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The Invisible Costs of Using Air Conditioning Systems

In times past, the Southwest has been known to use “swamp coolers” for general residential cooling purposes. The energy consumption of a swamp cooler – better known as an evaporative cooler – is typically two to four times less than a modern air conditioning system. Thus arise a serious question:

With 56 percent of the total home energy bill going toward heating and cooling, is the switch toward air conditioning worth the affect it has on climate, health and resources?

In a white paper produced by Arunima Chatterjee and Melanie Lenart, the process of energy versus water as a home cooling method is studied in detail. The researchers compare the costs for cooling a typical 2,000-square-foot home using both types of cooling systems. In application, they say that a swamp cooler can cool the home for as little as 250 kilowatt-hours per month, whereas an air conditioner will consume 850 kilowatt-hours per month when cooling the same Tucson Arizona home. This implies a monthly cost difference of better than $60.00 at current Arizona electric rates.

Water, a Natural Resource Not Fully Accounted In Expense

In a further report from the Environmental Research Laboratory at the University of Arizona, T. Lewis Thompson noted that a swamp cooler could use an average of 150 gallons of water in a single day. Arizona temperatures, extended heat waves and battles with run-away fires enhance the value of water. Since standard air conditioning systems do not make direct use of water, it would first appear that the swamp coolers are wasting valuable resources.

However, University of Arizona researchers have been quick to point out the indirect water consumption of a typical air conditioning system. In Arizona, hydropower consumes approximately 65 gallons of water for every kilowatt-hour of generated electricity. Likewise, coal-fired plants consume around half a gallon to produce one kilowatt-hour of electricity.

Effectiveness, The Primary Measuring Stick

Since swamp coolers make use of evaporative cooling, their effectiveness is hindered during monsoon season. The storms bring moist air, but the swamp coolers function best in a dry environment. Air conditioning is not limited by external weather conditions. Being thermostatically controlled, air conditioning systems provide Arizona homeowners with regulated temperature regardless of external or internal humidity.

Climate Changes

Some researchers claim that air conditioners generate more global warming than do swamp coolers. Yet the argument typically fails to include the greenhouse gases produced by coal-driven electrical sources.

Issues Pertaining to Personal Health

Researchers also claim that evaporative cooling provides a better quality of indoor air. Reasoning centers around the filtering system of a swamp cooler. In principle, the pads of a swamp cooler are always moist, thereby capable of trapping dust and pollen more effectively than conventional air conditioning systems. Additionally, the swamp coolers are praised for adding moisture to the inside air, thus preventing dry eyes, throats and skin.

However, air conditioners are credited as more efficient when dealing with re-circulated indoor air. The counter-arguments also suggest that conventional air conditioning systems magnify indoor air pollution, yet high-efficiency filters can easily remedy the situation.

Stay in the Swamp or Switch to Modern Air Conditioning

Most Arizona residents now use conventional air conditioning units. None of the above arguments take into account the benefits of calling an Arizona heat pump installation expert. The continual yearly rise in Arizona temperatures will force society to consider every option in energy conservation, resource preservation and personal health.

Right now, a heat pump provides a reasonable point of balance. By increasing the energy efficiency of home heating methods, heat pumps create an effective balance to a difficult situation.

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