Air conditioning trudges into the 21st century

Diligent plant professionals are conscious of the energy content found in each cubic foot of compressed air. They keep alert for those small system defects that can be righted easily and cheaply. Think leaks, excessive header pressure, and inappropriate applications for that air. There are measures the plant engineers can implement to keep compressor efficiency as high as possible.

Another process that deserves perhaps as much attention to efficiency is the industrial HVAC system, in particular the cost to condition the air to make is suitable for office areas. Again, a compressor is involved, but this time it’s for a refrigerant that absorbs the thermal energy found in the incoming air. There’s also the matter of the environmental consequences of a refrigerant leak.

Relief is at hand, assuming that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., can get one of its new patents commercialized. Researchers there found a way to eliminate the need for the refrigerant and compressor in an air conditioning process. A press release from June 11, 2010, titled “Energy Saving A/C Conquers All Climates” offers a brief explanation of how membranes, evaproative cooling, and desiccants team up to eliminate the costly aspects of air conditioning.

The laboratory is seeking one or more licensees to help bring this technology to market. I hope some manufacturer of HVAC hardware jumps into this opportunity with both feet, thereby helping the U.S. economy, the world’s air quality, and the corporate bottom line.