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Start-ups Seek Improved AC

With the backing of major HVAC manufacturers, start-ups are working to make air conditioners that are capable of easing the strain on the power grid, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: “Companies such as Blue Frontier, Transaera and Montana Technologies are raising money from investors including industry giant Carrier Global … to develop more efficient technologies. Many of those efforts focus on the humidity rather than the heat, using new materials like liquid salt to dry out the air.”

Why it’s important: The number of air conditioners in use worldwide is expected to more than double by the middle of the century, to 5.5 billion, with many units likely to be inefficient.

  • “Stalwarts such as Carrier and Trane Technologies say they are spending billions of dollars to offer more efficient versions of conventional ACs while evaluating the new approaches.”

A different AC unit: Traditional air-conditioning units work by converting refrigerants from gas to liquid and then back again, while circulating air with fans. They are unable to remove humidity without cooling the air, which is what makes them inefficient, according to the article.   

  • “Blue Frontier aims to separate humidity and temperature control using a liquid salt solution that was developed with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The solution also stores energy, reducing consumption at peak times, when electricity grids are strained on hot days.
  • Innovation is also required to make air conditioning affordable for people in developing nations, according to the Journal.

More investment: “The need for new approaches is pushing Carrier to make venture investments to complement its other growth strategies, said Jennifer Anderson, Carrier’s chief sustainability officer. Trane is investing in startups like data-center-cooling company LiquidStack while looking at new technology approaches, CEO Dave Regnery said.”

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