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 (RMI) are sponsoring a three million dollar prize as an incentive to develop new climate-friendly air conditioning technologies.

[updated June 30, 2019]

Close Comfort air conditioners already meet most of the requirements for this prize. Is Close Comfort entering the competition? Unfortunately the final competition rules dictate a one for one replacement for today’s room air conditioners. That means that Close Comfort’s solution, to minimise energy consumption by localising the air conditioning effect, does not comply. Nor do other ‘lateral thinking’ solutions such as incorporating phase change materials into the building structure for absorbing excess heat when needed.

Will the prize result in an air conditioning revolution? Will a new cooling technology emerge that is far more efficient than today’s vapour compression machines using refrigerant gases?

The aim of the competition is to provide an incentive to overcome what Iain Cambell of the RMI suggests is a market failure: retail customers are only interested in minimising the purchase cost of air conditioners. Therefore, he argues, manufacturers are not seeing price signals that would justify development of much more energy-efficient alternatives to the current vapour compression refrigeration technologies. While that might be true for consumers in many markets, there are incentives for energy efficiency in the industry today. Many developed countries have energy efficiency rating schemes encouraging people to buy 5-star rated appliances. Also, many business buyers are interested in minimising lifetime costs, particularly for commercial buildings. If there are significantly more energy-efficient technologies, they would be visible, even if only at the high-performance margins of the industry.

There has been considerable R&D on alternatives such as solid-sate Peltier cooling and Stirling cycle concepts. The patent literature readily tells you this has been happening, thanks to new tools available through Google patent searches.

Time will tell. Personally, I am not optimistic. Instead I see a bright future for Close Comfort style localised air conditioning technologies instead.

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 costClose Comfort basic model, with tent, is about 2/3 cost
5 X less climate impactClose 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 WattsClose Comfort needs only 300 Watts
Water less than 14 litres dailyClose Comfort gets the water it needs from the air by itself.
No emissions from onsite powerClose 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 homesClose Comfort needs no installation or building modification
Cooling to provide feeling equivalent to 27°C, 60% humidityClose 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!

One comment

  1. Pingback: Personal air conditioning: A low energy option for keeping your cool | One Step Off The Grid

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