Beyond air conditioning | The Press

The increase in the number of heat waves encourages us to equip ourselves with an air conditioner, but its impact on the environment is far from negligible. Are there efficient and less polluting alternatives? An expert answers us.

Posted on July 18

Emmanuelle Mozayan-Verschaeve

Emmanuelle Mozayan-Verschaeve
special cooperation

The refrigerants contained in air conditioners and heat pumps have a significant impact on the environment since they generate significant greenhouse gases when evaporating into the atmosphere. “The impact is considerable and it’s a bit of a vicious circle because it’s getting hotter and hotter, so sales of air conditioners are increasing,” notes Benjamin Zizi, LEED Homes technical coordinator and consultant in sustainable homes at Écohabitation.

In Quebec, it’s even more special because hydroelectricity produces very few greenhouse gases. It is therefore really the refrigerants that are the problem, specifies the latter. “When everyone uses their air conditioner at the same time, a lot of heat is evacuated outside, where there is already overheating. We remove the problem from the house, but we move it elsewhere. That’s the warming effect. »


Benjamin Zizi, LEED Homes Technical Coordinator and Sustainable Homes Consultant at Écohabitation

Heat pump and windows

But how to cool the interior without a refrigerator? According to the expert, it is important, before investing in the installation of an air conditioner, to think about maximum profitability by relying instead on a low temperature reversible heat pump since it will be used for heating in winter. Energy efficiency programs also encourage this type of installation, which will be used sustainably.

Otherwise, residential overheating often comes from the windows. “We must favor well-insulated windows, ideally with triple glazing, in order to reduce the passage of the sun’s rays”, says Benjamin Zizi.

You can also apply an insulating film (sticky system or spray) to avoid changing them. “I once had a customer who couldn’t solve his heating problem with his air conditioning. He applied these films and it was solved overnight,” says Mr. Zizi, who also specifies that for optimal results, it is better to have them applied by a specialized company, even if you can do the work yourself.

Tips and tricks for refreshing

Opening all the windows at night to cool your interior, then closing them – as well as the curtains and blinds – during the day to keep it cool and shade your space is very effective. The inhabitants of hot countries have understood this for a long time.

Standing or ceiling fans have the advantage of cooling us according to air movements, but they do not cool the space and even tend to heat it up by consuming energy. That said, they do not generate greenhouse gases and provide us with considerable comfort in times of heat wave.


A green wall can help refresh the interior of a residence.

Outdoor plants have a considerable effect in reducing heat islands, which are ubiquitous in urban environments. “It is enough to walk around town to see that the temperature is much lower when you are close to a park”, underlines Benjamin Zizi.

Creating a green wall to keep the facade at low temperatures, planting trees to shade the house and greening the ground to cool it down are all ways to greatly reduce the heat at home.

Air conditioners of tomorrow

Every year, global warming intensifies and unfortunately we will need more and more to cool our space. As the current air conditioning systems have a negative impact on our environment, regulations are in progress.

“We are aware of the problem of refrigerants in air conditioners in Quebec, so the regulations will change in the coming years to return to slightly more natural fluids which will have a lesser environmental impact. I therefore advise people not to fall for an air conditioner soon if they want to reduce their environmental impact, but to wait one or two years for the market to change,” says Benjamin Zizi.

In the meantime, you can always plant trees and green your space. They may be enough to keep us cool… quite naturally.

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