Close Comfort can disrupt the air conditioning industry and help save the planet

Richard Branson has helped publicize the recently announced Global Cooling Prize on his blog, calling for disruption of the air conditioning industry. It’s nice to have forward thinking confirmed by others because Close Comfort already meets or exceeds most of the prize requirements!

Close Comfort can help save the planet by eliminating one of the largest predicted sources of greenhouse emissions, and this could be done soon enough to help avoid a climate catastrophe.

The UN’s panel of scientists on climate change issued their most recent report in October with an ambitious target to limit human-induced climate warming to 1.5°C. They predicted the consequences of greater warming would be too dangerous. We need to reduce global greenhouse emissions to zero preferably by 2045, no later than 2055 ( to avoid these consequences. It will take time for governments to come to terms with this report because the emission reduction targets require much faster and more drastic action than in the past.

Climate warming has already exceeded 1°C.

Figure 1: IPCC’s most recent Climate Change Forecast

Figure 2: IPCC’s emission reduction requirement

Rapidly increasing use of air conditioners, partly in response to global warming, is now becoming one of the greatest factors causing warming. Predictions indicate 0.5°C warming due to residential air conditioning by 2100 unless we make big changes soon.  This is so urgent that Richard Branson and the Rocky Mountains Institute are sponsoring a three million dollar prize as an incentive to develop new climate-friendly air conditioning technologies.

Close Comfort air conditioners already meet most of the requirements for this prize, and yes we are entering the competition.  Close Comfort is already available in five countries and we are scaling up production this year to meet demand.

Given appropriate finance and marketing, Close Comfort could replace practically all residential air conditioning within 20 years, well within the IPCC target.  At the same time, Close Comfort is far cheaper to own and operate.

Get on board now and help save the planet by switching to Close Comfort for your air conditioning, today!

The global warming impact of air conditioners comes partly from their energy consumption and also the leakage or eventual loss of refrigerant gas which typically has about one thousand times the global warming potential (GWP) as CO2.

The Global Cooling Prize criteria, stated relative to a typical 1.5 ton split system room air conditioner are shown below.

Prize Criteria
No more than 2 X cost Close Comfort basic model, with tent, is about 2/3 cost
5 X less climate impact Close Comfort uses 1/6 the power, and less than one sixth the amount of refrigerant gas. Soon Close Comfort will switch to a natural refrigerant with almost zero greenhouse impact.
Power less than 700 Watts Close Comfort needs only 300 Watts
Water less than 14 litres daily Close Comfort gets the water it needs from the air by itself.
No emissions from onsite power Close Comfort runs on solar during the day, and with batteries can eliminate most of the grid power requirement at night. We are working on designs that reduce night-time power consumption to 30 Watts.
Usable in existing homes Close Comfort needs no installation or building modification
Cooling to provide feeling equivalent to 27°C, 60% humidity Close Comfort provides this degree of cooling and is now being enjoyed by over 2000 families in South Asia, Indonesia and Australia


The prize organizers have called for a room air conditioner that meets these requirements.  Close Comfort is a localized air conditioning solution. Close Comfort cools people, not rooms. And that what is needed. Walls and floors don’t need cooling.

Now it’s over to you.  Engineers, the need to eliminate greenhouse emissions is the greatest opportunity for creative thinking and design in centuries.  I hope this example can inspire others to come up with similar ideas.  With commercial ideas that save people time and money and eliminate emissions at the same time, there’s much less need for government action!

Has Paul Romer missed something in development economics?

Paul Romer, chief economist at the World Bank until earlier this year, is certainly worthy of the recognition that comes with sharing the Nobel Prize for economics.

But, has he missed something, along with many others?

His famous 1990 paper on endogenous growth theory explained the success of Western economies in leveraging the power of ideas, creating enormous prosperity, and elevating the notion of “technology” as the key for economic growth. For the last decade, much of his effort has been focused on promoting economic development for the world’s poor, most of whom live in less developed countries.

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A great honour…

I was surprised and honoured to learn that I have been selected as a finalist in the professions category for West Australian of the Year:

I have to say thank you to those who nominated me first and the judging panel.  I also need to thank everyone who has been part of my life and the projects which were cited in the award and so many others too.  Thank you to all the Close Comfort team and so many customers who have bought our products.  Many good people at UWA, particularly in the engineering and mathematical sciences faculty, deserve recognition for all the help and support they have provided.  Thank you to my family and so many other people who have helped and supported me for so long.

Just one thing, since I have your attention.  We in Australia are so fortunate, a vast and richly endowed continent, with so many wonderful energetic people who care about the world.  We can help others build a better future for all.  I feel so fortunate that I have been able to help with ideas and inventions that could improve life for everyone,  especially those suffering from heat and inadequate drinking water.  Our future depends on how we help the least fortunate, everywhere, and at the same time help build a better world for our children and grandchildren.  There are lots of ways to help: please do what you can, either yourself or by supporting people who can make a difference.


Engineers: I need your help

I have taken on the job of editing a short book – 30 Second Engineering being published by Ivy Press.  The aim is to provide non-engineers with a quick introduction to what engineering is all about.

The book is part of a widely published, popular series and is likely to be translated into many languages.

Part of the challenge is to describe everything about engineering a non-engineer might want to know in 50 paragraphs of 220 words, each encapsulating a separate engineering topic!

Here’s a draft for mechatronics, just to give you an idea of the content we are aiming for.

I need your help with suggestions for famous engineers to be featured in the book, particularly engineers from Asian or other countries and not so well known in the English-speaking world.

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Energy Savers Cooling a Warming World

You probably know that I now spend most of my time running our little technology startup company Close Comfort.   We recently passed a significant milestone with over 1000 of our energy-saving air conditioners sold to happy customers.

It all started with my marriage to wonderful wife and partner Samina Yasmeen.  Living with her Pakistan family brought summer reality.

Two billion people South Asia dread the summer. Shimmering heat starts in March and April and stifling sweaty nights last into November.  Listless days follow nights of fitful sleep at 40C under noisy fans. A tiny privileged elite run energy guzzling split air conditioners, crippling electricity grids.

Load shedding, a novelty in Australia, is routine across south Asia and Africa: power is on and off every hour or two.  Batteries keep fans and LED lights on but the unit electricity cost soars.

Sustainable relief from heat and humidity is now in sight thanks to our energy-saving air conditioning technology.   It’s a great thrill that our air conditioners are now in 5 countries, albeit with small-scale marketing campaigns.

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Guide for Value Creation in the Engineering Enterprise (Updated March 4, 2018)

  • Engineers’ remuneration and recognition is strongly related to the value they create – a well-supporting finding in economics.
  • Our research shows that engineers today know little about value creation, and what little they do know does not align well with investors’ ideas.
  • We conclude therefore that engineers will be paid less than they think they are worth (which agrees with survey findings) and second, there is plenty of potential to improve engineers’ remuneration and recognition if they take the time to learn how to create value.

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The Great Artificial Intelligence Scam (Again)

{A longer version of this post appeared in the Australian Financial Review on August 18th under the title “When robots learn to lie, then we worry about AI“.}

Great claims are being made for artificial intelligence these days: AI.

Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s assistant, Apple’s Siri: these are all claimed as examples of AI.  Yet speech recognition is hardly new: we have seen steady improvements in software like Dragon for 20 years.

We have seen claims that AI with new breakthroughs like ‘deep learning’ could displace 2 million or more Australian workers from their jobs by 2030.

I was fortunate to discuss artificial intelligence with a philosopher, Julius Kovesi, in the 1970s as I led the team that eventually developed sheep shearing robots.  With great insight, he argued that robots, in essence, were built on similar principles to common toilet cisterns and were nothing more than simple automatons.  “Show me a robot that deliberately tells you a lie to manipulate your behaviour, and then I will accept you have artificial intelligence!” he exclaimed.

That’s the last thing we wanted in a sheep shearing robot, of course.

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