New Energy-Saving Air Conditioning Technology

New Energy-Saving Air Conditioning Technology

Range Govindan
Jun 25, 2010

Summer is here and a lot of us have to run an air conditioner to keep things livable. Otherwise, the sweltering heat will just drain our brains and make it impossible to get any work done. Thankfully, a new kind of technology has been developed to make air conditioners a lot more energy efficient.

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, part of the Department of Energy, has just announced the development of a new type of air conditioning technology. This tech combines filters, coolers, and drying agents to make air conditioners more energy-efficient, and will therefore cut down on those large summer power bills, when the AC is running at full capacity.

This new process will use anywhere from 50 to 90% less energy than today's top-of-the-line energy efficient units. This involves using membranes, evaporative cooling and liquid desiccants in a way that has never been done before. Evaporative coolers are a great lower-cost alternative to ACs in dryer climates. They don't work when it's too humid.

Desiccants are known to make things dryer by sucking out the moisture. The type the NREL uses are syrupy liquids, that are basically attracted to humidity and rapidly create dry air. These systems can get quite complex, which is why we haven't seen any on the consumer market yet. NREL has solved this problem by using thin hydrophobic membranes that integrate desiccation and evaporative cooling. The result is a system that provides better comfort and humidity control.

They're also greener because they use salt solutions instead of refrigerants. This means that there are no CFCs or HCFCs to worry about. The new tech is called DEVap and uses little electricity since it relies on an absorption cycle. The goal is the license this out to the air conditioning industry. Hopefully, in a few years, we'll be seeing these new types of ACs on the markets.

[NREL via Technology Review, photo by Pat Corkery, AC photo via Wikimedia Commons, graphs by NREL]

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