Air conditioning (
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
In the broadest sense air conditioning can refer to any form of cooling, heating, ventilation or disinfection that modifies the condition of air, typically for thermal comfort. The more common use of air conditioning is to mean cooling and often dehumidification of indoor air, typically via refrigeration.
An air conditioner (AC or A/C in North American English, aircon in British and Australian English) is an appliance, system, or mechanism designed to extract heat from an area using a refrigeration cycle. The most common uses of modern air conditioners are for comfort cooling in buildings and transportation vehicles. More information on air conditioners can be found in that article; this article addresses air conditioning in general.
While moving heat via machinery to provide air conditioning is a relatively modern invention, the cooling of buildings is not. The ancient Egyptians were known to circulate aqueduct water through the walls of certain houses to cool them. As this sort of water usage was expensive, generally only the wealthy could afford such a luxury.
Medieval Persia had buildings that used cisterns and wind towers to cool buildings during the hot season: cisterns (large open pools in a central courtyards, not underground tanks) collected rain water; wind towers had windows that could catch wind and internal vanes to direct the airflow down into the building, usually over the cistern and out through a downwind cooling tower. Cistern water evaporated, cooling the air in the building.  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 Dr. John Gorrie used compressor technology to create ice, which he used to cool air for his patients in his hospital in Apalachicola, Florida. 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. 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 has launched a smear campaign against his invention. Dr Gorrie died impoverished in 1855 and the idea of air conditioning faded away for 50 years.
Early commercial applications of air conditioning were manufactured to cool air for industrial processing rather than personal comfort. In 1902 the first modern electrical air conditioning was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier. Designed to improve manufacturing process control in a printing plant, his invention controlled not only temperature but also humidity. The low heat and humidity were to help 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. Residential sales expanded dramatically in the 1950s.
In 1906, Stuart W. Cramer of Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, 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. This evaporation of water in air, to provide a cooling effect, is now known as evaporative cooling.
The first air conditioners and refrigerators employed toxic or flammable gases like ammonia, methyl chloride, and propane which could result in fatal accidents when they leaked. Thomas Midgley, Jr. created the first chlorofluorocarbon gas, Freon, in 1928. The refrigerant was much safer for humans but was later found to be harmful to the atmosphere’s ozone layer. “Freon” is a trade name of 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-134). The blend most used in direct-expansion 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-11 and R-12 are no longer manufactured in the US, the only source for purchase 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, known by the brand name “Puron”.
Innovation in air conditioning technologies continue, with much recent emphasis placed on energy efficiency and for improving indoor air quality.
Air conditioning applications
Air conditioning engineers broadly divide air conditioning applications into comfort and process.
Comfort applications aim to provide an indoor environment that remains relatively constant in a range preferred by humans despite changes in external weather conditions or in internal heat loads.
The highest performance for tasks performed by people seated in an office is expected to occur at 72°F (22.2 °C) Performance is expected to degrade about 1% for every 2 °F change in room temperature. The highest performance for tasks performed while standing is expected to occur at slightly lower temperatures. The highest performance for tasks performed by larger people is expected to occur at slightly lower temperatures. The highest performance for tasks performed by smaller people is expected to occur at slightly higher temperatures. Some dispute that thermal comfort enhances worker productivity, as is described in the Hawthorne effect.
Comfort air conditioning makes deep plan buildings feasible. Without air conditioning, buildings must be built narrower or with light wells so that inner spaces receive 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 buildings. Comfort applications for various building types is quite different 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 hospitals, governmental, academic, and so on.
- Industrial spaces where thermal comfort of workers is desired.
Process applications aim to provide a suitable environment for a process being carried out, regardless of internal heat loads and external weather conditions. Although often in the comfort range, it is the needs of the process that determine conditions, not human preference. Process applications include these:
- Hospital operating theatres, in which air is filtered to high levels to reduce infection risk and the humidity controlled to limit patient dehydration. Although temperatures are often in the comfort range, some specialist procedures such as open heart surgery require low temperatures (about 18 °C, 64 °F) and others such as neonatal relatively high temperatures (about 28 °C, 82 °F).
- Cleanrooms for the production of integrated circuits, pharmaceuticals, and the like, in which very high levels of air cleanliness and control of temperature and humidity are required for the success of the process.
- Facilities for breeding laboratory animals. Since many animals normally only reproduce in spring, holding them in rooms at which conditions mirror spring all year can cause them to reproduce year round.
- Aircraft air conditioning. Although nominally aimed at providing comfort for passengers and cooling of equipment, aircraft air conditioning presents a special process because of the low air pressure outside the aircraft.
- Data processing centers
- Textile factories
- Physical testing facilities
- Plants and farm growing areas
- Nuclear facilities
- Industrial environments
- Food cooking and processing areas
In both comfort and process applications the objective to not only control temperature, but also humidity, air movement, and air quality.
Refrigeration air conditioning equipment usually reduces the 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. 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.
Some air conditioning units dry the air without cooling it, and are better classified as dehumidifiers. They work like a normal air conditioner, except that a heat exchanger is placed between the intake and exhaust. In combination with convection fans they achieve a similar level of comfort as an air cooler in humid tropical climates, but only consume about ⅓ of the electricity. They are also preferred by those who find the draft created by air coolers discomforting.
Vapor-compression refrigeration cycle
In the vapor-compression refrigeration cycle, heat is transferred from a lower temperature source to a higher temperature heat sink. Heat naturally flows in the opposite direction, and due to the second law of thermodynamics work is required to move heat from cold to hot. A food refrigerator or freezer works in much the same way; it moves heat out of the interior into the room in which it stands.
This most common refrigeration cycle uses an electric motor to drive a compressor. In an automobile the compressor is usually driven by a belt connected to a pulley on the engine’s crankshaft, with both using electric motors for air circulation. Since evaporation occurs when heat is absorbed, and condensation occurs when heat is released, air conditioners are designed to use a compressor to cause pressure changes between two compartments, and actively pump a refrigerant around. A refrigerant is pumped into the low pressure compartment (the evaporator coil), where, despite the low temperature, the low pressure causes the refrigerant to evaporate into a vapor, taking heat with it. In the other compartment (the condenser), the refrigerant vapour is compressed and forced through another heat exchange coil, condensing into a liquid, rejecting the heat previously absorbed from the cooled space. The heat exchanger in the condenser section (the heat sink mentioned above) is cooled most often by a fan blowing outside air through it, but in some cases can be cooled by other means such as water, especially on some ships.
“Freon” is a trade name for a family of haloalkane refrigerants manufactured by DuPont and other companies. These refrigerants were commonly used due to their superior stability and safety properties: they were not flammable or obviously toxic. as were the fluids they replaced. Unfortunately, evidence has accumulated that these chlorine-bearing refrigerants reach the upper atmosphere when they escape. The chemistry is poorly understood, but the general consensus seems to be that CFCs break up in the stratosphere due to UV-radiation, releasing their chlorine atoms. These chlorine atoms act as catalysts in the breakdown of ozone, which does severe damage to the ozone layer that shields the Earth’s surface from the Sun’s strong UV radiation. The chlorine will remain active as a catalyst until and unless it binds with another particle, forming a stable molecule. CFC refrigerants in common but receding usage include R-11 and R-12. Newer and more environmentally-safe refrigerants include HCFCs (R-22, used in most homes today) and HFCs (R-134a, used in most cars) have replaced most CFC use. HCFCs in turn are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol and replaced by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), such as R-410A, which lack chlorine.
A poorly maintained air-conditioning system can occasionally promote the growth and spread of microorganisms, such as Legionella pneumophila, the infectious agent responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, or thermophilic actinomycetes. 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 positive effect on sufferers of allergies and asthma.
Poorly operating air conditioning systems can generate sound levels that contribute to hearing loss, if exposures are endured over a long term. These levels are similar to the exposure of living near a busy highway or airport for a considerable length of time. Properly functioning air conditioners are much quieter.
It should be noted that in a thermodynamically Closed system, any energy input 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 energy removal rate from the air conditioner increase . This increase has the effect that for each unit of energy input into the system (say to power a lightbulb in the closed system) requires the air conditioner to remove that energy. In order to do that the air conditioner must increase its consumption by the inverse of its efficiency times the input unit of energy. As an example presume that inside the closed system a 100 Watt light bulb is activated, and the air conditioner has an efficiency of 50%. The air conditioners energy consumption will increase by 200 Watts to compensate for this, thus making the 100W light bulb utilise a total of 300W of energy.
Portable air conditioners
Portable air conditioners that only have a tube that ejects air into an exrternal system cannot cool a room or building. This is becuase the ejectement of air, creates a low pressure environment in the room, which will cause air to flow into the room or house ultimately from outside again, so this type of air conditoner, is always replacing the cooled air with hot air.