Heating and cooling accounts for the majority of energy usage within our homes and work spaces. It’s estimated that 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are released each year in America as a result of air conditioning. In fact, the whole of Africa uses less electricity in total than America uses for air conditioning alone. In 2008, Americans spent more than 3% of the nation’s GDP in heating, cooling, and lighting—almost two-thirds of the entire defense budget and more than federal government spending on Medicare.
US-based company Advantix have pioneered an air conditioner that uses up to 40% less energy and saves up to 50% in running costs by using salt water. It’s also the same price as a traditional air conditioner.
The technology was discovered by a family who decided to open Israel’s first ice skating rink and had to find a cheap way to cool hot air in their humid climate. It works by simplifying the air-conditioning process, which normally involves complex equipment and expensive gases. The system treats hot air with a non-toxic saltwater solution, which naturally cleans, dehumidifies and cools the air.
Energy Blogger, Gemma Jamieso argues that the added bonus of using the salt-water solution is that it kills any germs in the air, helping to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses and making it a particularly useful and cost-effective investment in the workplace.
Image from Advantix
This system is also a blessing to contractors to prevent mould and mildew related litigations as the air-conditioning unit eliminates odours and helps to prevent the growth of mould and mildew.
The scalability of the technology is huge as 75% of the world is affected by humidity, including emerging markets China and India. If the technology replaced traditional air-conditioning units, the impact could make a significant difference to the amount of CO2 emitted from both rich and poor countries. As they cite in the Sustainia100 report, “The International Energy Agency has found that basic efficiency standards for appliances, motors, and air-conditioning units in developing countries could account for half the carbon emissions reductions needed to stabilize global temperature rise at 2°C.”
But for many using a conventional air conditioning system is often the most expensive and energy intensive way to cool a home. If you are buying a new air conditioner, first consider reducing heat gain in your home through passive cooling measures and increasing ventilation with low energy fans. Then consider investing in more expensive cooling systems like evaporative coolers, heat pumps, and air conditioners. If you already have an air conditioner, properly maintain it so that it runs at peak efficiency. As for other alternative cooling options mentioned below could open up possibilities for future builders.
Solar Evaporative Coolers
Solar evaporative coolers powered by photovoltaic (PV) cells are one way to make the best out of the worst. This is an ideal system because PV cells operate most effectively during peak hours of the day—the hottest part of the day when electricity is most expensive.
A heat pump can be used for both heating and cooling. In the summer, it acts as an air conditioner, removing heat from air inside the house and carrying it outside. In the winter, it operates in reverse, removing heat from air outside the building and carrying it inside to warm the living space. There are two main types of residential heat pumps: air-source and geothermal, which are also known as ground source and geo exchange heat pumps.
Air-source heat pumps
Air-source heat pumps use outside ambient air to cool a home. They are similar to conventional central air conditioning systems except they also have the ability to heat the home. Some models can even provide air circulation, air filtration, humidification, dehumidification, and water heating services. This may sound like an amazing system. However, before rushing out and buying one, note that air-source heat pumps might not heat a home any better than an electric heating system in extreme winter climates. A backup system is often necessary to help the air-source heat pump achieve comfortable temperatures in extreme winter climates.
Geothermal heat pumps
Geothermal heat pumps use the ground, surface water, or underground water as a heat source and heat sink. They use underground pipes, typically buried 3 to 6 feet below the surface, to take advantage of the ground’s relatively constant year-round temperature. The pipes are usually filled with a heat transfer fluid, which in summer carries heat from inside the house and releases it into the ground thereby cooling your home. In winter, it extracts heat from the ground to heat the home. Geothermal heat pumps use 23–44 percent less energy than the more commonly used air-source heat pumps and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they can save a typical homeowner 30 to 70 percent in heating bills and 20 to 50 percent in cooling costs. This could amount to over $400 per year in energy savings.
Hence when purchasing any of these systems look for the Energy Star label to ensure you’re purchasing a highly efficient product. Many models have efficiencies even higher than the Energy Star system requires, with COPs greater than 5.0 and EERs greater than 17.0. The price tag may be a little higher than on non Energy Star units, but you will pay off your investment every time you use the equipment.
Overall with technologies such as Solar, geothermal heat pumps being deployed in major organisations around the world it would be just tempting to believe that sustainable engineers and companies such as advantix could lead the next cooling revolution of the world !!.
A: U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2010. Annual Energy Review 2009. Washington DC: U.S. Energy Information Administration, August 19. link
B, C: Bureau of Economic Analysis. “National Economic Accounts.” link
D, E: Executive Office of the President of the United States. 2011. “Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2011.” ” link