Global Warming As A Key Issue For Refrigeration And Air Conditioning

Refrigeration, including the use of air conditioners, is a necessity for all human life and will continue to be used worldwide for many years to come.  Unfortunately, the impact these elements have on the environment is huge, regardless of the upcoming refrigeration technologies.  Based on the knowledge of environmental impact, advanced refrigerant technologies have been used to mitigate global warming; however, the reduction of fluorinated gas emissions remains a challenge to be addressed.  This article will provide information on refrigeration and air conditioning, and how these elements play a role in global warming.

How Is Refrigeration A Necessity For Human Life?

Temperature is considered a magnitude and is a core element in various sectors including chemistry, biology and physics characterizing the state of solid and gaseous phases.  Based on these reasons, it seems that refrigeration is essential to human life; however, the manner of refrigeration has influences on the life it supports.  Fortunately, research and development teams across the globe have formed technologies that lead to the provision of goods and setting up of services without too much of an impact on the ecosystem.  For example, cryogenics, air conditioning, food supply technologies, and use in the medical industry.  Applications have also been made in leisure activities and public works.

What Is The Cold Chain?

The Cold Chain refers to an application of refrigerant technologies in the human life and the expansion of its use because of the essential need.  For example, according to the FAO1 approximately 1 billion people are undernourished and the need for refrigerant to preserve food to reach these individuals will increase.  Statistics indicate that the global population is predicted to rise by 100% by 2050 and any global food energy will increase as well.  Therefore, global food supply must increase considerably as a preventative measure to achieve the correct level of global food security.

Another application in the Cold Chain, which is one of the most common solutions or applications to raise food production, is use in arable land.  This application will assist higher crop development via irrigation systems.  The increased crop achieve is typically due to an improved agricultural process and advanced refrigerant technology application.  While improve the water resources in arable lands with agricultural production is beneficial, it is not sufficient to address future food safety or security.  Greater emphasis on the Cold Chain is necessary to achieve overall wellbeing.

Evidence found that further use of refrigeration technologies can ensure worldwide nutrition regarding the quality and quantity of the application.  Animal and plant origin food products that were once perishable with high levels of pathogens can be managed by using refrigerant technology.  Refrigeration can substantially reduce bacteria growing in food products based on the cold element of the refrigerant where bacteria cannot grow.  Research indicated that approximately 1,700 people die each year from known bacteria with 50% being food-based diseases.  Data analysis on the food-based diseases found that, on average, 90% of the conditioners were associated with poor temperature control.  By using refrigerant application and chilling or freezing the food product, the number of food-based bacteria was decreased.

Unfortunately, despite the benefits of refrigerant application for sustainability, there are certain disadvantages to the use in both developed and developing countries.  As the countries expand and become more urbanized, the need for more refrigerating applications increases.  This is good because refrigerating application can help with health care, sustainable food, and improving agriculture.  However, the growing number of refrigerant applications can cause an imbalance on the environment.

The Effect Of Refrigeration And Air Conditioning On The Environment

Research has found that more than 90% of all refrigerating machinery relies on vapor compression utilizing refrigerants, and this is predicted to change in the future.  While other technologies are already presenting with energy efficiency, chlorinated refrigerants (known as chlorofluorocarbons) are inefficient and contribute dramatically to the destruction of the environment.  The primary contribution is an impact on the ozone layer and the depletion of the stratospheric layer.

In recent years, measurements have shown that the ozone layer may be able to increase stability and recovery by the year 2060.  However, to achieve this recovery and stability, all chlorinated refrigerants need to be replaced by hydro-fluorocarbons. This type of refrigerant does not affect the ozone layer once it is released into the atmosphere making the machinery application more environmentally friendly.

Air conditioning is one of the most important refrigerant applications for the lay-person, and it can impact on global warming (along with refrigeration) in three different ways:

–  Releasing greenhouse gases into the environment.  The contribution of these emissions represents approximately 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and while it is reduced at a regular rate since the late 1980s there are still problems.

–  The energy consumption by equipment represents approximately 15% of all global electricity in the US, and this percentile is even higher in other developed countries.  Thanks to fossil fuel usage in many countries, electricity is being produced locally and solutions to energy efficiency are being introduced.  Of course, electricity consumption does represent an impact of refrigerant application on global warming.

–  On the other hand, refrigerant application can be utilized as a solution to reduce the source of global warming.  For example, heat pump technologies utilize refrigerant applications for heating or cooling with reversible heating pumps.  This source of energy utilizes electricity, but the impact on global warming is lower than any traditional heating machinery.  The technology is known as renewable technology under specific conditions and its market is growing quickly in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.

What Are The Changes That Have Been Made?

While various challenges continue to be experienced, some positive changes have been made regarding refrigerating equipment and air conditioning.

–  Fluorinated gas emissions.  Since the late 1980s, this type of direct emission has been reduced; however, to achieve a highly positive effect on global warming we need to increase the reliability of this fluorinated refrigerant recovery.  We also need to reduce leaks, reduce refrigerant charge, promote alternative solutions, and promote the low-GWP refrigerants.

As can be seen, refrigerant and air conditioning can have a positive effect on lifestyle but a negative impact on global warming.  To increase energy-efficiency and reduce the destruction of the ozone layer, it is important to reduce greenhouse gases and use more eco-friendly alternatives.