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Pollution and Air Quality

Air cleaning devices

Here are some things to consider when you’re thinking about getting a portable room air filtration device:
Try solving the air quality problem at its source
Before you buy any device, make sure you’ve done all you can to solve your air quality problem at its source. For example:
  • The best way to get rid of cat allergens is to find a new home for the cat.
  • The best way to get rid of strong chemical cleaner fumes is to switch to less volatile cleaners.
  • The best way to reduce dust is to take steps to clean the bedding and roomand vacuum often with a central vacuum system or HEPA-filtered vacuum (these vacuums won’t release fine dust into the air)
When might an air filter help?
In areas where particles are present and cannot be otherwise eliminated, and people are particularly sensitive (for example, in the bedroom of a person with asthma), an air filtration unit with a HEPA filter may be a worthwhile addition. A filter with a charcoal component can also help in eliminating some gaseous odours.
Before you buy an air cleaning device, figure out what size of device is appropriate for your room, and where in the room it should be placed for maximum benefit. Putting the filter near the person affected may be more beneficial than having it farther away. Check the level of noise when the system is operating. Monitor the filter condition regularly and replace filters when necessary.
Buyer beware: before buying an air filtration device, consider the following:
  • While there is a wide variety of technologies, there are no uniform rules or regulations about the performance, efficiency and effectiveness of air filtration devices.
  • Many particles become trapped in furniture, drapery and clothing, and are not airborne (floating in the air) unless they are disturbed. For example, dust in your rug will be trapped there until you shake out or vacuum the rug. An air filter can only filter particles that are floating in the air- it can’t filter particles that are trapped in objects.
  • While there are some bona fide devices that do what they promise, other devices are ineffective and can be accompanied by unsubstantiated claims. Be especially cautious about products that promise ‘health improvements’. While some products are effective in reducing the presence of triggers such as dust and pollen, there is no published evidence that health status will improve.
  • Air filters designed to filter a single room do not perform well when there is central air circulation constantly exchanging the air in the room with the rest of the home. Isolating the room may yield lower particle counts, but remember to allow for some fresh air too.
  • Deal with a reputable vendor. The Lung Association has received calls from consumers who feel pressured by some door-to-door vendors who offer to take a ‘sample’ of air for testing purposes and then suggest an expensive filtration device. Find out what performance and refund guarantees come with the product.
Can air filters get rid of second-hand smoke?
No. There is no filtration or ventilation system that can effectively remove second-hand smoke (environmental tobacco smoke). Second-hand smoke has more than 4700 compounds in it. The only sure way to protect yourself from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke is to make sure no one smokes indoors.
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How to Save On Energy Costs?

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Use Less. Pay Less.

We know greater efficiency equals greater savings. And we’re proud of our overachievers – our products that work hard to save you money on your heating and cooling bills by using less fuel in the first place. Are your current heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) components saving you the money they could be? Here are a few things to think about:
If your furnace is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient model. We have a wide range of furnaces that efficiently and comfortably heat things up when the weather gets frigid.
Your heating and cooling system’s components should have the highest possible energy efficiency ratings. The higher the rating, the more efficient the product and lower your energy usage can be. Make sure your components meet the following minimums:
– Furnaces: Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings of 80 or higher
– Heat pumps: Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings of 7 or higher
– Air conditioners: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings of 13 or higher
The Environmental Protection Agency developed the ENERGY STAR program to reduce the nation’s energy consumption. Choosing products for your home that bear the ENERGY Star logo is an important step to consuming less energy. Qualified products are available in multiple categories, including heating and cooling equipment, appliances, home electronics and lighting.

Not too big, not too small. Choose the just-right system for you.

Homes that are heated and cooled by units that are too big, too small or just plain mismatched, miss out on quality performance and efficiency. Here are some tips to make sure you’ve found the system that fits your home and climate.
It all starts with a matched system, which refers to components that are designed to work together to provide greater efficiency, reliability and comfort. Matched systems can be “split” (separate units placed inside and outside the home) or “packaged” (one single unit, which houses all components in a single cabinet, placed outside the home).
You might also consider a hybrid system. It’s not science fiction, but it’s still pretty impressive. Hybrid systems bring together two different fuel sources, such as a gas or oil furnace and an electric heat pump, for more efficient heating and cooling.

Thermostats. The simple change that saves.

You don’t have to start over with your home’s HVAC system to consume less energy and enjoy a more comfortable home. The easiest fix of them all is a new, programmable thermostat.
Programmable thermostats, also known as programmable controls, can have a significant impact not only for your home’s energy consumption, but also for you. It’s hands-free comfort, and allows you to enjoy your home without running to the control every time the weather outside changes. During winter months, you can save as much as 3 percent* of heating costs for each degree your thermostat is lowered. In the summer, cooling costs are cut up to 6 percent* per each degree you raise the thermostat. A programmable control will automatically adjust temperatures throughout the day, ensuring greater energy efficiency and enhanced comfort. Some control models even allow homeowners to pre-program desired temperatures for specific times of day. You can save costs by easily adjusting the heating and cooling settings for times when you’re waking up, leaving for work, sleeping or going on vacation.

Global Warming Will Explode Air Conditioning Demand

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The world is warming, incomes are rising, and smaller families are living in larger houses in hotter places. One result is a booming market for air conditioning—world sales in 2011 were up 13 percent over 2010, and that growth is expected to accelerate in coming decades.
By my very rough estimate, residential, commercial, and industrial air conditioning worldwide consumes at least one trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Vehicle air conditioners in the United States alone use 7 to 10 billion gallons of gasoline annually. And thanks largely to demand in warmer regions, it is possible that world consumption of energy for cooling could explode tenfold by 2050, giving climate change an unwelcome dose of extra momentum.
The United States has long consumed more energy each year for air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. In fact, we use more electricity for cooling than the entire continent of Africa, home to a billion people, consumes for all purposes. Between 1993 and 2005, with summers growing hotter and homes larger, energy consumed by residential air conditioning in the U.S. doubled, and it leaped another 20 percent by 2010. The climate impact of air conditioning our buildings and vehicles is now that of almost half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Yet with other nations following our lead, America’s century-long reign as the world cooling champion is coming to an end. And if global consumption for cooling grows as projected to 10 trillion kilowatt-hours per year—equal to half of the world’s entire electricity supply today—the climate forecast will be grim indeed.
Because it is so deeply dependent on high-energy cooling, the United States is not very well positioned to call on other countries to exercise restraint for the sake of our common atmosphere. But we can warn the world of what it stands to lose if it follows our path, and that would mean making clear what we ourselves have lost during the age of air conditioning. For example, with less exposure to heat, our bodies can fail to acclimatize physiologically to summer conditions, while we develop a mental dependence on cooling. Community cohesion also has been ruptured, as neighborhoods that on warm summer evenings were once filled with people mingling are now silent—save for the whirring of air-conditioning units. A half-century of construction on the model of refrigerated cooling has left us with homes and offices in which natural ventilation often is either impossible or ineffective. The result is that the same cooling technology that can save lives during brief, intense heat waves is helping undermine our health at most other times.
The time window for debating the benefits and costs of air conditioning on a global scale is narrowing—once a country goes down the air-conditioned path, it is very hard to change course.
China is already sprinting forward and is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s biggest user of electricity for air conditioning by 2020. Consider this: The number of U.S. homes equipped with air conditioning rose from 64 to 100 million between 1993 and 2009, whereas 50 million air-conditioning units were sold in China in 2010 alone. And it is projected that the number of air-conditioned vehicles in China will reach 100 million in 2015, having more than doubled in just five years.
As urban China, Japan, and South Korea approach the air-conditioning saturation point,the greatest demand growth in the post-2020 world is expected to occur elsewhere, most prominently in South and Southeast Asia. India will predominate—already, about 40 percent of all electricity consumption in the city of Mumbai goes for air conditioning. The Middle East is already heavily climate-controlled, but growth is expected to continue there as well. Within 15 years, Saudi Arabia could actually be consuming more oil than it exports, due largely to air conditioning. And with summers warming, the United States and Mexico will continue increasing their heavy consumption of cool.
Countries are already struggling to keep up with peak power demand in hot weather. This summer, India is seeing a shortfall of 17 gigawatts, with residential electricity shut off for 16 hours per day in some areas. China is falling short by 30 to 40 gigawatts, resulting in energy rationing and factory closings.
In most countries, the bulk of electricity that runs air conditioners in homes and businesses is generated from fossil fuels, most prominently coal. In contrast, a large share of space heating in cooler climates is done by directly burning fuels—usually natural gas, other gases, or oil, all of which have somewhat smaller carbon emissions than coal. That, together with the energy losses involved in generation and transmission of electric power, means that on average, an air conditioner causes more greenhouse emissions when pushing heat out of a house than does a furnace when putting the same quantity of heat into a house.