Air Conditioning Makes Phoenix Hotter, According to Research

Categories: News
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Air conditioning obviously makes homes in Phoenix cooler, but A.C. units make the city itself even hotter, according to new research.

A recently published study led by a researcher from Arizona State University found that the heat emitted by A.C. systems makes the air temperature hotter -- in some cases more than two degrees hotter.

See also:
-Claims That Metro Phoenix Is Doomed Because of Climate Change Are Exaggerated

Smithsonian magazine, which had access to the article published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, quoted the following passage from the researchers:
During the night (from 08 pm to 05 am), the effect of the AC systems was significant, increasing the mean 2 [meter]-air temperature between 1 °C [1.8 Fahrenheit] and 1.5 °C [2.7 Fahrenheit] for most of the urban area.
According to the abstract, the effect on the air temperature was negligible during the day, as the temperature increases were measured at night.

The abstract says heat released by A.C. units "exacerbates the nocturnal urban heat island." (In science-speak, the abstract says, "The AC systems modified the thermal stratification of the urban boundary layer promoting vertical mixing during nighttime hours.")

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the heat island effect can make a temperature difference of up to 22 degrees in urban areas.

Similar studies on the heat expelled by A.C. units came with similar results in Tokyo and Madrid, as researchers in those cities found A.C. units causing about 1 or 2 degree Celsius increases in temperature.

UPDATE May 14: ASU's School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences was kind enough to send us a copy of the entire journal article. Here's part of the authors' conclusion:
Our work demonstrates one-Celsius degree local heating of urban atmospheres in hot/dry cities due to air conditioning use at nighttime. This increase in outside air temperature in turn results in additional electricity demands for air conditioning. Sustainable development and optimization of electricity consumption in cities would require turning 'wasted heat' from AC into 'useful energy' which can be utilized inside houses for various purposes including, for example, in water heaters. Implementing this mitigation strategy would achieve several objectives: successfully reducing the urban heat island temperature by one-Celsius degree at night, reducing AC electricity consumption on a city scale and providing a real example of urban climate mitigation. With regard to economic impacts, it is estimated for Phoenix metropolitan area that successfully reducing the urban heat island temperature with this strategy would result in at least 1200-1300 MWh of direct energy savings per day alone.

Climate change projections predict significant increases in the frequency, intensity and duration of summertime extreme heat events presenting significant challenges for the energy sector and electric grid (US Department of Energy 2013). Reliable methods are needed for forecasting energy demands that can help to inform and assist in the future planning of sustainable energy needs of rapidly growing urban areas. Comparison with observational data has demonstrated that the presented physics based modeling system is an effective tool for assessing urban cooling requirements in semiarid environments. In ongoing work, we are evaluating AC electricity consumption for different scenarios of urban expansion and under summertime extreme weather conditions. These studies are needed to develop reliable projections on the future cooling needs of rapidly urbanizing regions.
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79 comments
Lila Spring
Lila Spring

I know a landscaper who'd love to help install a few things to help curb the heat from your house in oh say a couple of years. Wink wink.

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Scott Kerr
Scott Kerr

For people so highly educated, they sure lack basic common sense. This article is garbage.

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

Don't care. Still using the AC. It's to freakin hot not to use it.

Jen Ann
Jen Ann

I think we all knew that... but what are you going to do? Die?

Tim Fitchner
Tim Fitchner

Steve Schmuck ladies and gentlemen.Mr fucking know it all. Schmuck!s m h

Steve Stunatra
Steve Stunatra

Yeah why do the streets have to be black? Make em red or something!

Warren Klofkorn
Warren Klofkorn

No fooling? You transfer heat energy from inside to outside and the outside warms up? Also, you use a bunch of electricity to run that compressor and that generates heat that goes outside, too?

Steve Stunatra
Steve Stunatra

North Central has more trees than most streets...

Sarah Henize
Sarah Henize

Jose Caraveo one more reason to stay here

Jenelle Stubblefield
Jenelle Stubblefield

Human beings and all we create makes this city hotter. Not news to me, thanks though.

Jonathan Dufern
Jonathan Dufern

I picked my apartment unit to be blocked in by others, it recieves zero Direct sunlight and on the last 103 degree day onlly got as hot as 76 degrees with the AC off all day. I love me a shaded building

Tammy Ross
Tammy Ross

I don't care...mine is staying on until November....:~)

Jeremy Paul
Jeremy Paul

Why can't they come up with a white reflective pavement?

Mike Embry
Mike Embry

More pavements, and less trees is what making Phx. Hotter. Don't believe me, drive down north Central ave..

Ira Dalton Bohm-Sanchez
Ira Dalton Bohm-Sanchez

I feel like you're hoping the general public has some logical understanding of these things, but it typically doesn't work that way unfortunately.

Jaman Cerutti
Jaman Cerutti

Hopefully my tax money went to funding this research

Vern Begaye
Vern Begaye

give us the solution to the problem, then... turning off AC not going to help, still going to be hot. Maybe, the high country...

Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider

A smart journalistic resource would tell us how much hotter air conditioning makes Phoenix.

Renée C Rivas
Renée C Rivas

Um duh.. have you ever stood next to an air conditioner? Doesn't take a genius to figure that out!

Justin Grant
Justin Grant

Was research really necessary to conclude this? There is no 100% efficient heat pump (or anywhere close) so naturally you're going to generate more heat than you get cool air.

Lucia Perry
Lucia Perry

So does blacktop! Let's put up shade with solar collectors on the roofs. Pave with an off white color?

Kenneth Taylor
Kenneth Taylor

When you live in the devils frying pan... adding butter doesnt make it hot..THE PAN IS ALREADY ON FIRE!

submarine
submarine

Too bad we never mandated that all homes have Evaporative cooling as well as air conditioning. Most years I would never turn my a/c on until July, saving 2-3 months of a/c use. 

Davina Wilkins
Davina Wilkins

Sorry, but this research isn't going to make me turn off my A/C on those 110 degree days

Thomy Hoefer
Thomy Hoefer

Everyone should just open their doors and windows with their AC on so we can cool Arizona.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

And that would be using your head..............probably why it wasn't thought of before

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