Study: Different paint = less A/C + better mpg

By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACTION

A recent study by researchers in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division again lends credence to the idea that many factors contribute to fuel efficiency, and in this case they found that the paint on a vehicle—particularly on the roof—can make a significant contribution.

It’s been obvious for a while that paint with reflective coatings keep surfaces cooler in the sun and makes it easier to cool the interior. Light colors such as white and silver are coolest and reflect about 60% of sunlight. But researchers also found that certain “dark and cool” colors will also reflect the (invisible) near-infrared rays in the sunlight.

During the experiment, twin cars – one silver and one black – were parked for an hour in the California summer sun. Measurements were taken throughout the five soak cycles. At the peak of one cycle, the roof of the silver car was 45° F cooler than its mate, and the interior was nearly 10° cooler.

Using the collected data, sophisticated computer modeling, and the industry performance standard of reaching 77° F within 30 minutes, researchers analyzed the data and predicted the effects of  operating the air conditioning compressor. The result predicted that cooling the cabin of the silver car required 13% less energy than achieving the same goal in the black car.

Among the study’s other conclusions are statements that the gains come from being able to fit a smaller compressor to deal with the reduced heat loads. They also say changing from “traditional black” paint to a cool and reflective dark color could increase efficiency (and decrease emissions) by a quarter mpg, and using a higher reflectance paint such as white or silver raises the gain to almost half a mile per gallon.

When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.

If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information.

You can E-mail us at or visit to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.

The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.


About macsworldwide

Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues.
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