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Pushing the Envelope on Cooling

July 1, 2017

As the summer heats up, our thoughts turn to cooler technologies.  In this post, we highlight some of the latest revolutionary and disruptive technologies when it comes to cooling.  Here is just a brief taste of what’s to come in the not-too-distant future:

Thermoelectric Cooling (TEC)

These devices use the Peltier effect and solid-state technology to create a thermoelectric heat pump that can power a refrigerator or similar cooling device (wine cooler, window air conditioner, etc.) with no moving parts, no compressors, no toxic refrigerants, and no noise.  Traditional cooling devices have up to about a 10% efficiency, while TEC devices have upwards of 30% efficiency, resulting in up to 75% energy savings.  Furthermore, a device such as this can be run in reverse to create heat.  This paves the way to have room-by-room radiant heating and cooling.  Advantages of these devices include: a very long life, invulnerability to leaks, no refrigerants, precise temperature control (within fractions of a degree), small size, and flexible shape.  To find out more, see Phononic, and their Evolve line of refrigeration products.

“Plastic Wrap” for Buildings

Based on the principles of passive radiant cooling, engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have created a highly reflective film – polymethylpentene plastic with embedded silicon dioxide and silver coating – that can be used to “shrink-wrap” buildings.  This material emits infrared radiation while not absorbing solar radiation.  Even if only used on a typical roof, it can cool down a single-story home enough to keep it cool during the summer.  You can get a ton of cooling capacity (12,000 BTU per hour) with about 400 square feet of this film (sufficient for 1,000 square feet of floor space).  With zero energy consumption and costing only 50-cents per square yard, it is a promising technology.  But lots of questions remain, like how this might work in humid climates (like Middle TN), and how long the film will last.  Find out more at Energy Vanguard and here.

Thermal Air-Conditioning

Chromasun has created an air conditioner that uses solar power supplemented by natural gas, which totally eliminates the need for electrical power altogether, thus making it very cost-effective.  Plus, by incorporating Chromasun’s unique MCT solar panels (see also our post on Solar Air-Conditioning), the demand for natural gas is greatly reduced.  These systems work off-grid, have few moving parts (no compressors), are reliable and efficient. They are currently in use in Australia and have some projects starting in the U.S.

Magnetic Cooling Technologies

Researchers at GE are using magnetocaloric effects – changes in an external magnetic field that cause a change in temperature – to create the next crop of refrigeration devices. This technology uses no chemical refrigerants (water is the heat transfer medium), no compressors (replaced by magnets), is quieter, and is 20-30% more efficient than what is used today. GE expects to have magnetocaloric refrigerators on the market by 2020, so can a magnetocaloric-based HVAC system be far behind?

Sensor-Enhanced Systems

Current HVAC technologies have been taken to new heights through the use of various sensors.  Here are just a few examples. Motion-sensors allow automatically turning off (or lowering) AC use when a room is unoccupied.  Smart thermostats allow auto-sensing, anticipation of demand, remote control and monitoring via a mobile phone app. Ecovent allows remote-control of vents in each room, opening and closing them as needed, to direct airflow where it’s needed. Fully-automated smart home systems now integrate a home’s HVAC system with its lighting, security, entertainment, and household appliances to increase comfort.  The best part of these sensor-enhanced systems is that they are readily available on the market today and can help save energy and money.

Whether you are looking to update your HVAC systems or get more life out of your existing HVAC system, know you can rely on Interstate AC Service for all your heating and cooling needs.  If you live in the Nashville or surrounding area, please call on us at 615-802-2665.  We’ll make sure you stay cool this summer.