures, it helps circulate air in the room and creates a breeze. In addition, it blows the breeze directly over you that helps the sweat on the skin evaporate and makes you feel more relaxed.
Besides, fans are highly affordable, and you get to choose from multiple variants. Regardless of which variant you choose, traditional fans help cool your body and provide some much-needed respite during the scorching summer months.
Fans can be of different types – floor-mounted, suspended from the ceiling, or table fans. While choosing a fan, you must consider the size of the room and what purpose it serves.
For example, a small ceiling fan could be located right over the dining table. However, opting for a larger fan will be ideal if you want to cool the entire dining area.
We must mention that some portable fans come with a mister attachment. For those of you who might not know, placing a damp cloth or frozen water bottle before a fan can improve its efficiency. It does this by forcing the chilled water to evaporate and take the room’s heat along with it.
Mister fans work on a similar technique. They are fitted with a water tank that blows mist into the room, causing the hot air to evaporate. However, this works best in dry climates.
- Affordable; comes with different price points
- No risk of leaks or expensive maintenance requirements
- Space-saving design
- Numerous design and color options
Floor-mounted or table fans might not be a feasible option, especially if you have kids in the house. This is when bladeless fans can come to your rescue. The airflow is created in an enclosed area at the fan’s base. And, this air is emitted from a spherical or elongated head.
Besides, these are as powerful as conventional fans but are characterized by their near-noiseless operation.
Although bladed fans provide adequate ventilation, they are also carriers of dust. In fact, over time, you’ll notice fan blades laden with dust particles that need to be removed manually. However, this isn’t the case with bladeless fans that have an easy-to-clean ring-like hollow. As such, they are more suitable for allergy sufferers and asthma patients.
Another massive advantage of bladeless fans is that they consume less electricity compared to the bladed versions. This is because bladed fans put pressure on their motor while rotating, leading to a spike in electricity consumption. So, even though they are more expensive than traditional fans, they prove cost-effective in the long run.
Like portable fans, some high-end bladeless models come with oscillating heads and speed adjustment options.
- Safe for households with kids and pets
- Noiseless operation
- More energy-efficient than bladed models
- Easier to clean
Adiabatic coolers are an energy-efficient cooling method that draws warm air from the external environment and converts it into cooled air before sending it to the heat exchanger. This cooler uses several components such as mist nozzles, plastic mesh, and wetting pads to help the water evaporate and cool the room.
Allow us to summarize the cooling process for you. The mist nozzles spray water onto the wetting pads, and the device absorbs latent heat from external sources to help this water evaporate.
As water evaporates, it takes away the heat and leaves behind pre-cooled air that is sent to the heat exchanger. Here, the temperature is further reduced by evaporating the heat from the air. The cooled air then travels back to the room and is recirculated.
Usually, this device can cool a 30 m² room with ease. Although it continuously needs water to operate, it significantly reduces your electricity bills and can run for over ten hours or more at a stretch. This makes it highly convenient for homeowners looking to save on their electricity bills while also beating the heat.
In addition, adiabatic coolers are not susceptible to scaling or corrosion, and their maintenance requirements are minimal compared to traditional air conditioners or even fans.
- Can run for long hours
- Highly affordable
Radiant cooling is an advanced method that rivals the efficacy of traditional air conditioners. Also dubbed as a surface cooling system, it absorbs heat from equipment, occupants, and objects placed in a room and transfers it to a cooler surface.
It operates on the basis of an essential principle in physics that states that heat will always flow from a hotter region to a colder one to bring about a balance in temperature.
Chilled water (as low as 16°C) runs through the aluminum composite tubings installed in the walls and absorbs heat from the environment. Besides, these radiant cooling panels come in numerous elegant design options and can be installed on your space’s floor, ceilings, or walls.
Unlike air conditioning systems, radiant cooling doesn’t cool the air. It cools the objects in the room by absorbing heat from them. Since this cooling type doesn’t generate fresh air, it is important to pair them with a proper ventilation system. To do this, you can install air ducts in your building or a down-sized air conditioner.
There are many advantages of surface coolants. For one, its operation is entirely noiseless and can run overnight. Moreover, its maintenance requirements are next to minimal, and it’s a much healthier alternative to forced-air cooling systems.
Naturally, surface cooling systems are more economical than conventional air conditioning options, and the energy consumption will be considerably lower (around 22 to 30%). Finally, another advantage of surface cooling systems is that they can heat your rooms during winter by having warm water running through the pipes.
- Great architectural flexibility
- Can heat the room during winter
- Noiseless operation
- Reduced maintenance costs
Evaporative Cooling Systems
Evaporative cooling systems, like swamp coolers, are one of the best-known ways to achieve comfort during the summer months without a hike in your electricity bills. It closely follows the working mechanism of adiabatic coolers where water is used as a coolant and external air travels over pads saturated with water.
This air helps the water evaporate, taking the heat along with it. The cooled air then recirculates in the house, as the warm air leaves through the window or any other outlet you have created for it.
Evaporative coolers are known to cause a slight increase in humidity inside the building and hence work best in dry regions. They have four essential parts – a water pump, filters, motor, and water pads.
The advantages of evaporative cooling systems are plenty. Needless to say, they are easier and cheaper to install. But, apart from that, it consumes less electricity and does not make use of refrigerants. Thus, this reduces the operating expenses as there are no chances of leaks and the parts are readily available and usually affordable.
If drained and cleaned regularly, evaporative coolers will last for a long time. The air from outside gets trapped in the filters and leads to the buildup of minerals and sediments. So, ensure that you clean this device regularly, especially during the hotter seasons.
Perhaps the most significant advantage of evaporative systems is that they bring in a continuous stream of fresh air. This minimizes the chances of transmission of infections or aggravation of existing allergies. As such, it takes care of your cooling and ventilation needs.
Moreover, many modern machines come with in-built rust-resistant components so that the continuous presence of water in the device doesn’t lead to mineral build-up, scaling, and corrosion.
- Ensures proper ventilation
- Easy-to-replace parts
Windcatchers have long been a huge part of Iranian architecture but gained rapid prominence globally only in the early 21st century, thanks to their passive cooling properties. Before we go into details, it’s essential to briefly understand what wind catchers are.
Windcatchers are towers with glassless windows placed on top of the building in the direction of the moving winds.
These structures can have single or multiple openings to catch the wind and bring it down to the building. Besides, its arched roof helps in better air circulation, which cools the area. To improve ventilation, you can use wind catchers in combination with windows.
If the layout of your house does not permit the installation of a windcatcher, you can install windows on different ends and heights of the house to improve air circulation.
Windcatchers are among the finest passive cooling methods as it requires no electricity for operation and has zero maintenance costs. In addition, it is the most eco-friendly option on our list of air conditioning alternatives since it relies on wind and the principle of transmission of heat.
What’s more, you get to choose from a range of designs and size options to match the aesthetics of your property. Finally, they have an advantage over windows because they provide nighttime cooling without compromising the safety of your house.
That said, windcatchers work best in arid areas that receive frequent winds.
- Range of design options
- Zero maintenance requirements
- Requires no electricity
District Cooling System
Installing district cooling systems is one of the best ways to counteract carbon dioxide emissions produced by traditional central air conditioners. Although earlier district cooling systems were limited to commercial areas such as hospitals and hotels, it is now being installed in public buildings and other residential areas.
This system uses a network of pipes that runs underground and distributes chilled water across multiple buildings from a central source. As heat flows from hotter to cooler areas, the building cools down.
District cooling systems have three essential components – a central chiller plant, a pump, and a distribution network. It consumes around 20 to 35% less electricity than the central air conditioning systems that have become the norm in most offices and other commercial establishments.
This cooling network offers greater architectural flexibility as there is no need to install ducts anywhere in the building. Moreover, when combined with adequate windows, it promotes fresh air circulation, thereby eliminating chances of bacteria and infections making their way into your workspace.
Now, this is a massive boon since workplaces are the hub of bacteria growth and transmission. Also, its operation is entirely noiseless, which makes it excellent for areas such as hospitals. Not to forget, this system has a longer lifespan than air conditioning systems.
Besides, the purpose behind the formulation of DCS plants was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and check the rampant growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Lastly, it uses a lesser quantity of refrigerant than central air conditioners. Thus, this cooling system is not just affordable but environmentally feasible.
- Reduces emission of greenhouse gases
- Needs a lower quantity of refrigerant to operate
- Lower annual maintenance costs
- Noiseless operation
Many households choose to install cool roofs to reduce the heat transmitted from the sun to the buildings.
Cool roofs are a type of roofing system with a high solar reflectance, meaning they reflect heat and sunlight away from the area where it’s installed. Combined with a higher thermal emittance, they help keep temperatures from soaring in the house and thus reduces the need for continuous operation of forced-cooling systems.
As such, buildings with cool roofs remain much cooler than those with the traditional roofing system. In addition, with the reduction in cooling needs comes the lowering of air pollution and emission of greenhouse gases. Moreover, it creates a comfortable and healthier environment indoors, reducing the chances of allergies, strokes, etc.
Usually, most cool roofs are light to reflect sun rays better.
- Reduced energy use
- Safer for the environment
- Minimal maintenance requirements
- Creates a healthy environment indoors
How Improving The Urban Landscape Can Bring Down Temperatures?
If the focus is on sustainability and combating the adverse impact of climate change, the task at hand doesn’t stop with replacing air conditioners with eco-friendly alternatives. No matter how well a building is designed, it can help bring down temperatures to a limited degree only.
To bring down the thermostat a notch further, the goal should be to improve the urban landscape.
Dull concrete fitted on pathways, sidewalks, driveways, and other parts of a region absorb heat from the sun and radiate it onto the local citizens. They, in turn, rely on their air conditioners to cool them down. It’s an endless cycle, and you can reduce the adverse effects of summer in your area by increasing the vegetation cover.
Green strips planted along the road can effectively help bring down the temperature of an area and reduce heat islands by not allowing the sun rays to penetrate the ground. In fact, broad coverage of trees can bring down temperatures by up to 5 degrees Celsius.
A broad canopy can provide excellent daytime cooling along with several other benefits, some of which we have listed below.
- Lower Greenhouse Emissions
Trees and vegetation cover bring down the surface temperature, which reduces the demand for cooling systems. Thus, the production of greenhouse gases that are associated with air conditioners can be significantly reduced.
Naturally, a cooler environment will have you reaching for the air conditioner’s remote way less than usual. Planting green strips along buildings will provide adequate shade to them, reduce the percentage of heat absorbed, and thus bring down temperatures. This will reduce the cooling requirements of the area and bring down its electricity consumption.
Importance Of Choosing Efficient Air Conditioner Models
The primary reason air conditioners fail to be the sustainability paradigm is that consumers rarely choose sustainable models. While purchasing air conditioners, always look for Energy Star Certification provided by EPA.
Energy-efficient models do not guzzle the same amount of energy that regular air conditioners do and emit lesser pollutants into the atmosphere. So, your electricity bills are unlikely to soar like the temperatures outside.
Besides, you need to pick a reliable air conditioning service for your installation and maintenance needs. Whether you choose to install split systems, ducted units, or inverter air conditioning systems – they will have expert professionals who come with the tools for the job.
While you might be tempted to install or repair the air conditioning units independently, we strongly advise against it. After all, one slight misstep and you might end up with exorbitant repair bills or, worse, an irreparable device. So, no matter the cooling system you opt for, proper installation and maintenance are of utmost importance.
That’s all, folks!
Those were our recommendations for air conditioning alternatives, along with their benefits. Now that you know all about it, we hope making a choice will be much easier.
Remember, the alternative you choose depends on your building structure and the climate type of the area. For example, air coolers work best in arid regions, whereas bladeless fans would be an excellent choice for humid areas. In addition to this, a well-streamlined installation of the cooling unit is essential.
And, if air conditioning units are most feasible for you, try opting for more energy-efficient models to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep your electricity bills in check.
With that, we come to the end of this guide. Do let us know your favorite air conditioning alternative in the comments below. Until next time, stay cool!
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