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Air conditioning applications

Air conditioning engineers broadly divide air conditioning applications into comfort and process.

Comfort applications aim to provide a building indoor environment that remains relatively constant in a range preferred by humans despite changes in external weather conditions or in internal heat loads.

The highest performance for tasks performed by people seated in an office is expected to occur at 72 °F (22 °C) Performance is expected to degrade about 1% for every 2 °F change in room temperature.[10] The highest performance for tasks performed while standing is expected to occur at slightly lower temperatures. The highest performance for tasks performed by larger people is expected to occur at slightly lower temperatures. The highest performance for tasks performed by smaller people is expected to occur at slightly higher temperatures. Although generally accepted, some dispute that thermal comfort enhances worker productivity, as is described in the Hawthorne effect.

Comfort air conditioning makes deep plan buildings feasible. Without air conditioning, buildings must be built narrower or with light wells so that inner spaces receive sufficient outdoor air via natural ventilation. Air conditioning also allows buildings to be taller since wind speed increases significantly with altitude making natural ventilation impractical for very tall buildings. Comfort applications for various building types are quite different and may be categorized as

  • Low-Rise Residential buildings, including single family houses, duplexes, and small apartment buildings

  • High-Rise Residential buildings, such as tall dormitories and apartment blocks

  • Commercial buildings, which are built for commerce, including offices, malls, shopping centers, restaurants, etc.

  • Institutional buildings, which includes hospitals, governmental, academic, and so on.

  • Industrial spaces where thermal comfort of workers is desired.

In addition to buildings, air conditioning can be used for comfort in a wide variety of transportation including land vehicles, trains, ships, aircraft, and spacecraft.

Process applications aim to provide a suitable environment for a process being carried out, regardless of internal heat and humidity loads and external weather conditions. Although often in the comfort range, it is the needs of the process that determine conditions, not human preference. Process applications include these:

  • Hospital operating theatres, in which air is filtered to high levels to reduce infection risk and the humidity controlled to limit patient dehydration. Although temperatures are often in the comfort range, some specialist procedures such as open heart surgery require low temperatures (about 18 °C, 64 °F) and others such as neonatal relatively high temperatures (about 28 °C, 82 °F).

  • Cleanrooms for the production of integrated circuits, pharmaceuticals, and the like, in which very high levels of air cleanliness and control of temperature and humidity are required for the success of the process.

  • Facilities for breeding laboratory animals. Since many animals normally only reproduce in spring, holding them in rooms at which conditions mirror spring all year can cause them to reproduce year round.

  • Aircraft air conditioning. Although nominally aimed at providing comfort for passengers and cooling of equipment, aircraft air conditioning presents a special process because of the low air pressure outside the aircraft.

In both comfort and process applications the objective may be to not only control temperature, but also humidity, air quality, air motion, and air movement from space to space.

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