New Cooler Combines Comfort, Efficiency
Energy Services Bulletin
A revolutionary new cooling technology that delivers the comfort of an air conditioner with the efficiency of an evaporative cooler is creating a big buzz among utilities and energy and facility managers.
Coolerado, located in Arvada, Colo., puts a 21st century spin on evaporative cooling. R&D Magazine’s 100 Awards program hailed the system as one of the year’s most technologically significant products introduced to the world in 2004. Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation have partnered with the company on demonstrations.
“It cools as well as an air conditioner, and on a third the amount of electricity,” said OEMC Senior Deputy Director Ed Lewis. “It doesn’t have a compressor, there are no greenhouse gas effects and unlike a swamp cooler, it doesn’t release water into the air that enters the building.”
Technology mimics air conditioning
Because the Coolerado cooler uses water to cool, people often mistakenly compare it to direct evaporative, or swamp coolers. The traditional, refrigerant-based air conditioner is a more apt comparison.
The unit draws fresh outside air from the supply side. A heat and mass exchanger removes the heat from the product air similar to the way an air conditioner cools the air stream with refrigerant-filled cooling coils.
Both the Coolerado Cooler and the conventional air conditioner reject heat into the atmosphere outside the building. The AC rejects heat as hot air, while the Coolerado unit rejects it as water vapor. Swamp coolers add moisture to the air and do not reject heat.
Unlike conventional AC units, the Coolerado uses no ozone-depleting chemicals and has only one energy-consuming component the fan. Setting the Coolerado apart from traditional indirect evaporative coolers are a unique wetting system, a heat and mass exchanger made of unusual material and the way the air flows through the modular HMX. “The heat and mass exchanger is what does most of the work, like the engine of the car,” said company President Rick Gillan.
The HMX is made of plastic-coated, cellulose blend fiber in a geometric design that cools both the product and working air streams. This cascading incremental airflow creates a new thermodynamic cycle called the Maisotsenko Cycle after Dr. Valeriy Maisotsenko who discovered it. Dr. Maisotsenko is a partner in Idalex Technologies, Coolerado’s parent company.
Consumer demonstrations show promise
Gillan estimates that more than half the world’s cooling applications could benefit from a Coolerado system. “This product helps from both the power consumption and power production sides.”
Coolerado’s first commercial demonstration with the OEMC and Mount St. Vincent Home in northwest Denver illustrated the cooler’s consumer value. A project team installed a model C676 on the roof of the attic above the school’s computer lab in 2003. The unit cooled the poorly insulated, century-old building to 74 degrees using 80 percent less power than an air conditioner.
SMUD Project Manager Dave Bisbee met Idalex representatives at an evaporative cooling meeting where he was sharing his utility’s experiences with an indirect/direct system. “The technology has been fraught with problems,” he said. “I told vendors that IDECs won’t take off until the reliability improves.”
Gillan considered that a challenge and offered SMUD a Coolerado system to test. “We decided to test the Coolerado at a school that has been experiencing chronic problems with their IDECs. They had nothing to lose,” said Bisbee, “and if it works, the school has the option of replacing all of its IDEC units with Coolerados.”
SMUD’s Customer Advanced Technologies Program sponsored the replacement of an IDEC on a Sacramento school with the Coolerado in August 2004. The first thermal measurements were impressive, but the true test will be a full cooling season, said Bisbee. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” he admitted. “We would like to see a unit work reliably for three or four years.”
Agreement to increase availability
On the power production side, the Coolerado could be used to improve the performance of combustion turbines. In summer, when electricity demand is at its highest, high temperatures can cut a turbine’s output by up to 30 percent. Cooling the intake air with a Coolerado could restore the turbine’s efficiency without drawing significant power.
OEMC is looking at installing a unit on some of its demonstration microturbines. Another California utility has approached Coolerado about a similar installation at one of its gas-driven peaking plants. Gillan said that the company has enough HMXs in stock for one full-scale industrial project.
So far, Coolerado has picked its projects carefully and limited availability to select manufacturers and distributors. That will change soon, now that Idalex has entered into an agreement with Delphi Corp. to manufacture the patented heat and mass exchanger. “We anticipate that units will be more available to the general public by the end of the year,” said Gillan.
Market barriers still exist
With sufficient units in stock and an established manufacturer, the company would like to get utilities to include the Coolerado in incentive programs. Tri-State Generation and Transmission and Colorado Springs Utilities are among the utilities that have expressed interest in the efficient coolers, according to Gillan.
Bisbee believes the Coolerado must clear a few hurdles to be widely accepted into utility rebate programs. The unit must prove its reliability over extended operation, and consumers need to know what the projected maintenance requirements are. “Every system has maintenance requirements,” he noted, “and evaporative coolers historically have a big problem with scaling [mineral buildup from water].”
A local vendor network would encourage utilities to offer rebates for the system, too, he added. Bisbee concluded, “I really want to see this technology work like they say it does.”
You can almost hear those words echoed by Coolerado’s inventors, utilities, facility managers and homeowners everywhere.