How Is the HVAC Industry Becoming Greener?

published Apr 27, 2022
2 min read

Environmental engineers are developing sustainable technologies to meet emission-reduction goals, and they are not alone in their efforts. Governments are also creating sustainability targets to conserve natural resources and the global ecosystem.  Countries are decarbonizing their energy grids by creating renewable power supplies.

Some renewable power sources have low-efficiency rates, limiting their compatibility with modern appliances. Enhancing energy efficiency can support the decarbonized power grid. Current heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have sustainability-limiting elements, which reduce their clean electricity compatibility.

The HVAC Industry’s Environmental Challenges

HVAC systems are energy-intensive and most rely on fossil fuel-derived power. They consume over half of the United States’ residential energy supply. Commercial buildings’ heating and cooling devices use similar amounts of emission-producing energy.

Greenhouse gas emissions significantly contribute to climate change, and regions that rely on conventional HVAC systems can’t shrink their carbon footprints. Older heating and cooling systems also produce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which harm the environment. HFCs and CFCs degrade the ozone, which Earth relies on for ultraviolet (UV) ray protection and contribute to climate change.

Environmental engineers evaluated the HVAC industry’s sustainability challenges and developed green heating and cooling systems that decreased carbon footprints.

Geothermal Power Sources

Green electricity becomes the norm in this transitional phase. One green heating and cooling system uses geothermal power. Most home and building owners rely on geothermal heat pumps as a sustainable heating alternative. These systems use Earth’s natural subsurface temperatures to capture and distribute heat.

Earth’s core is significantly warmer than its surface. Geothermal heaters move a refrigerant through underground pipes and naturally extract heat. The sustainable heating technology has a high efficiency rate and lowers individuals’ utility costs.

One environmental challenge associated with geothermal heat pumps is their carbon footprints. The installation process exposes underground environments to Earth’s surface, and subsurface climates release a small quantity of sulfur dioxide and carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Geothermal heat pumps are still more sustainable than conventional HVAC systems because they release less carbon.

Energy-Efficiency Features

Engineers created smart thermostats to track energy usage in the home. These autonomous devices use machine learning (ML) to regulate indoor temperatures and consumption patterns. They use the data to maintain highly efficient indoor temperatures.

Smart thermostats also connect to Wi-Fi and access real-time weather readings, enabling them to turn off when outdoor temperatures match set indoor temps to reduce energy waste. Conserving HVAC energy is essential when supporting renewable energy sources.

Solar HVAC Systems

Engineers can directly connect solar power to HVAC systems and minimize emission pollution. Solar panels have 15%-22% efficiency rates, and the green heating and cooling system uses photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity and adjust indoor temperatures. PV panels release zero emissions when creating energy, increasing a building’s sustainability.

The technology is affordable and helps people save money on their monthly utility bills. It only takes building owners three to six years to pay off PV panels’ initial costs. They can also sell excess electricity back to the grid over time, creating a passive form of income.

Hydronic Heating Technology

Another sustainable heating option uses hydronic technology, which relies on traditional radiator models. Individuals can connect their systems to renewable energy sources and reduce fossil fuel reliance.

Hydronic heating devices filter warm water through a surface-level pipe system. Conventional radiators connect to gas- or oil-powered furnaces, which release greenhouse gases. Building owners can connect their systems to solar or geothermal water heaters to minimize air pollution.

Ice-Powered AC Units

The final green air conditioning (AC) option relies on ice. Ice-powered AC units are more sustainable because they use natural temperature differentiations. They produce ice when temperatures drop at night. During the day, the ice melts and cools down the unit’s refrigerant.

Some ice-powered AC units collect excess water and reuse it again the next day.

Wind Power Heaters

Developed countries like the U.S. have ambitious sustainability goals. America is working on decarbonizing its energy grid with wind power, and people can also use this energy to support HVAC power demands.

Environmental engineers developed wind-powered heaters using small-scale windmills. They connect to a heat generator and emit thermal energy into a radiator. Wind power heaters produce zero emissions while warming a building.

What Is the Most Sustainable HVAC Option?

The benefits these green heating and cooling options provide can vary significantly among regions. Wind-powered heaters have high efficiency rates and small carbon footprints, so they might be the most sustainable option for people who live in windy places. Solar-powered heaters may be a more efficient option for those in sunny areas.

Each of the six options has its sustainability perks and can benefit different areas. People need to do their homework before investing in the best system for them.

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a manufacturing journalist who regularly covers the industry trends. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. Subscribe to read more from Emily.