Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

5 New Air Conditioning Technologies to Keep You Cool

August 3, 2017

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Episode 5: The Future of Cool

Listen to our Direct Current podcast on "The Future of Cool," where new technologies like magnet-based air conditioning and personalized robots will transform how we save on energy costs and stay comfortable.

Most people look forward to enjoying the summer sun and beating the heat in a cool, air-conditioned building. However, those dreading their summer energy bills know the dog days of summer can mean high energy consumption at a high price!

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, space cooling will consume an estimated 1.28 quadrillion British thermal units across the United States in 2017—that’s equivalent to almost 39 million homes’ electricity use in a year. And that energy use adds up.

In residential buildings, space cooling alone makes up 9% of a home’s total energy consumption. Additionally, typical air conditioning units use fluorocarbon refrigerants as a coolant, which, if leaked, can lessen the efficiency of an AC system and negatively impact the environment. However, proper maintenance of your air conditioner can go a long way in helping to keep you cool and increase the efficiency of your HVAC equipment during its lifetime.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office is working on some exciting new air conditioning technologies to greatly reduce energy use. This will help you beat the heat and save some money on your energy bill.

Here are 5 cool projects we’re currently developing:

  • Optimized Thermal Systems in Maryland is developing an advanced heat exchanger that minimizes joints by 90% compared to current models to reduce refrigerant leakage. By minimizing the joints, the refrigerant stays where it should be—working to keep your home cool and energy bills down.
  • The University of Florida is developing a prototype that combines a water heater, dehumidifier, and air cooler, which could result in more efficient heat transfer. This technology provides enhanced dehumidification control in residential buildings, resulting in better comfort and significant energy savings.
  • Dais Analytics in Florida, in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is developing a new membrane-based rooftop air conditioner, which would use water as a refrigerant instead of conventional chemicals. Not only is this technology perfect for sweltering, humid summer nights, but it could also save 30%-50% in electrical consumption compared to today’s roof top units.
  • United Technologies Research Center in Connecticut is exploring electrocaloric, solid-state technology to develop a heat pump that will keep a space cool without using any chemical refrigerants. This technology is ideal for residential and small commercial buildings. It’s small and quiet, and could result in 25% system efficiency improvement. And, with fewer mechanical parts, overall reliability could be improved—reducing your chances of losing A/C in the midst of a heat wave!
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, in partnership with Georgia Tech and IntelliChoice Energy, is developing an energy storage system that integrates with HVAC units to reduce the overall energy requirements of A/C systems by utilizing waste-heat that would otherwise be lost in traditional systems. Integrating ground-level diverse energy storage with HVAC could reach overall energy storage efficiency of 70% and improve HVAC performance by 35%.

Learn more about our current work with HVACs.