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.