As summer temperatures continue to break records, our dependence on air conditioning units intensifies. The mere thought of a day without the cool breeze of an A/C seems unbearable for many of us. Yet, there's an undeniable paradox in our reliance on these appliances. As we use them to escape the heat, we may inadvertently be contributing to the very problem of global warming.
Air conditioning systems account for nearly 10% of the global electricity consumption, leading to a substantial amount of CO2 emissions. The irony deepens when we consider that a significant portion of these emissions originate from coal-fired power plants, the very entities that exacerbate global warming. This cycle—hotter temperatures leading to increased A/C use, which in turn leads to more emissions and even hotter temperatures—poses a daunting challenge.
Among the array of A/C options available to consumers, window units are particularly popular due to their affordability and ease of installation. They are often the go-to choice for apartments, smaller homes, or for those who need an additional cooling source. Traditionally, we think of window units as ugly, loud, and wet. A new breed of modern units is challenging that.
$399 – $529
July touts itself as "a better way to stay cool, for you and the planet" and then makes the self-deprecating acknowledgment that "Air conditioning is bad."
July uses a special refrigerant (R32) that has ⅔ less global warming potential than a traditional window A/C unit, and it uses 10% less energy. The company recognizes there's still a long way to go, and includes a year of carbon offsetting for each unit sold.
The Kapsul, formerly known as Noria, started out as a Kickstarter project way back in April 2016. While the product website lists "save energy" and "better for the planet" as benefits of Kapsul, it doesn't provide much in the way of specifics beyond a Power Usage of 480 Watts and an energy efficiency rating (EER) of 11. The original Kickstarter campaign doesn't even mention these benefits, beyond the capability of monitoring the unit's energy usage via the app.
An EER of 11 is considered good. Typically, window AC units have EER ratings ranging from 8 to 12. The higher the EER, the more energy efficient the unit is. An EER of 11 means that for every watt of electricity the unit consumes, it provides 11 BTUs of cooling. 480 watts, meanwhile, is a fairly typical power usage for a window unit, especially those designed to cool small to medium-sized rooms.
Unfortunately, Kapsul's backers never received the product. Over 6 years later Kapsul had only shipped orders to the first 725 of the original 3,714 backers. As backer #2,392, I have lost hope of ever receiving my window unit from this company.
In terms of price, Gradient is in a category of its own. Billed as a heat pump rather than just a window unit, Gradient claims to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by up to 95%. Like July, it uses R32 refrigerant. Its main selling point is the beauty and form factor.