Coolerado’s AC Technology Consumes 90% Less Electricity
An air conditioning unit that runs on a fraction of the electricity of traditional AC units? I was reading an article about Coolerado’s AC unit using 90 percent less electricity than the standard Freon-filled systems. 90 percent! My curiosity was piqued.
Nearly everywhere on the planet, air conditioning units are the primary power drains for utility companies during the summer, but this drain is especially bad in some areas, like the US Southwest. The article stated that there were some drawbacks, but for people in a dry climate with low humidity, this unit is the AC of the future.
To find out more, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) contacted Mike Luby, CEO, at Coolerado. He told us about the company’s unique method of cooling the air. Joe Hennager, BPGL Co-Founder
LUBY: Our air conditioning system operates on an entirely different thermodynamic principle than traditional air conditioners. We are able to cool air using only the energy of a fan, and we can cool air to what’s called wet-bulb temperature. We typically can do this most efficiently in an environment that is dry, and for about 90 percent less energy while achieving the same results as a traditional air conditioning system.
BPGL: Is this new technology, or have I just been asleep?
LUBY: We’ve been in business for about 9 years, and the first 4 years were really just research and development, you know, proof of concept. We’ve had units installed in the field around the United States and internationally for the last five years, mostly larger commercial units. All of them have had excellent success. We are just now focusing on marketing to smaller commercial users and, eventually, home construction.
BPGL: I’m familiar with the wet-bulb effect in large cooling towers and large evaporation systems that cool water for big buildings, but I’ve never heard of smaller applications of this principle. And I find it hard to believe your 90 percent electrical reduction figure.
LUBY: I usually hear that this is too good to be true, but our technology has been independently verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). They endorsed us for all federal buildings to help these structures meet the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This act requires energy-saving reductions, including a 30 percent reduction in electricity for federal buildings. They endorsed us specifically — by name — as a product that is helping them achieve that.
We have also been studied by a number of independent utility companies in California and other states, and they’ve written reports that verify we do what we say. Our products are eligible for rebates from utility companies in six states, and we are working to expand that.
We have a very unique technology. It works best in dry climates. We do use evaporative techniques to cool the air, and the whole principle is based on thermodynamic research by Dr. Valeriy Maisotsenko. It is called the Maisotsenko Cycle.
BPGL: What can you tell me about Dr. Maisotsenko?
LUBY: Dr. Valeriy Maisotsenko was born and raised in the Ukraine. He was the director of the Thermal Physics Research Laboratory in the former Soviet Union before coming to the U.S. He developed his theories of thermodynamics about 40 years ago. In the industry, in thermodynamic circles, it’s called the M-Cycle, or the Maisotsenko Cycle. Dr. Maisotsenko is a partner, and works with us at Coolerado.
BPGL: Does Coolerado have a patent on his research?
LUBY: Yes, our first patent application was for air-cooling. We have domestic and international patents protecting both the use of the cycle, the M-Cycle, as well as the specific heat exchanger that we’ve created, the HMX.
BPGL: Is most of your market residential or commercial?
LUBY: Our focus is on the commercial market, although we have units that are appropriate for residential use. The reason for focusing on the commercial market is because, where you sell one, you’re more likely to sell many. With residential, you are selling one unit at a time, typically as an upgrade replacement. We do have some developers building green projects, and they want low-energy units, but again, they’re building dozens of homes. We sold 70 systems to one green builder in Colorado. For new residential and residential builders, we will certainly address that.
BPGL: I’m sure that LEED 6.20 certification would have something to say about that, too.
LUBY: Very much so. Our systems do not use refrigerants. They do not use compressors. The carbon footprint of the unit itself is very much smaller than the traditional air conditioner. There is a fraction of the metal and no chemical refrigerants. We don’t use as much energy. It’s an invention that is elegant in its simplicity, and yet the results are really amazing.
BPGL: I watched your company video showing the Maisotsenko Cycle in operation. The unit forced extremely hot air into one end of a very small box — a tiny 15-inch unit — and the temperature dropped 100 degrees by the time it exited the other end. And the only thing added was one cup of water. That was amazing!
Obviously, people are looking for technological ideas that help save energy. And right along with energy savings is the need for water conservation. How much water does it take to run one of these units?
LUBY: That’s an excellent question. We use only about a gallon of water per hour to achieve cooling with a heat-and-mass exchanger that’s equivalent to a 1-ton unit. Our 6-ton air conditioner uses about 6 gallons of water an hour when it’s operating in the heat of the season. You might say, “Oh my, 6 gallons, that’s a lot.” But look at how many gallons of water are used in a typical shower. That would be 1-2 extra showers a day. In the Arizona area, you might spend another $100 for water during the cooling season, but you save thousands in electricity. There is an order of magnitude difference in the cost of the electricity vs. the cost of water that you use.
That’s the first question, but the second point is; Yeah, but you’re using water, that’s a precious resource. At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, they did a life cycle study of the water use of our system. They concluded that it takes water to create electricity, whether it’s hydro or nuclear or coal. On average, producing electricity takes about 2 gallons of water per 1 kilowatt hour. NREL concluded that the amount of water we use will be saved by using 8 times less electricity. In the end, the water we use in the Coolerado unit is less than the water used to create the electricity that we save. So on a regional basis, we are at least net water neutral and probably actually save a little bit of water.
BPGL: Does the water you use in your AC units have to be fresh, or can you use 2nd grade, or grey water?
LUBY: We can put any kind of water into our heat-and-mass exchanger. Since different air streams don’t mix, the water that is evaporated by the air stream is never mixed with the air that goes into the building. We have used some pretty nasty water, nasty in the sense of pretty hard, pretty salty. So suppose you had an enormous supply of water that was salty, like ocean water. You could use that water to cool the air, then the air that is 100% humidified won’t be salt water, it comes out as fresh water.
BPGL: It comes out as fresh water? Is that a direction your patents could be going toward — that desalinization and purification are possible?
LUBY: It is. It is very possible to do that. It’s not very efficient, but it is a byproduct at no extra energy costs.
BPGL: Obviously, from a production standpoint, my curiosities were the water costs and the costs of the filters. How often do you have to change the air filters? And what about the chamber where the process takes place? Does the chamber have to be cleaned very often to keep the process efficient?
LUBY: The unit uses a standard air filter, and you change that just a frequently as you would any other filter for an air conditioner. It depends on how dirty the air is and the environment that you’re in. We have a standard 2-inch filter for the home unit, and larger filters for industrial units.
The heat-and-mass exchanger, which most people look at as a filter, isn’t really a filter. It looks simple, but it’s not; it’s really complex inside. Each heat-and-mass exchanger has about a half a mile of air channels inside of it. We don’t know when you will need to change it, because some of them have been in the field five years and are still working fine. People will say, “Wait, it’ll turn into a calcium-carbonate brick.” Or, “It’s going to get mineralization.” The answer to both of those is “No. The design of the system does not allow minerals to precipitate out.”
In the heat exchanger, the minerals precipitating out are actually part of a chemical reaction. When there is a solution, there are no particles. When the chemical reaction occurs, it takes about 20 minutes from the time it starts. So, we don’t let water sit in the heat-and-mass exchanger. We have a control board that monitors the temperature and how much water the heat exchanger needs, and it puts just enough water in to prevent mineralization. There is a slight overflow, keeping the water running through, so it never evaporates. We have not had any mineralization issues.
BPGL: So your system blows hot, dry air across wet surfaces, and the evaporation causes the air to cool. How fast does the air have to move through your chamber for it to achieve that temperature variant? Does it go slowly, so that it takes time for that temperature change to occur? Or can it occur very fast?
LUBY: it actually cools it in 20 successive stages, so it moves pretty quickly. Each heat exchanger has about 300 CFM moving through it. And a heat exchangers size is about 10 and a half inches high by 20 inches long and 18 inches wide. We’ll move 200-400 CFM through that heat exchanger.
BPGL: So, you are pushing 300 cubic feet per minute through a space that is only 20 inches long?
LUBY: Yes. It’s about 20 inches long by about 18 inches wide and 10 ½ inches high.
BPGL: It’s a phenomenon to achieve that in such a small space.
LUBY: it really is. It just shows the efficiency of evaporation. The real key to this is we’re taking heat off in successive stages. So, by the time air is coming out at the end of the heat exchanger, it is on average at wet bulb temperature.
BPGL: What is the cost of these units?
LUBY: Well, I can’t tell you that directly. It’s not because I want to be evasive, but it really depends on the installation; that’s the key issue. In all cases, customers have saved money over buying a traditional air conditioning unit. One reason is that they did not have to upgrade their electrical panel, which can be hugely expensive. We use so little energy compared to a normal system.
BPGL: What is a normal kilowatt usage for one of your units?
LUBY: Our 6-ton unit uses about 600 Watts of power. So if you run it for an hour, it’s 600 Watt hours. Compare our unit’s 600 Watts to a traditional 6-ton AC unit running at over 6,000 Watts. Or compare our unit to a hair dryer. Now, you don’t run a hair dryer for an hour, but when you run a hair dryer, it’s going to draw between 1500-2000 Watts of power.
BPGL: Your unit runs on one-tenth the electricity of the same size regular AC unit. Now that’s amazing.
LUBY: Yes, it is. It is, indeed.