NREL is always discovering and creating amazing things. This time, the team of scientists has invented an air conditioning process that is 90 percent more efficient than the top of the line units available today.
Air conditioning is responsible for about five percent of the nation’s annual energy use, so in addition to better insulated and better designed buildings, more efficient air conditioning units are a necessary stepping stone on our way to more efficient buildings.
The air conditioning process uses “membranes, evaporative cooling and liquid desiccants” to remove heat from the air. Evaporative cooling is a process that has only worked well in dry climates in the past because the cooled air has added humidity. NREL has solved that issue in their DEVap technology through the addition of the liquid desiccants, which remove humidity from the cooled air.
Another benefit of the DEVap process is that it uses salt solutions instead of the refrigerants chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFSs), which contribute about 2,000 pounds of CO2 per pound of refrigerant.
The DEVap technology will be under development for the next five years, but once NREL has it perfected, it will license it for commercial use. Luckily, the unit is designed to replace existing units with little changes necessary, so these could easily be phased in when the technology is ready.