Ecological and climate change sensitivity continues to drive the implementation of new HVAC products and system design concepts. In an attempt to quantify the effects of power consumption on the environment, researchers introduced the term “carbon footprint,” which is a numerical depiction of the quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by human activity. There is a general consensus among climate scientists that reducing an individual’s carbon footprint can help decrease greenhouse gas emissions and slow the effects of climate change.

Air Conditioning and the Positive Feedback Loop

As global temperatures continue to rise, experts worry that people will begin to use their air conditioner more frequently and for longer periods. The additional power requirements would result in more waste gas byproducts released from gas and coal fired power generation facilities. This scenario would create a positive feedback loop similar to the melting Arctic ice cap. Some scientists believe the energy demand for indoor cooling could increase tenfold by 2050.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency has published data confirming that heating and cooling accounts for 48 percent of the energy used in a typical office or home. In fact, residential air conditioning consumes over eight percent of the total electricity generated in the U.S. at a cost of over 15 billion. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 40 percent of all U.S. CO2 emissions result from the demand for heating, cooling and hot water.

HVAC Technologies to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Residential power and fuel consumption can be substantially reduced by replacing aging HVAC equipment and improving the efficiency of the duct system. There are many existing and emerging technologies that can help cut emissions and lower your carbon footprint.

* Furnaces and Air Conditioners: Several major manufacturers including the Carrier Corporation offer equipment configured as a total system concept. The advanced Infinity Series incorporates a variety of leading edge components designed to provide exceptional comfort and efficiency. Temperature, humidity, ventilation, fan speed and indoor air quality are integrated together and activated through a single control.

A series of sensors employ sophisticated algorithms to constantly monitor the indoor environment and adjust the equipment output to meet the homeowner’s specific comfort parameters in the most efficient manner. Infiniti Series products are capable of accommodating up to eight different temperature zones, so comfort can be tailored to meet each occupant’s preference.

* Geothermal Heat Pumps: Geothermal heat pumps provide both heating and cooling from a single unit. While geothermal units share many of the same components as forced air heat pump models, geothermal technology is more efficient because the earth maintains a far more stable temperature than the surrounding outdoor air.

Geothermal heat pumps are characterized by three major components. A special heat exchanger transfers thermal energy between the living area and the ground. A condensing unit accommodates the refrigeration cycle, and a blower is used to force the conditioned air into the building.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), properly designed and installed geothermal heat pumps have the best efficiency and lowest CO2 emissions among all current central HVAC products.

* Smart Thermostats: The Nest thermostat and the Honeywell Lyric represent new entries into the smart thermostat space. Using adaptive intelligence, the Nest thermostat uses a series of temperature, humidity, motion and light sensors to record occupant behavior. After a sufficient sample has been accumulated, the thermostat develops a program that maximizes HVAC efficiency without requiring user input.

Conversely, the Honeywell Lyric uses a proprietary technology called “geofencing” to set up an electronic perimeter that is triggered by the position of a registered smartphone. If the thermostat senses the home is vacant, it will adjust the temperature setting for maximum energy savings. When one of the smartphones penetrates the perimeter of the electronic fence, the thermostat will readjust the temperature to the preprogrammed setting for preferred comfort.

Simple Ways to Reduce Energy Usage

Employing new HVAC technology can have a dramatic impact on lowering energy consumption and reducing your carbon footprint. However, there are also many inexpensive ways to improve HVAC efficiency.

* Variable Speed Blower: Producing more heating and cooling capacity than your home requires wastes energy and inflates utility bills. A furnace or air handler with a variable speed drive ensures that your HVAC system will supply the exact amount of conditioned air needed to keep you comfortable without squandering energy.

* Adjust the Thermostat. Raising the thermostat in summer or lowering it in winter by one degree can reduce energy usage by up to four percent.

* Change Your Filter: Clogged filters restrict airflow, which forces your HVAC system to work harder to meet the indoor load requirements. Disposable filters should be changed monthly and cabinet filters should be changed quarterly.

The Benefits of Environmental Awareness

Reducing your carbon footprint can help improve the environment while saving money on your utility bills. Modern technology can help lower energy consumption without sacrificing comfort.