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Everything You Need To Know About Air Conditioning

A History Of Air Conditioning From Early Civilization To Today

In some countries with cooler climates, air conditioning is not a particularly vital piece of equipment. However, for countries that sit on or near the equator, having access to air conditioning not only provides relief from the relentless heat of the day but can also save lives. As an example, in Thailand the Climate is tropical and during the summer months, temperatures can easily reach 40 Degrees Celsius. For the young and the old, this is not only uncomfortable but could also lead to severe dehydration and heat stroke, which could prove fatal.

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Having access to air conditioning helps them to remain at an ideal temperature and bypasses the above-noted risks associated with extreme temperatures. In cooler countries such as the U.K and Sweden, when warmer weather arrives, many people may find it uncomfortable, especially during times of heat waves and prolonged hot spells. In fact, the majority of homes don’t have air conditioning in these countries and the only place to find relief from the heat is by heading to the local shops or supermarkets.

If you are from a country that has periods of extreme heat, then you will understand just how important air conditioning is for a decent quality of life. The air conditioning units of today not only provide a steady and constant flow of cool air, but are also able to control the humidity of a room, add positively charged ions into the atmosphere, and automatically detect temperatures and adjust accordingly. Without air conditioning, many of the daily activities we enjoy such as a shopping trip or a visit to the movies would be uncomfortable as all of the lighting, people, and electronics give of immense amounts of heat which would lead to stuffy and humid environments.

This article is going to run through all of the basics that you need to know about air conditioning and will hopefully give you a better understanding of how it works and why it's so important for more than half of the world's population. Read on to start discovering the cool world of air conditioning.

FAQ

What Exactly Is Air Conditioning?

Air conditioning is the process of filtering cool air into a space with the use of an air conditioner. The aim of air conditioning is to provide an ambient room temperature that is not too hot nor too cold. The removal of hot air is performed and replaced with cooler air, which may or may not add or remove humidity from the air.

The main process of air conditioning a room involves removing the hot air from the inside of the room to the outside of it. The actual workings of an air conditioning machine are pretty much the same across all of the different types that you can use. This will be discussed in more detail below when we reach the ‘How do air conditioners work?’ section. In basic terms, air conditioning is the process of taking away hot air and replacing it with cooler air for a more comfortable temperature.

Air conditioning units

The Birth Of Air Conditioning

Air conditioning has its roots dating back to the ancient Egyptian civilization. While it is not the air conditioning of what we are so familiar with today, its conceptual design lead to the creation and development of air conditioning right up to the ones we take advantage of now.

The earliest known type of air conditioning was performed using the process of evaporative cooling. Two ships were unearthed in Egypt, which featured fly roofs for air conditioning purposes. The fly roofs were created in a box style and made from wood. Over this wood, a canvas was placed which would soak up water and spread it across the canvas evenly. As the air was drawn through the canvas, the heat became extracted by the water molecules and what went in as hot air, flowed through as cold air.

There is also evidence of buildings being designed during this period, which took advantage of evaporative cooling to a greater effect. Several structures have been found to consist of below ground chambers. These chambers have specially designed and angled slit openings as windows which were just above the level of large moats surrounding the building. The design of the window vents acted in the same way as a vortex and created suction, therefore drawing air into the building. As this air travelled over the surface of the water much of its heat was absorbed and resulted in a significant cooling effect on the air. The cool air then entered the building and displaced the warm air, which would rise out of vents at the top of the building.

These ingenious designs are thought of as being the very first noted examples of air conditioning and paved the way for the advancement of modern day air conditioning. In fact, the process is almost identical and modern day air conditioning still takes advantage of evaporative cooling to provide cool air to many homes and business around the world.

How Does Air Conditioning Work?

So, as we discovered earlier, air conditioning is the process of removing the hot air from indoors to outdoors. There are several ways of doing this ranging from the use of a simple desk fan to create airflow or by taking advantage of evaporative cooling.

Refrigerant Air conditioners -The process involved in a refrigerant air conditioner is really quite simple. In fact, it is a basic physical law which is that when a liquid converts into a gas the absorption of heat occurs. Air conditioners use a special mix of chemical compounds to allow this process to be performed over and over again inside the closed coils of the unit.

As the chemical compounds make the conversion possible at low temperatures, the air conditioning unit takes advantage of this and this is where the magic happens.  Fans draw warm or hot air through and over the extremely cold coils and as the hot air passes over them the refrigerant coils absorb the heat as it changes from a liquid to a gas.

To be able to continue the cooling process involved with turning from a liquid to a gas, the gas needs to be able to convert back into a liquid for the cycle to start again. To do this a compressor unit inside the air conditioner places immense pressure on the coils and creates heat. This heat is then removed via a second set of coils known as condenser coils and is forced outdoors. As the heat escapes and the gas cools, it then turns back into a liquid and the process is ready to begin once again.

The hot air from outdoors then passes over the chilled coils and funnelled into the room where the air conditioning unit is placed and the hot air is expelled to the exterior of the building. This continuous cycle helps provide cooling by up to 25 degrees. It should be noted though that the cooler you set the air temperature to, the more expensive it becomes to run due to the extra electricity consumed during compression of the gas.

Modern Day Air Conditioning Manufacturers

There are plenty of reputable air conditioning manufacturers available on the market and some brands take the leading edge for their use of cutting-edge design combined with a greener way of working. This section is going to run through some of the best manufacturers of air conditioning units, although if a brand you know isn't featured, it doesn't mean it's not a quality brand, just simply overlooked in favour of the market leaders.

  • Daikin Air Conditioning – the launch of units with inbuilt tech known as ‘intelligent eye’ allows the unit to automatically direct the airflow away from people this prevents them getting too cold in the air flow. Daikin is one of the worlds most renowned manufacturers of air conditioning.

  • Mitsubishi Electronics Air Conditioning – Mitsubishi is probably the most famous of all air conditioning manufacturers and their high-quality units featuring some impressive modern tech sees them as one of the most sold manufacturers of air conditioning units around the globe.

  • Samsung – Samsung is one of the most widely known and trusted electronics manufacturers in the world, and they follow this through with all of their air conditioning units. Newer models contain a feature known as ‘virus doctor’ which kills airborne viruses. This has made it a staple in many hospitals, educational establishments, and offices around the globe.

  • Fujitsu – another fantastic manufacturer of air conditioning units which are comparable to more expensive units but at a reduced cost. If you are looking for an air conditioner that won't break the bank to buy, the Fujitsu is probably your best option.

There are of course many local manufactures of air conditioners and this will largely depend on your location. Certain manufacturers focus more on office and retail designs for their units, while others are much more geared towards providing air condition units for residential buildings. Many relatively unknown manufacturers provide excellent quality units at the fraction of the cost of some of the major leading brands, therefore, if you are in the market for an air conditioner, it definitely pays off to do some online comparisons and read up on some reviews before making a choice.

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Air Conditioning For The Home

Air conditioning for the home allows certain rooms to be cooled effectively with the use of air conditioner units. As a general rule, the majority of private residences use wall mounted air conditioners which are controlled by a remote control. Wall mounted air conditioner units tend to be best for cooling smaller spaces and would fail to provide ample cooling in larger places such as offices, etc.

Wall mounted units have the compressor located on the exterior of the property and the air conditioning unit is on the interior and connected via several pipes. Modern units provide Eco settings and allow the user to tailor their cooling experience of setting the fan to create a natural breeze that ebbs and flows to automatically switching the unit on and off to maintain an optimal temperature. This automated on/off mode helps the user save money when compared to the constant running as less energy is used to keep the room cool. One of the most commonly found air conditioners used in the home will be from Samsung & Fujitsu. Fujitsu tends to be slightly more popular due to its economical pricing on units which operate just as well as many of the more expensive competitor brands.

Air conditioning control

Air Conditioning For The Office

Normally, central air conditioning is used in office and larger buildings such as shopping malls. The central air conditioning consists of several large units located out of view in the building. These units then funnel air through a system of vents which then flows gently into all of the different rooms. Air conditioning in the office helps provide a comfortable space to work and prevents fatigue from being seated in warm temperatures for extended periods of time.

Smaller offices often use wall mounted units in much the same way as private residences do. This allows for an ideal temperature to be achieved easily, although it is not ideal for large offices as sufficient cooling is harder to achieve. One of the leading brands, Mitsubishi, tends to be the favourite choice for many office and retail outlets due to their specifically designed units for use in cooling larger scale buildings.

Costs To Run Air Conditioning?

Unfortunately, there is no sure or sharp answer to this question. You may as well ask how long is a piece of string? While there is no definitive answer as many factors such as your location, the make and model of the unit, and how low you set the temperature will all impact on the overall running costs, there are certain guidelines that will help you work out how to save money when using your unit.

The first thing to note is that, for example, an air conditioning unit with a 3500kw output set at 20° will cost in the range of  £0.26 for 1 hour. However, if the temperature is set at 26° the cost would average out to around £0.16 Per Hour. There are big savings to be made by keeping the temperature higher and there are no advantages to having a room at 20° other than personal preference.

The next thing will depend on how long you have the unit running for. If the unit is running 24/7 then over time the refrigerant loses its effectiveness as it slowly depletes. This means that more energy is required to perform the same job and can also result in the failure of the unit in time.

Basically, the simplest rule is to never go below 26° as this is the most comfortable temperature for the human body and avoid keeping the unit running for 24 hours a day. This way you can be sure of economical use. If in doubt, simply switch on the Eco setting and let the unit do all of the guestimations for you.

Lastly, if using air conditioning in extreme heat, more energy is required to provide cool air to the inside of the building. As the air is so hot outdoors, a lot more energy is required to provide sufficient cooling, thus, more electricity is used and costs go up sharply.

Summary Of Air Conditioning

It would be fair to say that without air conditioning many of the world's hottest nations would be suffering through day after day of relentless heat. There are still many countries where air conditioning is too expensive for the average person, however, as humanity has done through the ages, many find ingenious and simple solutions that provide effective relief from the heat of the day.

A great example of this can be seen in the mountainous island of Gran Canaria where the homes have been carved into the extinct volcano's sides. The solid stone walls of the home provide amazing protection from the intense heat of the summer while also providing insulation from the cooler winter weather.  Other examples of very basic cooling methods can be found in countries such as Laos and Cambodia, where a person takes a thick cotton bed sheet and soaks it in water. The bed sheet is then rung out so that it is still rather damp and then placed over the body after which a standard room fan is then turned on and angled at the body. As the air passes over the sheet it evaporates the water and leads to drastic cooling effects. In fact, it can reduce the temperature by up to 6 – 7 degrees in a matter of minutes.

Air conditioning has enabled humans to lead much more comfortable daily living in places where without it, it would create a life of misery and heat exhaustion. Air con is cool in more than one way, and we are lucky to have the knowledge and access to methods that help us create the temperature and environment that suits us best.

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