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Reducing Air Conditioner Use in Sunnyvale.

This proposal will include strategies to reduce air conditioner use in Sunnyvale.

Photo of Green Ops Homestead
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Written by

Homestead High School Green Ops

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I visit Sunnyvale regularly.

What type of applicant are you?

  • Team

Stage of Development.

  • Early concept or idea (<few months of work)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

Since they have to use heat to remove heat from the surrounding air, air conditioners often use energy inefficiently and cause major pollution.

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

This idea aims to implement exterior sunlight blockage and cooling technology to address air conditioner (and hopefully refrigerator) use in Sunnyvale public buildings and homes.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

Several of these changes will require moderate effort for significant impact. Once they are implemented, they will be effective for years. They reduce a major contributor to climate change.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

CFCs and similar compounds are now banned, but cooling is still energy intensive due to the process of turning warm air into cool air. Improving efficiency and using alternative coolants is complex, but generally, exploring this may be necessary because using refrigerators is nearly inevitable. Requiring new buildings to use environmentally friendly coolants would be one possible step. Placing some shade over parts of air conditioners that are outdoors can improve efficiency as well. Some useful links are We would like to see if Sunnyvale Urban Forest Advocates would be willing to plant deciduous trees in strategic locations to cool public buildings and homes/prioritize locations that would cool buildings. Deciduous trees would ensure that the shade can block the sun’s rays in the summer, but the trees lose their leaves in the winter. This could be in front of public/private buildings and maybe some homes. They have a free street tree planting service already, so it would not be a drastic change, especially if some locations are on streets. If we could direct them to strategic locations for this service, it would maximize their investments by both preventing emissions and absorbing them. One issue is that trees take time to grow and need care while they are young (extra cost from pruning and other care might bring reluctance to the public, but the lower electricity bill might counter this). Another issue is that this could reduce natural light, which prevents people from using lights. However, many people attempt to use their blinds in the summer in an attempt to block the sun’s heat, which has a similar blocking effect. Also, people are beginning to use fluorescent light bulbs, which are more efficient than air conditioners. If SUFA is unwilling, Schools Going Green may be able to conduct this as a project. Some useful links are One possible change would be to require public buildings (schools, grocery stores, etc.) that regularly use their air conditioners to shade their windows from the outside or using blockage. Blocking rays from outside is more effective than blocking them with shades once they have already entered. This will be a good financial investment because businesses will eventually spend less money on air conditioning. Window films, which block light, can be expensive, but some, like bamboo, are fairly inexpensive.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (250 words)

Reducing air conditioner use will prevent greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and releasing coolant. According to the New York Times, “...adding improved efficiency in refrigeration and phasing out fluorinated gases used for cooling, as mandated by international agreement, could eliminate a full degree Celsius of warming by 2100. Given that the “business as usual” trajectory leads to 4 to 5 degrees Celsius of warming, that is shaving off a pretty big slice” (Friedman). Although Sunnyvale is fairly cool, reducing air conditioner use completely may still reduce emissions significantly. This plan will also help Sunnyvale residents save money on their electricity bills in the long run. Youth could volunteer together to raise money and help plant trees, which would help them learn to serve the community, accomplish goals, earn community service hours, and have fun. Businesses could also conduct similar volunteer events and benefit similarly.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of people affected. (250 words)

Anyone in Sunnyvale who uses air conditioner in the summer could implement exterior shading systems. This could be a service that is offered from the City of Sunnyvale to all residents. Financially, this will be the most difficult in early stages (installing new coolants, obtaining and caring for trees, adding exterior shading, etc.), but in the long term, it will cost much less to maintain. Other possible limitations are the time that it takes to implement these features all around the city.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

Some aspects of this would be feasible because they are easily implemented or we know of potential groups that could help (bamboo shades, Sunnyvale Urban Forest Advocates, Schools Going Green). Others would be more difficult (consulting engineers, finding professionals to install window films).

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (300 words)

Many window films should be installed by a professional and we do not currently know any who work in Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale Urban Forest Advocates or another organization such as Schools Going Green would have to be committed. Due to the amount of money required to obtain tree, this organization would have to be fairly large, so although Green Oops would like to contribute, it would likely be too much for only us. Electrical and environmental engineers would be necessary to develop a plan to phase out potent coolants and develop more efficient cooling systems. Window films (potentially optional), trees (hopefully from another organization), and coolants/efficient technology cost money to develop and implement.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with our partners?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

We are a club that promotes environmental awareness and sustainability on the Homestead High School campus and in the community. Throughout the year, we have different initiatives and activities to get the student population involved in the environmental movement. Facebook-

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you came up with your idea.

Article that inspired our idea

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. From a range of 1-5, how interested/compelled are you to bring this idea into your own life or into the city?

1 - Not Interested - 20%

2 - 0%

3 - 20%

4 - 0%

5 - Very interested - 60%

2. From a range of 1-5, does this idea provide benefits aside from reducing carbon emissions?

1 - Low co-benefits - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 20%

4 - 40%

5 - High co-benefits - 40%

3. From a scale of 1-5, what do you feel is the feasibility of this idea to work well in Sunnyvale?

1 - Not feasible - 0%

2 - 20%

3 - 0%

4 - 60%

5 - Very feasible - 20%

4. From a range of 1-5, what is your hunch about how much this idea will cost the Sunnyvale community to implement properly?

1 - High cost to the community - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 40%

4 - 40%

5 - Low cost to the community - 20%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jérémie Gluckman-Picard

Hey Green Ops Homestead Reaching out to let you know that we're taking a closer look at this idea. Love the updates you've made to focus on how planting trees can reduce cooling needs and therefore the use of air conditioning. Have you considered sources of funding and how you will obtain resources to plant and maintain these? It would be awesome to have more details in the proposal on the financials of all this. Will the money saved on cooling costs be factored in?

Photo of Green Ops Homestead

Hi Jérémie Gluckman-Picard yes financial stability is one of our concerns. Hopefully we can talk to The Sunnyvale Urban Forest and Increase Tree Coverage about how they are planning to fund trees. We were hoping that since Sunnyvale Urban Forest Advocates has a free street tree planting service-, if we could work with them to prioritize locations that would help further our plan, it would not be a large financial burden. As far as labor goes, several middle and high school clubs around the area volunteer with SUFA to plant and maintain trees frequently, so hopefully, most of the cost will be the trees themselves. Since SUFA provides this service for free, somehow they must be funding it, although we would probably have to increase the scope of that funding. I'm going to start contacting them and the writers of the other proposals now, so hopefully I will have some more answers soon. Also, at the moment, I cannot say for sure how much we will save on cooling costs, but I can begin to look into energy bills. Most likely, this will have to be a long term plan.

Edit-SUFA reached out to me and invited me to participate in their meeting in June to further discuss execution. I will try to keep you updated in the meantime. Also, their webpage about planting street trees is here.

Photo of Green Ops Homestead

Hi @Jérémie Gluckman-Picard, just letting you know that we sent you an email with some more details just because we had a private meeting with SUFA and didn’t know if they wanted us to post the information publicly or not. Let us know if you have any other questions.

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