Summer in the City: Stopping the Air Conditioning Energy Binge

When it’s hot outside, you probably don’t give a thought to flipping the switch and running the air conditioner full blast.  But when you get the bill, you may go into sticker shock. The solution is not to swelter, but to make smarter energy usage choices.

Services such as Environmental Data Resources are designed to make it easier to quantify levels of energy usage for residential and commercial properties alike. Ongoing research has uncovered technological advances that may make it possible to remain cool and comfortable in your home even on the hottest days of the year, while saving money in the process. These technological advances may also significantly lessen the environmental impact made by our efforts to maintain indoor temperature comfort levels.

Cities and the Environment

As you might imagine, the environmental impact of this sort of consumption is significant.  In fact, According to research conducted by  Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), during the summer months, residential air conditioning may account for as much as one-third the consumption of electricity. Scientists from the Unidad Asociada de Ingeniería de Sistemas Energéticos (Energy Systems Engineering Unit) CSIC-UC3M conducted research to determine the exact level of impact and investigate ways of saving money.

To conduct their research, investigators used data generated by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Institute of Statistics) on the number of households and the number of climate control and air-conditioning systems installed in the Community to simulate the amount of electrical consumption in the Autonomous Community of Madrid.  They used these results to estimate the level of usage for the entire population. The concluded that if air conditioning could be achieved more efficiently, there could be a significant overall reduction in electricity consumption.

New Generation Cooling Systems

The researchers concluded that there were two significant sources of energy that could be used to provide households and commercial establishments with sufficient electrical capacity to maintain interior temperature comfort while reducing overall electricity consumption. Solar panels provide a sustainable form of energy, which can be viable even in climates that are cooler than sunny Madrid. Heat pumps also represent an efficient way to generate energy and electricity. Combining the two forms of energy production could result in even more energy savings, according to the researchers.

Matching Supply and Demand

Another approach to reducing overall electricity consumption is to monitor overall usage while matching production to peak demand periods, such as during the heat of the day. Likewise, production levels could be reduced when consumption and demand levels are lower, as in during the cooler nighttime hours. So-called smart meters are already becoming increasingly common in homes and businesses, and they are already producing desirable results. In addition to saving energy, such technology can also be used to provide incentives to use less electricity, by lowering energy bills for users who reduce their overall consumption as well as for those who adjust their consumption so that they use more energy during low demand periods.

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