Coolerado Colorado has a hot A/C idea

Denver Business Journal

Coolerado Colorado has a hot A/C idea

Denver Business Journal
by Sharon Gillen
Link to Article

Billed as the most efficient air conditioner ever made, the Coolerado Cooler may be one of the hottest inventions ever to come out of Colorado — and has left the A/C industry frozen in astonishment.

The revolutionary new air conditioner uses water to fuel the cooling process — but that’s where its similarity to an evaporative cooler ends. It requires no chemical refrigerants and, according to testing done by the U.S. Department of Energy, consumes about one-fourth the electricity of a traditional air conditioner.

R&D magazine’s 100 Awards program picked the Coolerado Cooler as one of the most technologically significant products introduced to the world in 2004.

Based in Arvada, the Coolerado’s patented technology is as hot as it gets.

Coolerado’s president, Rick Gillan, said when it was unveiled at an industry trade show, “We were completely inundated” by crowds of A/C industry insiders who were stunned at what the system could do and how it did it.

“People are going nuts — it’s that new and different,” he said.

The Coolerado ” brings in fresh air and filters that air and doesn’t add any humidity to it,” Gillan said. Plus, it can reach much lower temperatures than evaporative coolers can achieve: A test showed it can even cool 160-degree air to 60 degrees in minutes.

Coolerado chief scientist Valeriy Maisotsenko said in a press release, “We meet engineers and scientists on a daily basis that tell us this is theoretically and practically impossible. They become believers when they feel it for themselves.”

The key to the Coolerado is a heat and mass exchanger (HMX) that uses a unique, patented thermodynamic cycle system. Each HMX produces 0.9 ton of cooling. A 2,500-square-foot space, for example, would need six units. The modular design of the HMX makes it especially easy to adjust the capacity.

The HMX concept was born 35 years ago in Ukraine through the work of Maisotsenko, who holds a doctorate in thermal sciences and moved to the United States in 1992.

In the fall of 1999, Gillan had a chance to see what he calls “a crude prototype” of the system in Maisotsenko’s garage.

Gillan and his two brothers, Alan and Lee — all three of them engineers — saw the potential. In short order, they formed Idalex Technologies, parent firm of Coolerado, and began developing and refining the “Maisotsenko Cycle” system.

As Gillan explains it, “With evaporative cooling, you can cool air to the wet-bulb temperature of air,” by adding water to the air, thus cooling it. “We saw that this technology had the capability to cool below that [temperature level] without adding moisture into the air. … You get cooler temperatures and more comfortable air” than with a traditional air conditioner “which dries out the air.”

“We could see that the science was there; it just needed to be engineered.” Three and a half years of engineering and lots of prototypes later, the Coolerado Cooler was ready.

Several private investors came on board in an initial round of raising funds, which closed in November 2004. “We have tons of people who still want to invest, but we’ve said no,” Gillan said.

The company’s first customer was Mount Saint Vincent Children’s Home at 4159 Lowell Blvd., Denver, where a unit was installed in 2003 under a program of the Governor’s Office of Energy Management & Conservation. The cooler keeps two classrooms and the computer lab at 74 degrees. According to Coolerado’s data, it uses one-fifth the power of a traditional air conditioner.

Sister La Vonne Guidoni of Mount Saint Vincent Home said of the system, “It’s been wonderful. Our third floor was so, so hot. It’s made education much more pleasant.”

She said not only is the air kept cool and comfortable, but with no noise. “You don’t even know it’s there,” she said. “It’s very impressive.”

Only a handful of the Coolerado Coolers have been sold directly to users — locally, to such customers as Bradford Publishing in downtown Denver and the Colorado School of Mines.

The bulk of the company’s business has been selling the technology within the industry and for industrial uses in the United States and abroad — from Japan, Egypt and Germany to the Philippines. The system, Gillan explained, is attracting praise not only for its cooling abilities but for the way it reduces unwanted humidity in machinery or strictly controlled environments. Utility companies and groups devoted to energy efficiency have been lining up as well.

“There is tons of demand,” Gillan said. “Right now, we’re on line to produce maybe 400-600 this year.”

A recently signed agreement gives Delphi Corp. (NYSE: DPH) of Troy, Mich., exclusive rights to manufacture the heat and mass exchangers. Delphi expects to begin production in the third quarter of this year.

Gillan said the units should be on the consumer market next spring and cost about twice as much as a swamp cooler.

As for the future, Gillan and the rest of the Coolerado team see no end in sight for ways to use the technology — from retrofitting regular A/C condensers to cut their electricity usage in half to “cooling just about anything that needs cooling.”