It is almost a rite of passage, in Australia, to sit by an open door, waiting for the late afternoon breeze. Rising power bills, brown outs, blackouts, and network reliability issues mean more Australians are reconsidering buying an air-conditioning system. In fact, a quarter of Australian households don’t have a single air conditioning unit.
And it is hard to blame them. Air-conditioning is a paradox. As the planet heats up, we are increasingly driven to cooling systems. But our beloved air-conditioning units release emissions into the air, driving up the heat. Further, this process is repeated with our power bills. During heatwaves, we attempt to heat our homes, creating a demand for more power. This over-demand, in turn, drives up energy prices. And our love for open plan homes isn’t helping, using more energy and power to cool our homes.
Thanks to the advent of air-conditioning, heat-related deaths have dropped dramatically. But with the future of power in Australia so vulnerable, how do we protect our most vulnerable from losing access to cooling completely? Scientist and experts in global warming are pushing for an increase in innovation, to keep up with our growing population and rising heat. While Elon Musk has thrown down the gauntlet with his offer of Tesla batteries, the future of air-conditioning innovation looks bright.
Join us as we look at some emerging air-conditioning systems that will change the way we see the future of cooling!
Traditional air-conditioners are huge energy consumers, contributing up to 16% of a household’s energy use. This is because traditional air-conditioning works by changing refrigerant into gas, compressing and cooling it.
Scientists are currently working on a system that uses magnets in the place of compressors and refrigerants, using the magnetocaloric effect. This effect occurs when magnetic materials heat up when exposed to a magnetic field, then cool when that field is removed. The magnetocaloric effect was first observed in 1881 but at the time was considered too small a change to be practical.
However, modern magnetocaloric metal alloys produce a much large effect, allowing air to be cold rapidly and repeatedly by exposing it to a magnetic field. Early attempts at magnetic air-conditioners use a wheel of magnetocaloric alloy that spins through a stationary magnetic field. The alloy heats up as it passes through the field, then cools as it passes through a gap in the same field. This gap allows for the field to cool the air in the room. Plain water is used to transfer away heat, eliminating the need for refrigerants.
While the magnetic air-conditioner does still need to run off electricity, it uses two-thirds of the energy of a traditional air-conditioner, and uses metals that are both cost-effective and environmentally safe.
As a result, the findings of the magnetic air-conditioner are so promising, that development on magnetic air-conditioners are being found across all sectors, including the private sector. However, early versions of this exciting new system will likely be applied for industrial use before residential.
Movement-Activated and WiFi Air Conditioning
With the push toward smart and fully-automated homes, it makes sense that our air-conditioning will also head in this direction. Products are slowly seeping onto the market that allow you to activate your air-conditioning from your smartphone before you even reach your door. Some brands even allow you to take things a step further, designating zones in your how with custom names, so you can turn air-conditioning on in only specific areas.
Other brands take things a step further, with air-conditioners only activating via movement. This means they won’t turn on unless there are people in the house or apartment. However, while this helps prevent issues with homeowners forgetting to turn their air-conditioning off, things can get complicated when you add pets to the mix!
Thermally Driven Air-Conditioning
Thermally driven air-conditioning use solar power and natural gas for power, rather than electricity. The double chiller on these systems creates more cooling capabilities than other systems and doesn’t rely on electricity.
However, with political issues currently surrounding natural gas, this might not be a viable option in the future. While solar is poised to play an enormous role in the future of energy, the technology is not perfect. The peak times for solar use are generally when most homeowners are working, unable to take advantage of the power.
Ice-powered air-conditioning is a newer technology that utilises a tank that freezes water in a tank overnight. This frozen water is then used to cool the building the next day. Ice-powered systems can cool for up to 6 hours before a traditional air-conditioner needs to take over.
While not as efficient as other options, 6 hours without using a traditional air-conditioner is promising!
Beam Me Up!
One of the most outlandish, experimental options at hand is the idea of beaming our excess heat into space. This is called radiative cooling. Our atmosphere allows for small wavelengths of heat to escape. Scientist are experimenting with this theory, by creating artificial vacuums to replicate that of space. Within half an hour, the heat of the object in the vacuum 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding air. There are exciting implications in this for the cooling of food and medicines.
However, it is far from a practical application at the moment, with most experiments requiring the use of zinc. Commercial and residential versions would need a safer, more cost-effective material. Further, cloudy skies prevent us from beaming heat out of the atmosphere, making this an nonviable option.
So What Can You Do Now?
Ensuring you have a well-maintained air-conditioner is the best way to save on your current energy bill. A well-running unit will keep down power costs and cools your house more efficiently. We recommend replacing an older system with a newer, more efficient one. If you need to organise a maintenance check up for your air-conditioner or replace your older unit, contact John’s Refair today! Our friendly staff will be happy to help you with your queries!