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Green Building News

An HVAC Specialist Builds a Greener Air Conditioner

A cooler shade of green Beutler Corporation, one of Northern California’s major heating, ducting, and air-conditioning specialists, adapted commercial cooling technology to its AquaChill water-cooled evaporative air conditioner, which is designed for residential use.
Image Credit: Beutler Corporation

Looking to increase its foothold in the green retrofit market, a Northern California HVAC company builds an energy efficient air conditioner

The summer heat in California’s Central Valley often is as intense and dry as the summer weather that bakes the deserts of the Southwest. Air conditioning in California’s inland valleys is considered a necessity, which is why, during the housing boom, HVAC specialists such as Beutler Corporation were kept extraordinarily busy installing systems in new homes.

As the housing market stalled, though, Beutler had to find new ways to grow its business, and so began expanding its green repertoire. Its new-home and retrofit products and services now include installations of solar roof tiles (one version uses 62-watt panels, the other a combination of 72- and 142-watt panels) as well as high-efficiency heating and cooling systems with variable speed blowers, programmable zoned controls, tight duct systems, and air filtration options.

Beutler also took on the inefficiencies of conventional air conditioners by designing and building a green variant in-house. The company’s AquaChill air conditioner uses water, rather than air, to cool the machine’s condenser coil, allowing it to operate at relatively high efficiency even when the temperature outside tops 100 degrees.

On very hot, dry days, it can be 40% more efficient than even the best conventional units, Michael Keesee, who has been managing a Sacramento Municipal Utility District pilot test of the AquaChill, told the Sacramento Bee for a story published this week.

The paper noted that SMUD has been monitoring the performance of about 30 AquaChill units Beutler installed in local homes last year. The utility is offering a $1,100 rebate on at least 200 AquaChill units this summer, and likely will offer unlimited rebates starting this fall if the product continues to perform well.

At about $10,000 apiece, including installation, the units certainly are not cheap, although a SMUD rebate would take out a fair amount of the sting, as would the $1,500 federal tax credit, available through 2010, for energy efficiency upgrades. If the AquaChill does gain traction in the market, it could seriously dent summer energy usage in the Sacramento area, where air conditioners can account for nearly half of peak demand on a hot afternoon.

4 Comments

  1. Andrew Henry | | #1

    Using water for cooling in a place with little water
    From the Sacramento bee article

    "The AquaChill's water consumption – as much as 5 gallons an hour on the hottest days – is a drawback, Parks said. He noted, though, that most power plants also consume water – in cooling towers – which to some degree offsets the AquaChill's usage."

    It may save water, when you consider "factor ten" savings with "end use energy efficiency". Still it make syou wonder.

  2. Samm | | #2

    So what are we waiting for?
    So what are we waiting for? Industrialize it! High energy use of thermoelectric systems is a problem we are currently facing, a green air conditioning system may become a necessity.
    Samm at Austin hvac

  3. Roger | | #3

    Poor Title - it is NOT an AC but an EC Evaporative Cooler
    Like so many in the industry, people try to confuse evaporative coolers with air conditioners. This is to keep from getting lumped in with swamp coolers and to obfuscate the discussion. As Andrew pointed out, the water consumption is a big issue for most people. What we need is a true AC unit that uses water.

  4. Jeff Davis | | #4

    Not An Evap. Cooler ...
    Roger ... perhaps you didn't read correctly. This is a standard air conditioning unit. The HUGE difference is that instead of using strictly air to cool the condenser it uses water combined with air. Water cooling is substantially more efficient and makes the unit operate at peak performance even on the hottest days. Even a 5 gallon per day usage of water the savings in electricity is far more substantial. That really isn't much at all when you look at the big picture. I plan on having one installed in my home as soon as I need a new unit. It would be perfect for use here in Phoenix. The 110+ temps dramatically cut the efficiency of standard air conditioning and make it work overtime. The use of water in the condenser will bring the efficiency back up to where it should be, and the unit will not be overtaxed on the hottest days.

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