Published: 05th June 2019
World Environment Day: Set your AC to 24ºC to save the world from a hot sultry end
As we concentrate on dealing with air pollution this World Environment Day, we need to do our part to cool down the planet as well
It's 40ºC outside and it feels like you are inside an oven once you step out. Air conditioners are not a luxury for the middle-class anymore. It's a necessity. But are they really helping? All of us have studied the harmful greenhouse gasses that they release and its effects on the environment.
If you were not paying attention in your Environmental Studies class, let's jog your memory in 50 words. Greenhouse gasses absorb and emit radiant energy. ACs release a greenhouse gas HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) — used to keep the air cool — that trap thousands of times the heat as carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas. But ACs consume an insane amount of energy and adds to global warming.
Does that mean we stop using ACs? No. Though some scientists predict that in the future the temperature might increase so much that no air conditioner will be able to bring down the temperature. But that's not the concern right now. ACs use a lot of energy and you can help the environment and bring down your electricity bill at the same time. All you need to do is use the magic number — 24. Experts say that setting your air conditioner to 24ºC can not only conserve power but also cool the room down effectively. But that's not all there are simple measures you can take to help the environment and yourself at the same time.
You don't need the same level of cooling at night. You can turn down the AC a bit and even put it on sleep mode or eco-friendly mode. This lowers the AC's function, decreasing the total heat and gas emission. If you do not have a central air conditioning unit, it is better, the experts say to use window units or portable units as they consume 50 per cent less energy than a larger central unit. But whatever unit you use, basic maintenance might be all your air conditioner needs, but if you live in a city with a high level of Particulate Matter then your unit might need better cleaning. Otherwise, the machine would need to work harder causing it to generate more heat.
Place your furniture in a way that it does not block the AC or is not cluttered around it. Keep the windows and doors tightly shut so that no hot humid air gets in. Also, pull down the blinds or curtains to keep the room cool. Using fans to circulate the cool air means the AC needs to work less to keep the room cool, thus, decreasing its power consumption.
But is your AC 'purifying' the polluted air? It can't. Except for removing dust and odour the air conditioner cannot do much to improve the air quality if you live in an urban set up in India. The air inside your room is not healthy as well. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like mosquito repellents, tobacco smoke, bathroom cleaners, air fresheners etc. can deteriorate the air quality in your room. It's even worse when it's an air-conditioned room as there is limited ventilation. Experts across the world recommend keeping the window open for some amount of time in a day to let these toxins out. But this won't really work if you stay in a city like Delhi.