If you look at the today’s conventional air conditioning and heating technology that is mainly relying on use of refrigerators and energy thirsty compressors, it is hard not to notice that these devices are consuming vast amounts of energy.
In order to better illustrate this, it is enough to mention the fact that about 328 million people living in the United States are spending more energy on air conditioning than all the 4.4 billion people who are living in Africa, South America and Asia (not counting China). This implies that the global energy consumption could grow enormously as the number of sold air conditioners in the developing countries is rising rapidly.
Most of the today’s conventional air conditioning solutions (we speak here about cooling in first place) are refrigerator based devices that consume plenty of energy. It is pretty clear that this kind of technology is not sustainable and a more energy efficient solution needs to be found. Refrigerator-based air conditioners, as we know them today, desperately need a better replacement that will consume less of energy as the global demand for air conditioners is growing.
Luckily, today’s technology is advancing quickly and there are plenty of interesting innovative devices (some of them are already available on the market even for domestic use) that save energy applying various latest HVAC technologies.
Here we present you with some of those latest and most innovative HVAC solutions that could change the way that we heat and cool our homes in future.
Qarnot QC1 Crypto Heater
We are starting of this list with an innovative heater that actually makes money for you.
You might have already heard of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies but what is less known about these is that there are so called miners which are advanced computers that are run to verify all the transactions that happen within these blockchains. These miners can be set up by anyone and whoever has an appropriate computer can participate in mining.
However, mining Bitcoin and Ethereum consumes plenty of energy as complex algorithms are being used to verify the transactions in real time. And believe it or not, there is a lot of excess heat that gets produced by this process which causes a lot of trouble for those who are running crypto mining facilities.
One average mining rig contains a couple of very strong graphic cards that are running constantly and these produce plenty of heat. These small rigs can consume as much as 2000 Watts of energy and most of it gets transformed into heat (and that is about the same wattage of an average room heater).
So, while most of those who are mining cryptocurrencies at home using this kind of small mining rigs were desperately looking how to get rid of the unwanted heat, a French startup called Qarnot came up with an idea to simply make a heater out of the mining rig.
Those who are familiar with the way how cryptocurrencies work, know that huge amount of energy is spent on confirming of each transaction as it needs to get confirmed by the majority of computers (the miners) on the network to be valid.
Now this heater might not feature any innovative technology that would revolutionize the HVAC industry but, it still helps reduce energy consumption as it brings home heating and cryptocurrency mining together into a single device.
The best part about this interesting room heater is the fact that instead of having to pay more for heating your home during the winter, you can actually end up earning more than you spend for the heating. All you have to do is to setup your wallet for the cryptocurrency you want to mine (currently you can mine on it only cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Zcash that are mined with GPUs) and the heater will do the rest. Depending of the price of cryptocurrency that you select to mine you will get less or more for the mined coins but you would also care less about the price fluctuation of these coins when you know that you get them literally for free as you need to use a heater anyways.
So, by using this heater you could be paying like only 10% of what you would pay for your heating bills by using a regular heater, after you sell the mined coins. And given that cryptocurrencies are a pretty volatile market, it could actually even happen that you pay zero for the heating bills plus earn some extra money out of your heater if the demand is high and prices suddenly go up in value.
So far, this heater sounds like a great idea.
Note that this is not the only product of this innovative company, they also produce other kind of computing heaters that can be used as internet servers. And the same company also provides computing boiler systems, based on the similar technology.
Desiccant Enhanced Evaporative Air-Conditioning (DEVap)
You might have already read our post about evaporative (swamp) coolers, these are really energy efficient devices that can be very helpful in the areas with desert climate conditions. However all evaporative cooling devices come with a kind of drawback that is enough for some people to decide not to buy them. Obviously, the drawback is the moisture itself that comes out as a product of the evaporative cooling process.
While the extra moisture i.e. the humidity produced during the evaporative cooling process can be very helpful in the areas with arid climate conditions (although even then you need to keep the windows open in order to vent out the excess humidity out of the room), most of the times it will cause plenty of issues if you use this kind of coolers in humid areas.
DEVap technology aims to change this by using materials and substances that can efficiently collect the moisture from the room.
The DEVap project is an innovative concept for an energy efficient air conditioner developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
So, these coolers basically consist of two separate units that work together – an evaporative cooling unit that cools the air and a dehumidifier that efficiently collects the moisture from the air. The NREL concept uses liquid desiccants for improving the process of dehumidification.
If you are wondering what these desiccants are, you already saw them plenty of times in form of small bags containing silica gel (and usually there’s a “don’t eat this” warning written on them) that are put in various products where there is a need to keep the moisture on a low level.
This technology makes evaporative cooling possible in fully enclosed spaces without the need for venting it or keeping the windows open. And given that running a room evaporative cooler costs closely as same as running a light bulb or two, these devices could be a great alternative to energy thirsty ACs.
This technology is still in development but, if they manage to scale it properly, it could be a very good alternative to the refrigerant based cooling devices.
NUS Dew Point Evaporative Cooler
This project developed by scientists and students from the National University of Singapore is very similar to the DEVap concept however, they seem to have managed to scale it way closer to a version that could be appropriate for domestic use.
So this is an evaporative cooler as well, using water as the main coolant and consumes very small amounts of energy. And the interesting part is also that, as the dehumidifiers collect the moisture from the air that emerges as a result of evaporative cooling, a significant amount of water is being collected within the tanks. This water is 5 times cleaner than the tap water in Singapore and is perfectly safe to drink.
This air evaporative air conditioner features a membrane dehumidifier which is based on water-absorbing materials that help in the process of dehumidifying the air.
As we could saw from this and the previously described DEVap project, a lot of time is spent on building air conditioners based on the evaporative cooling technologies. It seems like the future of cooling might be actually a leap to the past as evaporative cooling devices were used for thousands of years before the invention of refrigerator-based ACs.
Smarter Air Conditioning Devices Controlled By AI
Smart air conditioners aren’t a new thing on the market. However, most of the today’s ACS aren’t actually that smart. They will basically let you connect them with your smartphone and control them from there.
The real smart ACs are yet to come as the development of artificial intelligence has just begun. While smart air conditioners might not offer any significant change of the core air conditioning technology, they could still come with a computer that can learn and adapt on various levels in order to increase efficiency of the AC and reduce energy consumption.
So, smart air conditioners as we know them today might not be any close to what could these devices be capable to do in ten years. As simple decisions as finding a perfect time to turn on and off the compressor can save plenty of energy and increase efficiency of the conventional ACs. Smart air conditioners will need to consume plenty of data in order to be able to learn quickly thus we can expect them to be equipped with plenty of sensors to be able to track everything that could help them .
Note that there are some devices already on the market that we described in our article about the smart WiFi ACs that can do pretty awesome stuff with your AC and some of those devices are really powered with small amounts of artificial intelligence.
This kind of technology is yet to be heard of and it is hard to predict how it could impact the way the ACs work. It is unquestionable that smart air conditioning is a pretty hot topic among the entrepreneurs of the tech industry as Google has been already working hard to reduce their costs in cooling server facilities by employing an AI-based system and even Elon Musk recently gave some hints that air conditioning devices could be a little bit smarter than they are now.
Climatemaster Geothermal Air Conditioning
The future of air conditioning might be underground and this kind of all seasons air conditioning systems are already available for domestic use.
If we dig just couple of feet underground, we will find that there is a constant temperature of about 55 degrees which doesn’t change throughout the whole year. So, for the underground world for most of the times it doesn’t matters if it’s hot summer or freezing winter up on the surface because underground will always stay approximately at this same temperature throughout the whole year. This is possible because the ground absorbs almost a half of the solar energy.
This simple fact is used to build so-called geothermal air conditioners that once when set up use very small amounts of energy for heating and cooling your home.
So this kind of air conditioning systems is pretty simple – a set of tubes are filled with water (which might be mixed with some antifreeze substance) are layed into the ground vertically or horizontally. These tubes are connected with a pump that circulates the liquid within the tubes throughout the whole year and exchanges the heat or cold from the house with the ground this way keeping it cool during the summer and mildly warm during the winter.
This kind of cooling / heating systems can be very useful in the areas with extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters as it can easily manage to maintain the home temperature close to the 55 degrees level by simply pumping the liquid to circulate through the pipes and exchange the heat from the house with the ground.
This simple system is about 400 to 600 % efficient and can save you up to 80% on heating and cooling bills.
We found Climatemaster to be the one of the companies that are already selling this kind of air conditioning systems for commercial and residential use. The unit that is used to pump the liquid for heating or cooling the home is also used to compress the excess heat and thus provide you with constant supply with hot water that you can use for showering throughout the whole year.
Haier IoT Magnetic Central Air-Conditioner
There is another new technology that could change the conventional ways of cooling and heating our homes. This technology relies on the magnetocaloric materials that are able to heat up and cool down when exposed to or removed from a magnetic field.
There are several companies that are trying to turn this idea into a working air conditioning system and one of them is a Chinese company Haier.
They recently presented their central air conditioning system based on this technology. They went one step further by making their magnetic central air conditioner connected to the internet via the IoT (Internet of Things) platform.
This kind of technology relies a lot on research of proper materials as it needs a kind of durable permanent magnets to work properly.
Wrapping It Up
Refrigerator-based air conditioners might seem like the fastest way to cool your home but, this is actually a century-old technology that relies on consumption of vast amounts of energy.
Since the invention of this kind of air conditioners, more than hundred years ago, there hasn’t been any significant breakthrough in air conditioning technology. However, this kind of ACs are continuing to eat up a large portion of globally spent energy and it gets more than obvious that we need a better, more energy efficient technology that could replace them.
The rapidly developing countries like India and China are seeing a large increase in the number of installed ACs. The increased global demand for better air conditioning requires better and more energy efficient technology to solve this problem.
In this article we presented you with some interesting and innovative HVAC solutions that could change the way we cool and heat our homes. There are couple of technologies that are emerging as the most dominant candidates to revolutionize the HVAC industry.
- Computing heating systems – Various technologies that aim to harness the heat produced by servers and other kind of computers
- Evaporative cooling systems that can be used anywhere– Technologies relying on the evaporative cooling process combined with innovative dehumidifying solutions that could make ECs suitable to be used in fully enclosed spaces even in the areas with the most humid climate conditions
- Smart air conditioners powered by AI– Technologies that primarily rely on artificial intelligence in order to achieve better levels of efficiency by implementing machine learning components to provide better control over the energy consumption
- Geothermal air conditioners– This kind of air conditioning is based on the fact that the underground temperature is always around 55 degrees throughout the whole year which can be used for cooling and heating homes in the areas with extremely cold winters and extremely hot summers
- Magnetic air conditioners– A new kind of air conditioning units based on so-called magnetocaloric materials that are used as the main coolants