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Sustainable Air Conditioners?

Facilities managers spend a huge portion of their annual energy budget on cooling their building’s workspace during Summer. Even worse, increased carbon emissions is a direct result of this process…assuming they’re not getting all their energy from more expensive renewable sources.

But what if air conditioners could actually have a net-positive effect on total carbon emissions?…instead of kicking up more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.  Wired recently explained a new study that showed how technology in development could be used to retrofit commercial and residential air conditioners to help pull carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into fuel for “powering vehicles that are difficult to electrify, like cargo ships.” The process would involve retrofitting air conditioners with a filter to absorb carbon dioxide and water from the air and an electrolyzer to create chemical processes to turn water and the carbon dioxide into usable fuel.

Is that too sci-fi…or a real possibility?

The vision of crowd oil. Renewable oil wells, a distributed social technology, whereby people in homes, offices and commercial buildings all around the world, collectively harvest renewable electricity and heat and use air conditioning and ventilation systems to capture CO2 and H2O from ambient air and convert it, by chemical processes, into renewable synthetic oil—crowd oil—substituting for non-renewable fossil-based oil—a step towards a circular CO2 economy for the benefit of all. ~ Crowd Oil Not Crude Oil – Nature.com

(Another idea on Next generation air condition for sustainable cooling | Ernest Chua – World Economic Forum)

However, for carbon neutrality to be a reality in this process…the energy used to power the air conditioner must still come from renewable sources. And some skeptics say that carbon capture distracts from the idea that the most important strategies should be those that reduce emissions, not capture already spent carbon. But the researchers say this can be one of many possible strategies as solar and other fossil fuel-reducing strategies continue to ramp up and go into wider-spread use.

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