At certain times of the year, heating and cooling your Anaheim, CA home could account for up to half of your energy bill. Unfortunately, even if your HVAC system relies solely upon electricity, it can still have a substantial carbon footprint. Whether directly or indirectly, the electricity, fuel, and chemicals that drive your HVAC equipment damage the earth’s ozone layer and release climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs). Read on to learn all about the environmental effects of HVAC and what you can do to minimize them.

Direct and Indirect HVAC Energy Use

Winters in Anaheim are moderate. It’s rare to see local temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep their homes warm, many residents once relied on gas-fired furnaces. However, with California currently phasing gas-fired appliances out in all new construction and outright banning them by 2030, nearly all new heating system installations are electric heat pumps and electric furnaces.

The Environmental Effects of Natural Gas Heating

Among fossil fuels, natural gas is relatively clean-burning. It also burns hotter than other fuel types and can heat homes swiftly. In extremely cold winter climates, having a gas-fired furnace that produces heat as hot as 140 degrees Fahrenheit definitely has its merits. However, in moderate winters like Anaheim’s, this ultra-rapid heating isn’t necessary.

All gas-fired furnaces produce carbon monoxide (CO) and other GHGs during operation. These gases act as a blanket over the earth’s atmosphere that traps radiation from the sun in and raises the global temperature. Greenhouse gases are an inevitable byproduct of incomplete fuel combustion.

Natural gas furnace manufacturers have reduced the amount of exhaust produced by their appliances throughout the years. Currently, the minimum annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating for gas furnaces is 80%. At this level of efficiency, these appliances convert 80% of the fuel they consume into heat energy and lose the rest as exhaust. Although there are high-efficiency furnaces with AFUE ratings as high as 98.5%, losing even just 1.5% of fuel as emissions can take a cumulative toll. If all of the nearly 350,000 residents of Anaheim relied on natural gas for heating, the long-term environmental effects could prove disastrous.

How Using Electric Furnaces Affects the Climate

Electric furnaces have AFUE ratings of 100%. They convert all the electricity they use into heat energy. With these appliances, no fuel is wasted and absolutely no greenhouse gases (GHGs) are produced. However, electric furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps add GHGs to the environment indirectly. This is because fossil fuels are often burned to produce electricity. The emissions generated during these conversions are known as grey emissions.

The Effects of Electric Heat Pumps

Much like electric furnaces, electric heat pumps don’t produce any GHGs during operation. However, in winter climates like Anaheim’s, heat pumps are significantly more efficient than electric furnaces. Some heat pumps can produce three to four times as much heating and cooling energy as they consume in electric energy. They maintain efficiency levels as high as 300% to 400% year-round. Choosing a heat pump is a great way to both cut your heating costs and your grey emissions.

However, like air conditioners, heat pumps rely on refrigerant. This is what drives their heat transfer process. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), most residential heat pumps rely on R401-A or Puron. The NRDC goes on to say that over 20 years, Puron has a global warming potential (GWP) of 4,260, which is equivalent to 4,260 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) added to the atmosphere.

Air Conditioner Refrigerants Have a Long History of Damaging the Ozone Layer

Among climate activists, air conditioner refrigerants are a huge point of contention. Freon or R-22 was long the industry standard. In 2010, regulators began phasing out Freon due to its high concentrations of ozone-damaging hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).


In 2020, the phase-out of Freon was deemed complete. This refrigerant is no longer manufactured in the United States or sourced from overseas. The fast-dwindling and ultimately finite supply of Freon on U.S. soil comes at an increasingly high price. Puron is considered a more environmentally friendly alternative because it doesn’t contain HCFCs. However, Puron does contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which impact the ozone layer as well, albeit to a far lesser extent.

Opteon Refrigerants

Freon operates under completely different pressure levels than Puron. Thus, the move from Freon to Puron required all new cooling equipment or massive AC retrofitting. As HVAC equipment manufacturers lean towards the use of Opteon refrigerants, new air conditioners are being built to accommodate this rapidly evolving generation of coolants. Opteon refrigerants contain neither HCFCs nor HFCs.

How You Can Make a Difference

Legislation is forcing the move away from gas-fired heating equipment, and in areas like Anaheim, it’s a smart, economically sound, and environmentally conscious choice. HVAC manufacturers are also working to limit the impact of heat pump and AC refrigerants so that the move away from GHG-producing equipment doesn’t contribute to further ozone damage. However, there are still many things that you can do to further lighten your household’s environmental load.

Switch to a Heat Pump

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), heat pumps are the central HVAC technology in the move to sustainable heating around the globe. Their use of low-emissions electricity makes them the most efficient solution for year-round temperature control, especially in moderate climates like Anaheim’s.

Consider Dual-Fuel Heating

If you’re a die-hard for natural gas heating, you may still have the option of installing a dual-fuel heating system. Despite phasing out the use of natural gas-fired appliances, some California municipalities offer limited exceptions for hybrid heating systems. Dual-fuel heating systems or hybrid heating systems use heat pumps for heating in moderately cold temperatures while offering the high-temperature, rapid heating of natural gas during unexpected cold spells. Although you’re unlikely to need natural gas often, these systems offer more flexibility in how homeowners source energy during times of fluctuating gas prices and electricity rates.

Have Your HVAC System Zoned

In busy households with constantly changing schedules, HVAC zoning greatly minimizes energy waste. Zoning divides residential buildings into two to four separate service areas. Each area has its own independently controlled thermostat for customized climate control. Zoning eliminates the need to heat or cool large spaces or entire floors that no one is actively using.

Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance

The best way to optimize the efficiency of any HVAC equipment is by keeping it properly maintained. You should inspect your HVAC air filters monthly and change them every one to three months, schedule annual heater and AC tune-up services, and periodically have your HVAC air ducts cleaned. Also schedule ductwork inspection and maintenance services, and have your air ducts insulated and sealed.

Consider Integrating Accessories and Extending Your Heating and Cooling Plan

There are many exciting indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements, humidity-control accessories, and ventilation types that can further enhance the efficiency of your heating and cooling plan. If you constantly battle IAQ problems, adding an air purifier, media filter, or air scrubber to your ducting could improve airflow and cut your energy use.

If your home is always humid, whole-house dehumidification equipment could minimize heater and AC stress. You can also explore your options in whole-house fans, energy recovery ventilators (ERVs), and other tools for boosting air exchange, improving IAQ, and limiting energy use.

Our team helps residents of Anaheim, CA increase their home comfort while reducing their carbon footprints. We offer top-notch heating and cooling services, including installation, repair, and maintenance. We also provide heat pumps, ductless AC, smart thermostats, and HVAC zoning. To find out about our HVAC preventative maintenance plans or schedule an appointment, contact us at Sano Heating & Air Conditioning today.

company icon