In summers of the future, you may not have to choose between keeping cool and saving money — at least, not if the BeCool HVAC system makes it big. While most air conditioning units suck up energy in order to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, the new device cools (or heats) the air while simultaneously charging a fuel cell. This means that your AC unit isn’t just using electricity — it’s generating it as well.
BeCool, the Florida-based startup behind the idea, has created a Power Tech system that uses natural gas, an easily and cheaply stored form of energy that is rarely used in ACs. But the real draw, of course, is the Power Tech’s ability to create electricity. The secret, Scientific American writes, lies in its innovative evaporative cooling and waste heat utilization.
As the publication explains, “Rather than a conventional compressor-driven air conditioner, Be Power Tech’s system uses an innovative desiccant-enhanced evaporative cooler … Like a conventional air conditioner, an evaporative cooler absorbs heat from inside a building using evaporation. However, the cooling is accomplished by evaporating water rather than a refrigerant. Hot, dry air is conditioned by pumping it over a pool of water that slowly evaporates and causes the air to become cooler and more humid as it passes through the system.”
And while evaporative cooling isn’t a new concept, they’re generally limited to places where the climate is hot and dry — not hot and humid. But to solve for this, Power Tech uses a desiccant to pull water out of the atmosphere before chilling it. And to get the water out of the desiccant, the system employs an onboard fuel cell.
Scientific American notes, “Power Tech’s system works … by using the fuel cell as a source of heat to dry out the desiccant used in the air conditioning side of the system. The electricity produced by the fuel cell is then fed to the building where it can be used for lighting, computers, and all sorts of other commercial loads.” It’s basically like having your cake and eating it too.
The BeCool system is meant to replace standard 10-ton AC systems. Field trials on commercial units will commence in 2017, and may enter the market by 2018.