More than 75% of American households have an air conditioner, yet home AC accounts for more than 8% of all electricity produced in the United States. At a cost of $15 billion, this amount of electricity puts roughly 196 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. However, for such a harmful product and industry, few southern California homes have incorporated sustainability practices into their air conditioning use.
Switching to a high-efficiency air conditioner can reduce your home’s energy use by 20%-50%. When shopping for a new appliance, actively seek out Energy Star products or those that advertise their electricity usage. Though new technologies are changing the way we cool our homes, investing in an energy-efficient unit is, currently, the best way to combat the heat while conserving resources.
However, switching to a sustainable AC unit may not solve your cooling issues. If you still find yourself breaking a sweat, you may need to update or tighten the insulation on your house; if the outdoor temperature is higher than the indoor temperature (as is often the case in southern California), warm air will blow through all available cracks and crevices. Additionally, replacing or upgrading your winds is a great way to increase insulation, and making “cool” painting choices (i.e. choosing lighter colors over darker colors) are great ways to reduce your home’s overall temperature.