Air conditioning

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Air conditioning is the removal of heat from indoor air for thermal comfort.

In another sense, the term can refer to any form of cooling, heating, ventilation, or disinfection that modifies the condition of air.[1] An air conditioner (often referred to as AC or air con.) is an appliance, system, or machine designed to change the air temperature and humidity within an area (used for cooling as well as heating depending on the air properties at a given time), typically using a refrigeration cycle but sometimes using evaporation, commonly for comfort cooling in buildings and motor vehicles.

Contents

History

The concept of air conditioning is known to have been applied in Ancient Rome, where aqueduct water was circulated through the walls of certain houses to cool them down. Other techniques in medieval Persia involved the use of cisterns and wind towers to cool buildings during the hot season. Modern air conditioning emerged from advances in chemistry during the 19th century, and the first large-scale electrical air conditioning was invented and used in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier.

Pre-industrial cooling

The 2nd-century Chinese inventor Ding Huan (fl. 180) of the Han Dynasty invented a rotary fan for air conditioning, with seven wheels 3 m (9.8 ft) in diameter and manually powered.[2] In 747, Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–762) of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) had the Cool Hall (Liang Tian) built in the imperial palace, which the Tang Yulin describes as having water-powered fan wheels for air conditioning as well as rising jet streams of water from fountains.[3] During the subsequent Song Dynasty (960–1279), written sources mentioned the air-conditioning rotary fan as even more widely used.[4]

In the 17th century, Cornelius Drebbel demonstrated "turning Summer into Winter" for James I of England by adding salt to water.[5]

In 1758, Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley, a chemistry professor at Cambridge University, conducted an experiment to explore the principle of evaporation as a means to rapidly cool an object. Franklin and Hadley confirmed that evaporation of highly volatile liquids such as alcohol and ether could be used to drive down the temperature of an object past the freezing point of water. They conducted their experiment with the bulb of a mercury thermometer as their object and with a bellows used to "quicken" the evaporation; they lowered the temperature of the thermometer bulb down to −14 °C (7 °F) while the ambient temperature was 18 °C (64 °F). Franklin noted that, soon after they passed the freezing point of water 0 °C (32 °F), a thin film of ice formed on the surface of the thermometer's bulb and that the ice mass was about a quarter-inch thick when they stopped the experiment upon reaching −14 °C (7 °F). Franklin concluded, "From this experiment, one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer's day".[6]

Mechanical cooling

Three-quarters scale model of Gorrie's ice machine. John Gorrie State Museum, Florida.

In 1820, British scientist and inventor Michael Faraday discovered that compressing and liquefying ammonia could chill air when the liquefied ammonia was allowed to evaporate. In 1842, Florida physician John Gorrie used compressor technology to create ice, which he used to cool air for his patients in his hospital in Apalachicola, Florida.[7] He hoped eventually to use his ice-making machine to regulate the temperature of buildings. He even envisioned centralized air conditioning that could cool entire cities.[8] Though his prototype leaked and performed irregularly, Gorrie was granted a patent in 1851 for his ice-making machine. His hopes for its success vanished soon afterwards when his chief financial backer died; Gorrie did not get the money he needed to develop the machine. According to his biographer, Vivian M. Sherlock, he blamed the "Ice King," Frederic Tudor, for his failure, suspecting that Tudor had launched a smear campaign against his invention. Dr. Gorrie died impoverished in 1855, and the idea of air conditioning faded away for 50 years.

James Harrison's first mechanical ice-making machine began operation in 1851 on the banks of the Barwon River at Rocky Point in Geelong (Australia). His first commercial ice-making machine followed in 1854, and his patent for an ether vapor-compression refrigeration system was granted in 1855. This novel system used a compressor to force the refrigeration gas to pass through a condenser, where it cooled down and liquefied. The liquefied gas then circulated through the refrigeration coils and vaporised again, cooling down the surrounding system. The machine employed a 5 m (16 ft.) flywheel and produced 3,000 kilograms (6,600 lb) of ice per day.

Though Harrison had commercial success establishing a second ice company back in Sydney in 1860, he later entered the debate of how to compete against the American advantage of unrefrigerated beef sales to the United Kingdom. He wrote Fresh Meat frozen and packed as if for a voyage, so that the refrigerating process may be continued for any required period, and in 1873 prepared the sailing ship Norfolk for an experimental beef shipment to the United Kingdom. His choice of a cold room system instead of installing a refrigeration system upon the ship itself proved disastrous when the ice was consumed faster than expected.

Electromechanical cooling

In 1902, the first modern electrical air conditioning unit was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier in Buffalo, New York. After graduating from Cornell University, Carrier, a native of Angola, New York, found a job at the Buffalo Forge Company. While there, Carrier began experimenting with air conditioning as a way to solve an application problem for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, New York, and the first "air conditioner," designed and built in Buffalo by Carrier, began working on 17 July 1902.

Designed to improve manufacturing process control in a printing plant, Carrier's invention controlled not only temperature but also humidity. Carrier used his knowledge of the heating of objects with steam and reversed the process. Instead of sending air through hot coils, he sent it through cold coils (ones filled with cold water). The air blowing over the cold coils cooled the air, and one could thereby control the amount of moisture the colder air could hold. In turn, the humidity in the room could be controlled. The low heat and humidity helped maintain consistent paper dimensions and ink alignment. Later, Carrier's technology was applied to increase productivity in the workplace, and The Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America was formed to meet rising demand. Over time, air conditioning came to be used to improve comfort in homes and automobiles as well. Residential sales expanded dramatically in the 1950s.

In 1906, Stuart W. Cramer of Charlotte, North Carolina was exploring ways to add moisture to the air in his textile mill. Cramer coined the term "air conditioning," using it in a patent claim he filed that year as an analogue to "water conditioning," then a well-known process for making textiles easier to process. He combined moisture with ventilation to "condition" and change the air in the factories, controlling the humidity so necessary in textile plants. Willis Carrier adopted the term and incorporated it into the name of his company. The evaporation of water in air, to provide a cooling effect, is now known as evaporative cooling.

Refrigerant development

The first air conditioners and refrigerators employed toxic or flammable gases, such as ammonia, methyl chloride, or propane, that could result in fatal accidents when they leaked. Thomas Midgley, Jr. created the first non-flammable, non-toxic chlorofluorocarbon gas, Freon, in 1928.

"Freon" is a trademark name owned by DuPont for any Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), Hydrogenated CFC (HCFC), or Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant, the name of each including a number indicating molecular composition (R-11, R-12, R-22, R-134A). The blend most used in direct-expansion home and building comfort cooling is an HCFC known as R-22. It is to be phased out for use in new equipment by 2010 and completely discontinued by 2020.

R-12 was the most common blend used in automobiles in the US until 1994, when most designs changed to R-134A. R-11 and R-12 are no longer manufactured in the US for this type of application, the only source for air-conditioning repair purposes being the cleaned and purified gas recovered from other air-conditioner systems. Several non-ozone-depleting refrigerants have been developed as alternatives, including R-410A, invented by Honeywell (formerly AlliedSignal) in Buffalo, and sold under the Genetron (R) AZ-20 name. It was first commercially used by Carrier under the brand name Puron.

Innovation in air-conditioning technologies continues, with much recent emphasis placed on energy efficiency and on improving indoor air quality. Reducing climate-change impact is an important area of innovation because, in addition to greenhouse-gas emissions associated with energy use, CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs are, themselves, potent greenhouse gases when leaked to the atmosphere. For example, R-22 (also known as HCFC-22) has a global warming potential about 1,800 times higher than CO2.[9] As an alternative to conventional refrigerants, natural alternatives, such as carbon dioxide (CO2. R-744), have been proposed.[10]

Air-conditioning applications

An air conditioner.

Air-conditioning engineers broadly divide air-conditioning applications into what they call comfort and process applications.

Comfort applications aim to provide a building indoor environment that remains relatively constant despite changes in external weather conditions or in internal heat loads.

Air conditioning makes deep plan buildings feasible, for otherwise they would have to be built narrower or with light wells so that inner spaces received sufficient outdoor air via natural ventilation. Air conditioning also allows buildings to be taller, since wind speed increases significantly with altitude making natural ventilation impractical for very tall buildingsTemplate:Citation needed. Comfort applications are quite different for various building types and may be categorized as

  • Low-Rise Residential buildings, including single family houses, duplexes, and small apartment buildings
  • High-Rise Residential buildings, such as tall dormitories and apartment blocks
  • Commercial buildings, which are built for commerce, including offices, malls, shopping centers, restaurants, etc.
  • Institutional buildings, which includes government buildings, hospitals, schools, etc.
  • Industrial spaces where thermal comfort of workers is desired.
  • Sports Stadiums – recently, stadiums have been built with air conditioning, such as the University of Phoenix Stadium[11] and in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.[12]

The structural impact of an air conditioning unit will depend on the type and size of the unit.[13] In addition to buildings, air conditioning can be used for many types of transportation – motor-cars, buses and other land vehicles, trains, ships, aircraft, and spacecraft.

Process applications aim to provide a suitable environment for a process being carried out, regardless of internal heat and humidity loads and external weather conditions. It is the needs of the process that determine conditions, not human preference. Process applications include these:

In both comfort and process applications, the objective may be to not only control temperature, but also humidity, air quality, and air movement from space to space.

Humidity control

Air conditioning units outside a classroom building at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Refrigeration air-conditioning equipment usually reduces the absolute humidity of the air processed by the system. The relatively cold (below the dewpoint) evaporator coil condenses water vapor from the processed air (much like an ice-cold drink will condense water on the outside of a glass), sending the water to a drain and removing water vapor from the cooled space and lowering the relative humidity in the room. Since humans perspire to provide natural cooling by the evaporation of perspiration from the skin, drier air (up to a point) improves the comfort provided. The comfort air conditioner is designed to create a 40% to 60% relative humidity in the occupied space. In food-retailing establishments, large open chiller cabinets act as highly effective air dehumidifying units.

A specific type of air conditioner that is used only for dehumidifying is called a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier is different from a regular air conditioner in that both the evaporator and condenser coils are placed in the same air path, and the entire unit is placed in the environment that is intended to be conditioned (in this case dehumidified), rather than requiring the condenser coil to be outdoors. Having the condenser coil in the same air path as the evaporator coil produces warm, dehumidified air. The evaporator (cold) coil is placed first in the air path, dehumidifying the air exactly as a regular air conditioner does. The air next passes over the condenser coil, re-warming the now dehumidified air. Note that the terms "condenser coil" and "evaporator coil" do not refer to the behavior of water in the air as it passes over each coil; instead they refer to the phases of the refrigeration cycle. Having the condenser coil in the main air path rather than in a separate, outdoor air path (as with a regular air conditioner) results in two consequences – the output air is warm rather than cold, and the unit is able to be placed anywhere in the environment to be conditioned, without a need to have the condenser outdoors.

Unlike a regular air conditioner, a dehumidifier will actually heat a room just as an electric heater that draws the same amount of power (watts) as the dehumidifier would. A regular air conditioner transfers energy out of the room by means of the condenser coil, which is outside the room (outdoors). That is, the room can be considered a thermodynamic system from which energy is transferred to the external environment. Conversely, with a dehumidifier, no energy is transferred out of the thermodynamic system (room) because the air conditioning unit (dehumidifier) is entirely inside the room. Therefore all of the power consumed by the dehumidifier is energy that is input into the thermodynamic system (the room) and remains in the room (as heat). In addition, if the condensed water has been removed from the room, the amount of heat needed to boil that water has been added to the room. This is the inverse of adding water to the room with an evaporative cooler.

Dehumidifiers are commonly used in cold, damp climates to prevent mold growth indoors, especially in basements. They are also sometimes used in hot, humid climates for comfort because they reduce the humidity which causes discomfort (just as a regular air conditioner does, but without cooling the room). They are also used to protect sensitive equipment from the adverse effects of excessive humidity in tropical countries.

The engineering of physical and thermodynamic properties of gas–vapor mixtures is called psychrometrics.

Energy use

In a thermodynamically closed system, any power dissipated into the system that is being maintained at a set temperature (which is a standard mode of operation for modern air conditioners) requires that the rate of energy removal by the air conditioner increase. This increase has the effect that, for each unit of energy input into the system (say to power a light bulb in the closed system), the air conditioner removes that energy.[14] In order to do so, the air conditioner must increase its power consumption by the inverse of its "efficiency" (coefficient of performance) times the amount of power dissipated into the system. As an example, assume that inside the closed system a 100 W heating element is activated, and the air conditioner has an coefficient of performance of 200%. The air conditioner's power consumption will increase by 50 W to compensate for this, thus making the 100 W heating element cost a total of 150 W of power.

It is typical for air conditioners to operate at "efficiencies" of significantly greater than 100%.[15] However, it may be noted that the input electrical energy is of higher thermodynamic quality (lower entropy) than the output thermal energy (heat energy).

Health issues

Air-conditioning systems can promote the growth and spread of microorganisms, such as Legionella pneumophila, the infectious agent responsible for Legionnaires' disease, or thermophilic actinomycetes; however, this is only prevalent in water cooling towers. As long as the cooling tower is kept clean (usually by means of a chlorine treatment), these health hazards can be avoided. Conversely, air conditioning, including filtration, humidification, cooling, disinfection, etc., can be used to provide a clean, safe, hypoallergenic atmosphere in hospital operating rooms and other environments where an appropriate atmosphere is critical to patient safety and well-being. Air conditioning can have a negative effect on skin, drying it out,[16] and a positive effect on sufferers of allergies and asthma. Air conditioning can also cause dehydration.[17]

Refrigerant environmental issues

Prior to 1994 most automotive air conditioning systems used Dichlorodifluoromethane (R-12) as a refrigerant. It was usually sold under the brand name Freon-12 and is a chlorofluorocarbon halomethane (CFC). The manufacture of R-12 was banned in many countries in 1994 because of environmental concerns, in compliance with the Montreal Protocol. The R-12 was replaced with R-134a refrigerant, which has a lower ozone depletion potential. Old R-12 systems can be retrofitted to R-134a by a complete flush and filter/dryer replacement to remove the mineral oil, which is not compatible with R-134a.

Portable air conditioners

A portable air conditioner is one on wheels that can be easily transported inside a home or office. They are currently available with capacities of about 6,000–60,000 BTU/h (1,800–18,000 W output) and with and without electric-resistance heaters. Portable air conditioners are either evaporative or refrigerative.

Portable refrigerative air conditioners come in two forms, split and hose. These compressor-based refrigerant systems are air-cooled, meaning they use air to exchange heat, in the same way as a car or typical household air conditioner does. Such a system dehumidifies the air as it cools it. It collects water condensed from the cooled air and produces hot air which must be vented outside the cooled area; doing so transfers heat from the air in the cooled area to the outside air.

A portable split system has an indoor unit on wheels connected to an outdoor unit via flexible pipes, similar to a permanently fixed installed unit.

Hose systems, which can be monoblock or air-to-air, are vented to the outside via air ducts. The monoblock type collects the water in a bucket or tray and stops when full. The air-to-air type re-evaporates the water and discharges it through the ducted hose and can run continuously.

A single-duct unit uses air from within the room to cool its condenser, and then vents it outside. This air is replaced by hot air from outside or other rooms, thus reducing the unit's effectiveness. Modern units might have a coefficient of performance (COP, sometimes called "efficiency") of approximately 3 (i.e., 1 kW of electricity will produce 3 kW of cooling). A dual-duct unit draws air to cool its condenser from outside instead of from inside the room, and thus is more effective than most single-duct units.

Evaporative air coolers, sometimes called "swamp air conditioners", do not have a compressor or condenser. Liquid water is evaporated on the cooling fins, releasing the vapour into the cooled area. Evaporating water absorbs a significant amount of heat, the latent heat of vaporisation, cooling the air — humans and other animals use the same mechanism to cool themselves by sweating. They have the advantage of needing no hoses to vent heat outside the cooled area, making them truly portable; and they are very cheap to install and use less energy than refrigerative air conditioners. Disadvantages are that unless ambient humidity is low (as in a dry climate) cooling is limited and the cooled air is very humid and can feel clammy. Also, they use a lot of water, which is often at a premium in the dry climates where they work best.

Heat pumps

Heat pump is a term for a type of air conditioner in which the refrigeration cycle can be reversed, producing heat instead of cold in the indoor environment. They are also commonly referred to, and marketed as, a reverse cycle air conditioner. Using an air conditioner in this way to produce heat is significantly more efficient than electric resistance heating. Some home-owners elect to have a heat pump system installed, which is actually simply a central air conditioner with heat pump functionality (the refrigeration cycle is reversed in the winter). When the heat pump is enabled, the indoor evaporator coil switches roles and becomes the condenser coil, producing heat. The outdoor condenser unit also switches roles to serve as the evaporator, and produces cold air (colder than the ambient outdoor air).

Heat pumps are more popular in milder winter climates where the temperature is frequently in the range of 40–55°F (4–13°C), because heat pumps become inefficient in more extreme cold. This is due to the problem of the outdoor unit's coil forming ice, which blocks air flow over the coil. To compensate for this, the heat pump system must temporarily switch back into the regular air conditioning mode to switch the outdoor evaporator coil back to being the condenser coil, so that it can heat up and de-ice. A heat pump system will therefore have a form of electric resistance heating in the indoor air path that is activated only in this mode in order to compensate for the temporary air conditioning, which would otherwise generate undesirable cold air in the winter. The icing problem becomes much more prevalent with lower outdoor temperatures, so heat pumps are commonly installed in tandem with a more conventional form of heating, such as a natural gas or oil furnace, which is used instead of the heat pump during harsher winter temperatures. In this case, the heat pump is used efficiently during the milder temperatures, and the system is switched to the conventional heat source when the outdoor temperature is lower.

Absorption heat pumps are actually a kind of air-source heat pump, but they do not depend on electricity to power them. Instead, gas, solar power, or heated water is used as a main power source. Additionally, refrigerant is not used at all in the process. To extract heat, an absorption pump absorbs ammonia into water. Next, the water and ammonia mixture is pressurized to induce boiling, and the ammonia is boiled off.[18]

Some more expensive window air conditioning units have the heat pump function. However, a window unit that has a "heat" selection is not necessarily a heat pump because some units use electric resistance heat when heating is desired. A unit that has true heat pump functionality will be indicated its literature by the term "heat pump."

See also

References

  1. ASHRAE Terminology of HVAC&R, ASHRAE, Inc., Atlanta, 1991,
  2. Needham, Joseph (1991). Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 4: Physics and Physical Technology, Part 2, Mechanical Engineering. Cambridge University Press. pp. 99, 151, 233. ISBN 978-0-521-05803-2. 
  3. Needham, pp. 134 & 151.
  4. Needham, p. 151.
  5. Laszlo, Pierre (2001-06). Salt: Grain of Life. ISBN 978-0-231-12198-9. http://books.google.com/?id=DhhN_FthpYMC&pg=PA117&dq=Cornelius+Drebbel+%22air+conditioning%22. 
  6. Cooling by Evaporation (Letter to John Lining). Benjamin Franklin, London, June 17, 1758
  7. History of Air Conditioning Source: Jones Jr., Malcolm. "Air Conditioning". Newsweek. Winter 1997 v130 n24-A p42(2). Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  8. The History of Air Conditioning Lou Kren, Properties Magazine Inc. Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  9. "Chapter.2_FINAL.indd" (PDF). http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf. Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  10. "The current status in Air Conditioning – papers & presentations". R744.com. http://www.r744.com/knowledge/papers_result_free.php?page_no=0&txt_key_free=air%20conditioning&sortby=year%20DESC. Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  11. "Qatar promises air-conditioned World Cup". CNN. 2010-12-03. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SPORT/12/03/qatar.world.cup/. 
  12. [1]
  13. Oakland Air Conditioning. "Structural Impact of Air Conditioning Installation". http://www.oaklandgroup.com/articles/index.php/air-conditioning/structural-impact-air-conditioning-installation.html. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  14. Jan F. Kreider. Handbook of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. CRC press. ISBN 0-8493-9584-4. 
  15. Winnick, J (1996). Chemical engineering thermodynamics. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0-471-05590-5. 
  16. What your skin is telling you#Air conditioning
  17. Is your office killing you?#Air conditioning
  18. "Common Heat Pumps". Thomasnet.com. http://www.thomasnet.com/articles/pumps-valves-accessories/heat-pumps-common. Retrieved 2010-08-09. 

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