The use of air conditioners is rising driven by the current severe heatwaves that are likely to increase in severity and frequency in the future. This is threatening the environment with high energy consumption, and high warming potential of refrigerants.
The use of propane as a refrigerant could enable space cooling, and thus lessen the global temperature from increasing.
A large amount of energy is expended in fending off the heat in the summer, or all through the year at lower latitudes- which is about one-tenth of the total electricity supply in the world. If the current trend of temperature rise continues, the energy required for space coolers will triple by 2050.
Besides rise in increase consumption, space-coolers pose threat to the environment in different ways, with the use of halogenated refrigerants that have high potential for global warming.
For practical purposes, split air conditioners with an indoor and outdoor unit are most commonly used for space cooling. Split air-conditioners mostly use FC-410 and HCFC-22 as refrigerants, wherein both of them carry very high global warming potential value as much as 2256. This implies the refrigerants can capture up to 2256 times more heat than CO2 over 100 years.
A study led by a researcher at IIASA, in collaboration with researchers at University of Leeds and United Nations Environment Program demonstrates swapping to propane could help to avoid 0.09C increase in global temperature by the end of the century. This would make a significant contribution toward keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5C.
The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explains the use of IIASA Greenhouse Gas- Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies model for comparison of the three scenarios.