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Home Air Conditioning

Introduction

Traditional Air Conditioners are some of the most climate changing devices in use today. Not only do they use lots of electric energy that's produced by coal fired generators, they produce heat, just like any other mechanical device that is working, by removing heat from your room. They take the hot air out of your room and replace it with cold air. The heat produced by the air conditioner and the heat removed by the machine just make the air surrounding your house warmer. This in turn makes the machine work even harder to keep the inside cool. However, there are many alternative cooling methods, that are much safer for the environment, use less power, and pay for themselves in a short number of years.

Cooling System Basics

Cooling is the most variable type of energy consumption. Two similar homes in the same neighbourhood can vary widely in cooling costs, with an efficient air conditioned home consuming $500 worth of electricity in a hot month, while a neighbour in a well-designed home might spend only $20 per month to operate room fans and an evaporative cooler.

Professional Air-Conditioning Service

Many of us assume that our air conditioners are installed correctly and that they will function indefinitely with no thought of action from us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Central air conditioners are intended to cool an entire home. Central air conditioners typically consume more electricity than necessary because installation-related problems and maintenance problems.

Replacing Central Air Conditioners

The energy efficiency of today's air conditioners is twice that of models built even a few decades ago. This improvement in efficiency has resulted from several technical advances.

Room Air Conditioners

Room air conditioners cool one room at a time. They are usually less expensive to operate than central air conditioners because they don't cool the entire house, and because they don't have duct systems that incur energy losses. Since they are manufactured as a sealed unit, room units also have fewer installation problems.

Alternative Cooling Methods

  • Geothermal Cooling - These types of coolers draw cool temperatures from several meters underground on your property. They take advantage of the fact that within the dense mass of the soil, temperatures do not fluctuate as easy as they do in the surface air around your home. These are typically expensive to install and are difficult to get permitted in some municipalities and counties. However, once installed, your air conditioning bill disappears.

    Another benefit of home geothermal systems today, is that you replace your water heater, your air conditioner, and your furnace. They are also much quieter than the conventional compressor based air conditioner. Depending on your climate, investing in a geothermal system can have a payback period of less then 10 years, because you are replacing three energy consumptive devices.
  • Evaporative Coolers - Evaporative or swamp coolers drip water over a mesh material then run air through the mesh.

    The water molecules attach themselves to the dry moving air that flows into your room, making the room feel cooler. Evaporative coolers only work in dry climates, because rely on fast water evaporation in low humidity climates. They are the simplest of all air conditioners, having only three functional parts: rotary fan, water pump, and filter pads. Evaporative coolers are most effective by pushing un-pressurized air through the structure. Opposite of conventional air conditioners, the more windows and doors open, the better it works.

    Swamp Cooler

    evaporative cooler parts

    Cardboard Filter Pad

    evaporative cooler parts

    Aspen Filter Pad

    evaporative cooler parts

    Water Pump

    evaporative cooler parts

    So if it is not cooling properly, one of these three parts needs to be fixed. Power consumption is very low because the only electric parts are a fan and water pump. These kind of coolers are well suited for mobile home trailers because of their low cost, ease of maintenance, and the lack of adequate insulation in the mobile home shell. Operating a conventional air conditioner in a mobile home in the desert could be quite costly.

    In the desert, evaporative cooler boxes can be seen on rooftops of large industrial buildings and warehouses. They can also be seen covering an entire wall of a plant nursery greenhouse. Greenhouse coolers use a negative vacuum system, in which fans on the opposite wall of the evaporators pulls the hydrated air through the room. This contrasts with box type swamp coolers that push the moist air through the room.

  • Cooling Towers - Towered coolers are very similar to Evaporative coolers in that they use water as the cooling medium.

    However, they minimize the use of fans and water by using towers on each end of the buildings that have a tall column where air is passed through an evaporative cooling medium near the top. As the air cools it becomes denser so it naturally falls and moves into and through the open spaces in the building. At the other end of the building will be a tall solar chimney heated by solar radiation that will draw the air through the building and up into the atmosphere. This provides a natural cycling ventilation system with minimal use of electrical fans.
  • Coolerado - These kinds of air conditioners, called Heat and Mass Exchangers are very efficient because they have only two electric powered parts, a solenoid valve and an electric fan. They also have a big advantage over Evaporative coolers because they separate the wet air from the dry air and exhaust the wet air out of the building. See how they work.
  • Solar Air Conditioning - These devices use the sun's heat to separate cold from hot in a substance such as water. The heated substance is circulated back into a heat chamber. The remaining cooled substance is radiated into your living space. This is called an absorption chiller. This type of cooling has few moving parts, no compressor, and uses one tenth the power of a standard air conditioner. There are many applications of this technology such instrument sterilization, water purification, and heating. Solar panels can be used to power the fans and pumps need to operate the system.
  • Patio Misters - Once again, these are used in dry climates to provide a localized cooling mechanism using water.

    patio mister

    They are frequently used in shops, restaurants, and courtyards in desert cities such as Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. The best application for the home is your patio. They have small nozzles attached to a 1/4 inch flexible PVC line every one to two feet. The nozzles have a very small opening that sprays a very fine mist that evaporates quickly, making the air feel cooler. The water must be filtered completely of fine particles so that the nozzles do not get plugged.
  • Thermal Mass Coolers - This is not so much a device as it is a house design.

    They rely on the earth's ability to store cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter. The home is built so that most of the windows are facing south and the north side is built adjacent to a large mound of earth. This would be the opposite north-south orientation if you are Australia or Southern Africa.

    Large diameter ducts bring cool air into the home using a natural convection, where the hot air is vented out of the top of the home. As the hot air is drawn out, because heat rises, cool air is drawn in from the earth. Because there are no compressors or other machinery, thermal mass cooling uses no electricity.
    In the winter, the sun is low in the sky, and comes in through the south facing windows. The light heats up the thermal mass of the floors and the earth behind the north facing walls. The high density earth stores the heat until the evening and night. It is then gradually released back into the cavity of the home, keeping your living quarters nice and toasty. Find out more about these at earthship.com

    It's the ultimate in home efficiency. However, since they don't fit into normal building codes, most municipalities and counties will not issue permits for these types of structures. Until governments can include alternative building designs into the building codes, this type of structure is restricted to remote counties that don't have an incorporated city.

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