In today’s modern world, almost every home has some sort of appliance to help with day-to-day life. The air conditioner, for example; has to be the unsung hero of the summertime. It stops us from melting into puddles of our own sweat and transforms every interior into a comfortable oasis.

But, like all good things, your household appliances are a significant source of CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These trap heat in our atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect and climate change. Ironically, the things that make our lives cooler and easier are also heating up and harming the planet.

So, what can we do about it? Well, it turns out quite a bit. In this guide, we’ll look at the following:

  • How air conditioners affect the environment
  • Tips for homeowners to reduce emissions from their air conditioners
  • How CO2 is emitted from appliances
  • Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • How homeowners can reduce emissions from their appliances

How do Air Conditioners Affect the Environment?

Your air conditioner is an energy-intensive appliance that uses up a lot of electricity to power the compressor and cools your home. In the United States alone, air conditioners account for 6% of electricity consumed, equating to about 117 million tons of CO2 emissions yearly. That’s a lot of CO2 emissions!

In fact, there has been an upward trend in air conditioner ownership in the United States. In 2021, there were an estimated 142 million housing units, an increase of over a million from the previous year. With more air conditioners in use, there’s an increased demand for electricity to power them, which results in more emissions.

The problem with older air conditioning units

Beyond the required electricity to run an air conditioner, older A.C units required chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to be used as refrigerants. These chemicals are incredibly harmful to the earth’s ozone layer, causing CFC to stop being produced in the United States in 1995. While halogenated chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were introduced as a replacement for CFCs, these, too, slowly faded out and stopped in 2020.

How Bad is Your Air Conditioner Affecting the Planet?

household appliances co2 emissions
Household Appliances Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Many newer air conditioners today use Puron (R-410A) instead of CFCs or HCFCs, a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) that doesn’t negatively impact the ozone layer. However, if you have an air conditioner built before 2010, it still likely uses an HCFC. This is why it helps to purchase a newer R-410A model or refit your existing appliance with the new refrigerant.

Alternatively, you could regularly service your older air conditioner to ensure it’s running as efficiently as possible. A well-maintained and serviced A.C. unit is less susceptible to leaking, which is a primary reason for HCFCs being emitted into the atmosphere.

Another reason that air conditioner GHG emissions occur is due to the manufacturing process and the unit’s eventual disposal. A.C. production requires a lot of energy to create the compressor, coils, and other materials. Improper disposal, meanwhile, whether it be illegal dumping or simply throwing it in the trash, can release CFCs and other harmful chemicals into the environment.

The challenges hotter countries face

Countries with hotter climates, like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have a larger ecological footprint regarding air conditioning. This is due to the increased usage to combat the blistering heat. In the Philippines, for example, many homeowners and rental tenants use their air conditioners nearly daily.

The adoption of air conditioners has substantially increased energy or electricity usage. Worldwide, air conditioners use approximately one trillion kilowatt hours of energy annually. And to put things further in perspective, buildings’ air conditioners and electric fans account for 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption.

What Homeowners Can Do to Reduce Emissions from Their Air Conditioners

Don’t fret! We won’t tell you to throw out all your air conditioners and swelter in the heat! There are a few measures you can take to reduce air conditioner emissions significantly. While it doesn’t appear substantial, if everyone does their part, it’ll substantially and positively impact the environment!

Give your home much-needed shade

Indeed, we can’t just push a button and reduce the sun’s heat. But, we can create shade for our homes to make them cooler and more manageable on our air conditioners. So, what do we mean by shade exactly?

The best way to cool your home is to close any curtains, blinds or shutters when the sun is hitting hard. These instantly reduce the heat coming in, making it easier and more efficient for your air conditioner to cool your home. And if you have sun-facing windows, invest in light-coloured backing for blinds and curtains to absorb the heat.

You can also plant trees and vegetation around your home as a living shade. It cools your boiling home, cleans the air, and adds a nice decorative touch to your exterior. But, living shade takes time to grow so in the meantime, focus on creating artificial shade with window treatments.

Purchase and install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat adjusts your home’s temperature based on your schedule. So, if you’re sleeping at night and cannot bear the heat, you can set it to a cooler temperature for those hours and have it go back to normal when you’re awake and about.

According to the Department of Energy, simply adjusting your temperature 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours can save you up to 10% a year on your cooling and heating bills. A programmable thermostat makes it easy to stick to this rule without hassle.

Check and replace your air conditioner’s filters regularly

Your air filters are responsible for ensuring that your home’s air is clean and free of any dirt, dust or other contaminants. They help keep these pollutants from recirculating in your home and making it dirty.

However, over time, these filters get clogged with all the dirt and dust they’ve caught. When this happens, your air conditioner works significantly harder, using more electricity to push air through the clogged filter. The more your air conditioner works, the more emissions are produced.

To help reduce these emissions, check your filters every month and replace them every few months. They’re relatively inexpensive to replace and do a world of good for the environment and your bank account!

Learn how to live using an electric fan

We all know electric fans don’t actually cool the air around us. They simply move the existing air to create a wind chill effect, which can make us feel cooler. However, in many scenarios, this is adequate for someone to forgo using their air conditioner altogether.

For example, a ceiling fan can be used at night when the temperature is a bit cooler, and you don’t need the full force of an air conditioner. Or, if it’s a mild day and you have some cross-ventilation in your home, an electric fan can do the trick.

Not only does this reduce your reliance on air conditioning, but it also uses significantly less electricity. This means lower emissions and a smaller carbon footprint for you and your family.

Insulate your home

Older homes tend to be draughty, which means they’re not very good at holding in cool air. This causes the air conditioner to work harder to maintain a comfortable environment.

As a homeowner, you can invest in various forms of insulation to help remedy the problem. This includes installing thermal bridging, vapour barriers, and weather stripping. You can also add insulation to your attic and walls, further sealing your home from the outdoors.

Not only will this make your air conditioner’s job easier, but it’ll also keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This can lead to huge reductions in emissions, as well as energy costs.

How Household Appliances are Releasing CO2 Emissions into the Air

Like air conditioner units, many household appliances will only emit CO2 when there’s a leak. Of course, the electricity required to run these appliances does come from power plants that burn fossil fuels, which emit CO2.

Another way household appliances cause CO2 emissions is during the material and manufacturing as well as the disposal process. Since devices have several components (including metals, plastics, and chemicals), these all need to be mined, transported, and processed. This emits a significant amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.

When an appliance breaks or becomes outdated, it must be disposed of properly. This usually means contacting your local public works department to ensure it’s recycled correctly. Appliances that aren’t disposed of correctly still contain hazardous components that spread into the environment and cause CO2 emissions.

How Different Appliances Release CO2 Emissions

Below is a list of some common household appliances and how they release emissions into the air:

Air conditioners: Air conditioners don’t release CO2 directly, but when they leak or are disposed of improperly, they can release Freon. Freon is a nonflammable, low-toxicity gas that contributes to ozone depletion and global warming.

Average residential usage – 20 days per month

Average CO2 emission per year – 1368kgs

Refrigerators – These use Freon to cool the air inside. Freon is a refrigerant that becomes a gas when released into the atmosphere. It’s also a greenhouse gas that can contribute to global warming.

Average residential usage – 24 hours a day

Average CO2 emission per year – 89kgs

Gas Ranges/ ovens Besides your gas stove releasing carbon dioxide, it emits methane and nitric oxide. Methane is a pollutant that can contribute to smog and global warming and is 25 times effective in trapping atmospheric heat than CO2. Nitric oxide, meanwhile, forms smog and can also contribute to acid rain.

Average residential usage – 135.1 uses per year

Average CO2 emission per year – 91kgs

Washing machine & dryer A washing machine requires hot water to effectively remove stains and wash clothes, accounting for up to 60% of the machine’s greenhouse gas emissions. A dryer, that is clogged, can also emit carbon monoxide emissions. 

Average residential usage – 135.1 uses per year

Average CO2 emission per year – 91kgs

Dishwasher: Like washing machines, dishwashers require hot water to remove grease and bacteria from your cutlery and plates efficiently. A single load emits 1.34 pounds of CO2 per kWh or 1.16 to 2.13 pounds CO2.

Average residential usage – 110 to 135 washes yearly

Average CO2 emission per year – 51kgs to 84kgs 

Boilers: A boiler leak emits carbon monoxide, a colourless, odourless gas that can be fatal. Leaks are generally caused by corrosion, a broken seal and poor maintenance.

U.K. Average CO2 emission per year – 2200 kgs

Global CO2 and GHG emissions of household appliances – facts and figures

Greenhouse emissions originate from various sources, but a large majority come from the combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Based on an EPA graph on the 2020 total GHG emissions per economic sector in the U.S, electric power generation accounted for 25% of the total GHG emissions that year. This is the 2nd leading economic sector in GHG emissions, behind the transportation sector at 27%.

Transportation (27%) – GHG emissions from the transportation sector come from burning fossil fuels for on-road vehicles, and jet fuel for aeroplanes.

Electric power generation (25%) – Nearly 60% of U.S. electricity is generated primarily from natural gas and coal, two of the most common fossil fuels. When burned, these fossil fuels emit GHG emissions.

Industry (24%) – Fossils fuels are burned to power many industrial processes such as steel production, aluminium production, and cement manufacturing.

Commercial and residential buildings (13%) – Heating, lighting, appliances and waste disposal in commercial and residential buildings all require electricity, which is often generated from natural gas and coal.

Agriculture (9%) – Livestock and agricultural soil produce methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

So how does electricity tie in with household appliances and their emissions?

Electricity isn’t isolated to a single process or sector; it touches almost every aspect of our lives. It’s used to power our homes, heat and cool our commercial buildings, charge our phones and run our factories. In fact, 25% of GHG emissions from electricity in 2020 came from simply powering our homes and businesses.

To minimise the use of fossil fuels, implementing “green building” techniques and appliances has become increasingly popular. Green building techniques aim to increase building efficiency by using less electricity to perform the same functions. This means a building will have better insulation, more energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration systems and even passive heating which uses sunlight to heat a space. 

While some argue that the upfront cost of these appliances and techniques is higher, in the long run, they save you money on your energy bills and help to reduce your carbon footprint.

Electric ghg emission trends since the corona pandemic

The U.S experienced an 11% drop in ghg emissions from 2019 to 2020, with electric power seeing a sharp decline of 10%. This was largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession. A decrease in travel and economic activity lead to a decrease in demand for electricity. 

Transportation GHG emissions, which are the largest source of GHGs, fell by 13%. The decrease in transportation emissions is attributed to the reduction in travel due to the pandemic.

Tips on Reducing CO2 Emissions at Home

Residential electricity consumption accounts for about 20% of U.S. ghg emissions. This large chunk of emissions can be attributed to home appliances, which often use a lot of electricity. 

Let’s go through each household appliance and some tips to help reduce their emissions: 

Air conditioner

Air conditioners account for 6% of all electricity consumption in the U.S. This costs homeowners a total of $29 million per year, which results in 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

Furthermore, if you’re operating your air conditioner for 20 days every month, you’re responsible for about 5.7 kgs of carbon dioxide per day or 1368 kgs per year.

To help offset these emissions, consider the following tips:

  • If you have an old unit, consider having it professionally retrofitted to use R-410A
  • Try to limit your air conditioner usage by using fans or opening windows instead
  • Install a programmable thermostat to help regulate your air conditioner usage
  • Close your curtains and blinds to minimise direct sunlight
  • Upgrade to a more energy-efficient unit, under the trade names GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®. These are low-global warming potential substitutes for the HCFC-22 air conditioner refrigerant, which has a high global warming potential (GWP).

Boiler/ water heaters 

While a boiler won’t directly generate emissions, a leak causes carbon monoxide to enter your home, affecting the environment and your health. This is why all boilers are required to have a C.O. detector to alert homeowners of any leaks.

To reduce the emissions from your boiler:

  • Ensure that your boiler is serviced regularly to minimise the chance of any leaks.
  • Purchase an energy-efficient boiler, which will use less fuel and generate fewer emissions.
  • Install a solar water heater if you have adequate roof space and sunlight.
  • If you can smell gas, turn off all gas appliances and open all windows. Proceed to leave the premises immediately and call your local gas company.


Many refrigerators which require freon™ R-134a refrigerant and other types of CO2-emitting refrigerants are gradually being phased out. These fridges contain ghgs thousands of times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and when disposed of incorrectly, can accelerate global warming.

Here are some tips for reducing emissions from your fridge:

  • Check for leaks regularly and have them repaired immediately
  • Replace your old door seal to ensure that cold air isn’t escaping
  • Upgrade to an energy-efficient model when your old one
  • Contact a disposal service to get rid of your old fridge properly

Gas ranges, cooktops, and oven

Your oven and stove top require electricity to run, which involves burning natural gas or coal to generate emissions. They also emit methane and nitric oxide through small and persistent leaks. Methane accounts for 20% of the world’s emissions and traps more heat than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

According to a study, U.S. gas stoves have released a total of 2.6 million tons of methane annually over a 20-year time frame. Its environmental impact is equivalent to annual carbon dioxide emissions of 500,000 million passenger vehicles. In addition to methane emissions, it’s also said that stove tops also release 6.8 million tons of CO2 annually.

Here are a few things you can do to reduce emissions from your gas stove:

  • Consider a solar-powered stovetop which doesn’t require natural gas or other fossil fuels.
  • To save energy, turn off your burner early. Your stovetop’s residual heat can finish cooking your food.
  • Use a rocket stove for cooking outside – these are highly fuel efficient and use very little wood.
  • Install a vent hood to help reduce the amount of methane that escapes your home.

Washing machines and drier

Washing machines release around 62 million tonnes of CO2-eq annually, but it isn’t necessarily all down to the owner. Steps such as machine manufacturing, packaging, transporting also expends energy and ghgs. 

However, the primary emissions come from the user phase, through heating water and running the washing cycle. In Europe, nearly 60% of the emissions come from heating the water to wash clothes. One laundry load washed at 60 C and dried via a wash-dryer combo emits an average of 3.3 kg CO2. In contrast, a load washed at 30 C and line-dried emits only 0.6 kg of CO2 – that’s over 80% less

Tips for reducing emissions from your washing machine:

  • Wash your clothes at a lower temperature to remove any stains (when applicable) – read your clothing care label first for the correct temperature requirement.
  • Hang your clothes to dry instead of using a drier, which uses no electricity
  • Invest in a heat-pump dryer. This machine recycles hot air, saving energy on the machine’s heating unit.
  • Unclog your dryer vents to prevent carbon monoxide emissions

Dishwashing cleaners

Older non-energy star certified dishwashers, on average, used 10 to 15 gallons of water per cycle. Newer energy star-rated dishwashers, meanwhile, use under 4 gallons per cycle, ranging between 0.87 kWh to 1.59 kWh per load. For every 4 gallons of water used, a dishwasher only emits 1.16 to 2.14 pounds of CO2 carbon dioxide emissions.

According to a new study by the University of Michigan, the manual washing technique known as the two-basin method of washing doesn’t emit as much greenhouse gas emissions as machine dishwashers. The two-basin method involves soaking and scrubbing dishes in hot water for a few minutes before rinsing them in clean water.

The study also found the following:

  • Refraining from pre-rinsing or turning off the “heated dry” setting can reduce emissions.
  • The manual washing method of keeping the tap on whilst washing clothes used more water and energy than any tested dishwashing method.
  • Switching from the running tap to the two-based method can save approximately two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.

To sum up, to save on gas emissions in your home, simply transitioning from using a dishwasher to washing your dishes by hand wasn’t enough. It’s only the case when you’re using the two-basin method.

The Bottom Line

Global warming has been established as the result of an increase in greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. These gases form a “blanket” around the earth, trapping energy from the sun and causing the earth’s temperature to rise.

But while it’s forgivable to assume that the primary contributors to ghg emissions are commercial and industrial sites, the fact is that households play a big part too. This means that every one of us has the power to make a difference – no matter how small.

So next time you’re about to leave your home appliances running, think about the impact they could have on the environment. Every little bit counts when it comes to saving our planet!

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