Australia is taking part in the Global Cooling Prize, a groundbreaking competition designed to incentivize development of a residential cooling solution that will have at least five times less climate impact than today’s standard RAC units.
This technology could prevent up to 100 gigatons (GT) of CO2-equivalent emissions by 2050, and put the world on a pathway to mitigate up to 0.5˚C of global warming by 2100, all while enhancing living standards for people in developing countries around the globe.
By 2050, 4.5 billion RAC units will be in use globally compared to 1.2 billion today. Steps need to be taken today to offset the climate impact.
Applications for the competition, which features more than $US3 million in prize money, will close this week on June 30, 2019.
The challenge is an initiative of the US-based Rocky Mountain Research Institute which released a report showing that market failures have resulted in little incentive for the air conditioning industry to innovate.
“Several market factors have contributed to the sluggish pace of innovation in the air-conditioning (AC) industry, with the key factor being customer focus on low first cost as opposed to life-cycle cost. This has driven the AC industry to focus on economies of scale, resulting in a highly consolidated industry,” the report said.
It is the reason why the Global Cooling Prize was created and it immediately caught the eye of Australian experts.
One Aussie taking part in the competition is engineer and chief executive of Rotary Heat Exchangers, Bill Ellul.
“There was a lot of interest in the prize basically because it’s been well understood that air conditioning is causing a lot of climate-change issues,” Ellul said.
He hopes other Australian companies and innovators have taken part as well.
“With low efficiency and cheap air conditioning units becoming more prevalent worldwide, it's vital that a solution is found,” he said.
“The technology hasn’t changed that much but this is an opportunity to find the technology that will drag us out of this quagmire.
“We all know about the problems of a 1.5 and 2-degree rise, half a degree is very significant – that’s 25 per cent from air conditioning alone , that's why the need to solve this problem is so important.”
Ellul will be submitting his new evaporative cooler.
“I have applied for a provisional patent on a new concept low energy cooler based on an extension of my work on Indirect Evaporative Coolers which was the subject of a paper I presented recently,” he said.
The New concept cooler, which is applicable for all climates, is known as the Heat Pump Indirect Evaporative Cooler (HPIEC).
“This will use the highly efficient rotary sensible heat exchanger (RHE) to indirectly cool and dehumidify hot humid fresh air, utilizing a small conventional vapor compression refrigerated heat pump (HP) and a highly efficient evaporative cooler (EC),” Ellul said.
“My modelling studies show that it should economically produces comfortable cool, dry 100% fresh air in all climatic conditions.
“The RHE becomes the major contributor to this process providing free cooling and free dehumidification resulting in very high COP. "
This also dramatically reduces the water requirement of the EC and the cooler can become a net producer of clean fresh water, which it extracts from the humid fresh air,” he said.
“The overall efficiency of this cooler will substantially exceed that of any other type of refrigerated HP coolers.”
Ellul is ready to test his HPIEC against solutions from around the world.
IEC Cooler - How it works at a glance
The new Hybrid Indirect Cooler (HIC) enhances the performance of the highly efficient rotary heat exchanger by combining a small-refrigerated Heat Pump to produce cooled dry fresh air, with very little energy usage. This indirectly cools and dehumidifies hot humid 100% fresh air to the building.
A further sustainable benefit is its ability to produce clean water condensed directly from humid air when used in humid environments.
Because the performance of these systems improves dramatically as ambient temperature rises, even to extreme conditions without fear of shutdown, they may provide an added sustainability benefit in reducing the risks of power grid failure.
The indirect evaporative cooler of the HIC uses the most environmentally acceptable of all known refrigerants, water. In dry climates, the indirect cooling reduces the quantity of water used by the IEC.
In humid climates, the HIC can become a net producer of clean water condensed directly from the fresh air, while using a small conventional heat pump of about half the size that would be required if the hybrid cooler were not applied.
For environmental reasons the small HP unit may also be using an environmentally acceptable refrigerant such as CO2.