environmentally sound air conditioning

Are air conditioners nowadays considered environmentally sound? I remember vaguely that when I was growing up, they were a big no-no, but to be quite honest I’m about to keel over in this apartment. Can anyone offer me tips or resources on how to find environmentally sound models?

On another note, am I right in thinking it’s unwise to attempt to install an air conditioner in a ground-level window (with a grate on it)?

Other than the polution generated in making the electricity and the additional planetary heat load from the inefficiency of the unit I don’t see any problem. Are you referring to the time when Freon or other similar refrigerant was used? If so, I’m pretty sure modern units sold in Canada would be just like those in the US. They don’t use refrigerants that damage the ozone layer.

From your location, I can see why an air conditioner would be an optional item. Of course, it’s optional in my area too, but I dare you to convince Mrs. Rhubarb of that!

If you wish to avoid sullying the environment, there are a number of alternatives. If the humidity is relatively low, an evaporative cooler can be fairly effective, but puts lots of moisture into your home, which is a drawback. There are some HVAC designs which use propane as a coolant, but I don’t know of any readily available sources. There are also gas-fired ammonia absorption units for residential use, however, they tend to be large, expensive and difficult to maintain, albeit less expensive to operate.

I would agree with David Simmons on this. A modern A/C using R-134a is relatively benign as it contains no chlorofluorocarbons to destroy the ozone. Their efficiency has also been improved considerably over the past 15 years, so they’re less wasteful of energy, too.

Regarding the window question: How close to the ground are we talking, here? The only problem that comes to mind is that there won’t be any place for condensate runoff. It would tend to pool and seep back into the house through the window, or cause an algae/slime/mold problem. If the window is even 30 cm above the ground level, I would think it’s okay. But the grating will have to go!

R-134a is a refrigerant for automobile A/C units, and is not used in residential A/C units, whether central or window mounted. You can get a central air conditioning system that uses R-410 (marketed as Puron[sup]TM[/sup], plus a couple of other names), which is not harmful to the ozone layer, but I haven’t seen any window mounted units that use it yet. They still use R-22, which is less harmful than R-12 (which used to be used in auto A/C before R-134a). It’ll probably be a few more years until window units are made with R-410- R-22 will be made until 2010, and R-410 requires higher pressures- it’s not a drop-in replacement.

The window is on the ground – i.e. at sidewalk level (it’s a basement apartment) – and the grating cannot go, for roughly that reason.

The window casing is about 10" deep, from the grate to the inside edge of the sill.