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Home > Resource Conservation > Heat  > Small Area Heat/Cool > Cool

Resource Conservation: Heat: Small Area Heat/Cool: Cooling

Heat and cool Fan
Americans spend almost 200 billion kilowatt-hours each year in electricity cooling their homes. We will explore some of the alternatives for cooling small areas (less than 2,000 sq feet). Mainly, this is "portable" cooling but some solutions are more permanent. 

 

Passive Fan Evaporative Cooler Heat Pump Air Conditioner Videos

Passive Cooling:

General Comments:

breeze at nightPassive cooling takes advantage of how heat flows naturally. A rock, for instance, will warm up when the sun shines on it. At night, that rock will release heat into the cooler night air.
     Passive cooling is not a new concept, however these days, many seek to incorporate features of this type of cooling where they live. Passive cooling can be done many ways and can keep your cooling bill way down. As a matter of fact, if your home (business) is designed for this you may not have a bill for cooling.

Some passive cooling techniques can be:
  • Close curtains: Closing curtains (particularly south facing windows) can help shut out the suns warming effect.
     
  • Shade: Shading south facing windows with an awning or by planting a tree, can save a ton off of your cooling bill.
     
  • Reflective Coatings: Most reflective coatings are white and are painted on roofs and exterior walls. They are designed to reflect the suns rays. May not be that cost effective.
     
  • Low or Undergrade Air Chamber: A method of bringing cool outside air into the bottom of your house and letting it vent out the top.
     
  • Radiative Cooling: Takes advantage of bulky items storing heat. Insolated by day, radiative at night.
     
  • More: There are more ways to passively cool but we will not go into all of them here.

Energy Efficient:

The use of these techniques are highly energy efficient. Why? They are passive, of course. However, the efficiency calculation has to begin with the cost of implementing your passive system.
     Some of these ideas will save a lot of energy and some will save a little. This will also depend on the size of your home (business) and how hot it gets. The first thing to ask yourself is, can you bear the cost of cooling your home with the methods you currently employ.
     Curtains: we do not have a good estimate of savings but may be 2% to 5% savings. You would also need curtains.
     Shade: An awning may cost a bit and may detract from the look of your house. A tree may look better but be careful that it does not grow too tall. May save 5% to 10% of energy costs
Reflective Coatings: In general, the saddle point for this being a cost effective way to reduce heating bill is for buildings below the 40th parallel. Some coatings have been reported to reflect 85% of the suns rays.
     Low or undergrade air chamber: Usually this depends on having a hole cut into your house at a low level (shaded side). Another hole cut into the floor to allow the air to pass. Also, a hole at the top of the house to let the air out. This can make a big difference on your energy bill (perhaps 50% to 70% savings).
     Radiative Cooling: Can pretty much replace cooling system but some of these techniques need to be designed into the house when built. Some possible ways to do it after the home is built and can save a lot of money (on energy). However, initial costs could be in the $10's of thousands. You may be able to achieve return on investment in 5-10 years.

Installation:

There is quite a range of projects here. Some are do-it-yourself and some you may need a contractor. The best thing to do is to start free and small. As you save your money, you can do the bigger things.  To find a contractor in your area you may want to look them up on Angie's List.

Disposal:

Awnings and chunks of your house that you cut away may be able to be recycled. You need to check with your recycler or the charity that you possibly give the materials to.
     The roof coating is water based acrylic. After application, it washes off the application tools with soapy water. The MSDS accounts for about 35% of the contents being Calcium Carbonate (bicarbonate), Titanium Oxide, and Quartz. About 1-3% of this is VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) which are emitted during curing. California residences check for Proposition 65 compliance.
The roof coating contains no RCRA materials so it is non hazardous and can be disposed of in the land fill.
      Some of the other materials that could be used in this section are too numerous for us to try to track. However, you may want to follow one of the links below to answer your questions.

Our Picks:

We found some products that may help you with your passive cooling needs. You can find them at our Amazon.com store. There may be some tax breaks and rebates for some of your passive cooling activities.

 

Fan:

General Comments:

fan picsA fan is a very simple way to move air around. However, there are many things on the market that make moving air really cheap or really expensive (thanks Dyson). One can get a fan for as little as $10 or as much as $400, we will talk about that later.
     A fan can help move air around, which is helpful if you are in the path of that moving air on a hot day. The fan does not make the air cooler but it does help the sweat evaporate off of your body. This has a cooling effect for your body.  For heating it can move warm air around your house.
Fans can be very loud and very quiet. However, most on their lowest setting will be very quiet. When you are in the path of a fan on a high setting (with blades) you may get the buffeting feeling. The Dyson will not do that at any setting.
    You can use a fan by itself or with one or more of the other methods talked about here. Doing this may increase the effectiveness of the other method without a lot of power consumption.

Energy Efficient:

The efficiency of a fan is going to depend on how you use them. Many fans will be somewhere between 10 and 50 watts. If you are moving cool/warm air from area generated to area needed then that could be an efficient use of the fan. 25 watts may be a small price to pay to get your bedroom cooled down (warmed up) if the cooling/warming device is in the living room.
    A good fan will move a lot of air and a poor one will not. Most fans that you will buy will move about the same amount of air for a given power (except one).
The Dyson company has created something called the Dyson Air Multiplier (fan). This is not a simple fan and as the name implies, it can move a lot of air. How much? In the literature we have read as much as 15 times. This makes the device highly effective when moving a lot of air.  
     Just because the fan moves 15 times the air that it receives at the input of the fan does not mean it is 15 times more efficient at moving air as a normal fan. From the reviews we have seen, however, the efficiency is approximately the same as a regular fan (air moved/watt).

Installation:

What can we say about installation? A portable fan is something you plug in and start. However, some fans are the big permanent ceiling fans. A ceiling fan may be a do-it-yourself project but we suggest you consult the services of an electrician before you take on a project like that. To find a contractor in your area you may want to look them up on Angie's List.

Disposal:

Fans can be made out of a bunch of things. The motors are generally a lot of recyclable metal and the power cords as well. Some, with remote controls will have a circuit board to receive the signals and control settings.
     Some may have a separate oscillating motor with metal in it. The rest of the parts could be a number of other materials.
     Fan blades could be wood, metal, plastic, or even rubber. Metal and wood would tend to be the most recyclable but you would have to check. The other materials are generally not.
     If the fan has a cage around it the possible materials are metal or plastic. The metal would tend to be scrap aluminum but could be another metal.
The stand or base could be metal or plastic. metal can be recycled but the plastic would generally not be.
     There will usually be a difference between cheap fans and expensive fans as far as the types of plastic used. The cheap fans will have cheap plastic and tend not to be recyclable.
     The Dyson fan is made from a sturdy thermoplastic and is not cheap. We looked all over their site but could not find a "buy back" program for their products at the end of their life.

Our Picks:

There is a company out there that are experts with portable heat/cool systems. They are Air & Water Inc. They have a big selection of portable heat/cool units.   We can not recommend, at this time, the Dyson fan product because from the mixed reviews we have found. We are not convinced that one would gain enough efficiency advantage to get a reasonable return on investment.

Shop Air-n-Water.com!

Greencompletely.com is an affiate of Air & Water, Inc.

Evaporative (Swamp) Cooler:

General Comments:

These units are not air conditioners in the traditional sense of an air conditioner. The main principle behind evaporative coolers is that air passes through water. As it does, the water evaporates and cools the air passing through. This increases the humidity of the air leaving the unit to between 50 - 80% humidity and can change the air temperature 15-40 deg F.
     Swamp coolers, in general, operate better in areas that have low humidity.
Mainly the unit operates a fan, and possibly a water pump. Some models may purify the air, and some have other features. Some models can have 2 stages to help bring the humidity level down and/or to make the cooling power better.
     Consumer Reports have a few choice words about evaporative coolers. Some evaporative coolers they test do not deliver the promised results in their laboratories.

Energy Efficient:

Evaporative coolers can use up to 75% less energy than air conditioner units that cool areas of the same size. They can do this by the simplicity of the design (only powering a fan and possibly a water pump).
     The dry climates of the Southwest are best suited for this type of cooler, however, they can be a reasonable choice in Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Idaho.
The evaporative cooler may need a little more upkeep than an air conditioner. This may include; adding water and periodically cleaning filters.
     When operating a swamp cooler with a second stage it may consume a little more power but you will still be well under the power consumption of an air conditioner

Installation:

Since these are portable devices there is little installation. However, you will need to make sure the filters are installed and the water is poured in. To find a contractor in your area you may want to look them up on Angie's List.

Disposal:

If you are replacing an old air conditioning unit you will need to dispose of that properly. Some areas have a rebate or bounty on your old air conditioner. Check our "Tax Breaks and Rebates" section for information in your area. The main things worried about in old air conditioners is the refrigerant used but there could be other disposal issues with an air conditioner in your area. The evaporative cooler may have a reasonable amount of metal to recycle. The other parts tend to be un recyclable plastic and the wicks and filters could be paper based that needs to be thrown away.

Our Picks:

There is a company out there that are experts with portable heat/cool systems. They are Air & Water Inc. They have a big selection of portable heat/cool units.   They have a large selection of evaporative (swamp) coolers.

Shop Air-n-Water.com!

Greencompletely.com is an affiate of Air & Water, Inc.

Heat Pump:

General Comments:

heat pump picHeat pumps have such a simple name. Yes, they pump heat from place to place and can be used to cool or warm your home. If you want your home (business) cool you "pump" the heat to the outside. Likewise, if you want your building warm you pump heat in from the outside.
     That makes heat pumps a very versatile selection for your heating/cooling needs. Mostly thought of being a part of central air conditioning, these units are also portable (set on a window or hole in the wall).
In the summer, they operate as a normal air conditioner and in the winter it is the reverse (like you are cooling the outside of your home). There is a compressor filled with refrigerant that is at the heart of the system.
     One disadvantage is they have an outside temperature range. This is reached somewhere between 22F to 30F. If you where to turn your heat pump on at that point (or cooler) the unit would just continue to run because it would not be able to achieve temperature.
     Some bigger heat pumps may have a second stage to allow the operating temperature to go lower or higher. If they don't heat pump units will have aux. heat, with is a heating coil that will always work.

Energy Efficient:

People are encouraged to buy these types of units because of their efficiency. However, as described above the efficiency is seen at higher temperatures. If it is 50 deg F. outside you could be saving 50% to 60% over a conventional heater. As the outside temperature drops the efficiency gets less until you are using the conventional (electric coil) heater below 30 deg F. Also, you have just 1 heating/cooling system, not two types. The electric coil is built into the heat pump so it is all the same system. Therefore, a heat pump is best suited for places that have a temperature range between 40 deg F to 90 deg F on average.
     The cost may be on par with an air conditioner but you get more utility out of this unit. Common in hotels.

Installation:

Installation of a portable unit cold be a little complicated. Most of the time, however, you just slide the unit into the window or the hole in the wall and plug it in. If you need to make the hole you may want to consult a general contractor to help you with that task.  To find a contractor in your area you may want to look them up on Angie's List.

Disposal:

Continual waste: Since this unit operates on electricity it does not burn anything. In general replacing (or rinsing) the filters should be about the only waste from this type of unit. An air filter is usually mostly paper and can be thrown away (not recycled). The plastic type can be reused many times (just rinse).
End of life waste: A portable heat pump is 50 to 100 lbs of metal, plastic and some circuit boards. The main item you need to throw away carefully is the reservoir that contains the refrigerant.
     The metals in these units can be recycled and the compressors may be. Also, the manufacturer or an HVAC specialist may be able to take back your old unit.
Depending on the age of the unit, the refrigerant could be bad or not as bad. R-12 and R-22 were common refrigerants 30 years ago until that pesky hole in the Ozone layer was detected. These refrigerants contained CFC's that was linked to ozone destruction. Many other candidate refrigerants where use or are being developed but the main one today is R-410a (combination of R-32  and R-125).
Older units may also contain PCB's (a toxic substance banned in 1976).

Our Picks:

There is a company out there that are experts with portable heat/cool systems. They are Air & Water Inc. They have a big selection of portable heat/cool units.   They sell air conditioner/ heat pump combination units. There prices are very competitive with the rest of the industry.

 

Shop Air-n-Water.com!

Greencompletely.com is an affiate of Air & Water, Inc.

Air Conditioners:

General Comments:

Small air conditioners have been operating the same way for many years. Basically the unit uses electricity to push around a refrigerant. They will fit in an open window or into a hole in the wall that you cut.
     They mostly compress and vaporize the refrigerant to make the air inside cooler and the air outside warmer.
They also reduce the humidity of the air, usually to about 30% humidity.

Energy Efficient:

Well, since efficiency for the other methods are compared to air conditioners, this must be the bottom of the barrel. However, we do not need to snap to judgment here. There have been a lot of advancement in the technology of air conditioners. Air conditioners bring cool air into a room quickly and can cool the room down very quickly.
     ENERGYSTAR also has a qualification for air conditioners. If you buy an ENERGYSTAR approved air conditioner it will be about 10% more efficient than conventional air conditioners.
These types of units could be used in conjunction with some of the other technology discussed here to help lessen the use of this type of device. This can save energy and money in the long run. Also, since you are cooling a small area, the unit does not need to be running all day. It may run for an hour when you get home and then turned off the rest of the time. Judicious use of one of these units may cost just as much as some of the other methods.

Installation:

This may be a little more complicated than some of the other methods. It is awkward to maneuver and heavy (some). You will either put it into an open window or a hole in the wall (which you may need a contractor for). In the "Video" section of the web site we point you to some videos on how to install portable air conditioners. To find a contractor in your area you may want to look them up on Angie's List.

Disposal:

Since much of the same parts are used for a heat pump we will just copy and paste what we said there:

Continual waste: Since this unit operates on electricity it does not burn anything. In general replacing (or rinsing) the filters should be about the only waste from this type of unit. An air filter is usually mostly paper and can be thrown away (not recycled). The plastic type can be reused many times (just rinse).
End of life waste: A portable heat pump is 50 to 100 lbs of metal, plastic and some circuit boards. The main item you need to throw away carefully is the reservoir that contains the refrigerant.
     The metals in these units can be recycled and the compressors may be. Also, the manufacturer or an HVAC specialist may be able to take back your old unit.
Depending on the age of the unit, the refrigerant could be bad or not as bad. R-12 and R-22 were common refrigerants 30 years ago until that pesky hole in the Ozone layer was detected. These refrigerants contained CFC's that was linked to ozone destruction. Many other candidate refrigerants where use or are being developed but the main one today is R-410a (combination of R-32  and R-125).
Older units may also contain PCB's (a toxic substance banned in 1976).

Our Picks:

There is a company out there that are experts with portable heat/cool systems. They are Air & Water Inc. They have a big selection of portable heat/cool units.   They have very good air conditioners and easy terms for shipping the units. They also have a great variety of units to choose from.

 

Shop Air-n-Water.com!

Greencompletely.com is an affiate of Air & Water, Inc.

Videos:

We make videos but also realize some exist already. Have a look.

How A Dyson Air Multiplier Works:
How Evaporative Cooler Works:
Installing A Portable Air Conditioner:

There are a ton of videos on YouTube for installing a portable air conditioner unit. We thought it best to provide you with a link to the area on YouTube that has a bunch. Link to YouTube videos that show portable air conditioner installation.

How a Heat Pump Works:

A bit cheesy but a reasonable treatment of how heat pumps work.


Or you can watch this on YouTube.

More Videos:

As we research more, more videos will come. Some may even be done by us.

 

__________________________________________________

Green Calculator:

We would normally create a green calculator here. However, we have found a web site that helps you find your SEER calculation. Normally SEER calculations are made for more permanent HVAC systems but you can get an idea here of how powerful of a system you can choose.
Go to ACDoctor here.

Glossary Of Terms:

Passive Heating/Cooling: The act of using the natural heat flow process to warm or cool your home or business.

Reflective Coating: A coating painted on a surface to reflect the rays of the sun.

Refrigerant: A liquid used in refrigerators and air conditioners. Involved in the process of cooling air. Some are considered hazardous waste. The most current refrigerant used is R-410a.

S.E.E.R.: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Usually used for permanent HVAC systems but can be used to calculate your needs for portable devices.
V.O.C.: Volatile Organic compounds. Compounds that are evaporated off of materials as they dry.

R.C.R.A.: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Materials that are classified as hazardous (or toxic). 

P.C.B.: Polychlorinated biphenyls. Classified a toxic substance in 1976.

C.F.C.: chlorofluorocarbon. A common substance used as refrigerants, propellants and solvents. 

H.V.A.C.: Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.

References: