Air conditioning wastes away


EC2-17 Pg36A new Australian product is set to change that way air conditioners cool a building. Paul Skelton reports.

Australia’s 45 million-odd air conditioning units consume nearly half of all electricity the country produces.

Presumably then, this market is on the cusp of a revolution.

An electrician by trade, Steve Heaton has spent the best part of a decade developing a new technology that addresses energy efficiency of air conditioners by repurposing the waste water generated by these systems.

With IP Kinetik, air intake is pre-cooled and refrigerant gas is sub-cooled simultaneously, imparting energy through the IP Kinetik pipes, lowering the intake air temperature by up to 5ºC.

“I used to perform energy audits in Queensland, which is how the IP Kinetik technology came about,” Steve says.

“We would constantly be looking for easier or more efficient methods of improving the running costs of air conditioning systems, other than turning a system off.

“I could always provide easy solutions like replacing old lamps with LEDs; but, air conditioning was always a lot harder to solve. Aside from turning it off, I could have recommended using a ‘set point’ temperature but that was simply not reasonable to businesses in Queensland as it would have been uncomfortable to the occupants.”

Steve says the answer came from the fact that conventional air conditioning systems haven’t changed in their fundamental design for more than 50 years.

“The products that people are buying today use the same process to provide cooling to a home as 50 years ago.

“When I identified the process, I started looking at how I could improve it. The technology is mature and it works but how could we make it work better?

“This is how I came up with the design of IP Kinetik.”

The core part of how a conventional air conditioner works is ambient air. So, as every electrician knows, as a day gets hotter the less efficient an air conditioner becomes. This is because the hotter ambient air temperature is closer to the refrigerant gas temperature and therefore cannot disperse the heat as well as it does on a cooler day.

“This is where you lose efficiency,” Steve says.

“But what is a more effective conductor than air? The answer is water.

“And to be conservative, rather than using drinking water I looked at what was being wasted during the air conditioning process. That waste was cold condensate water.

“Cold condensate water is generated by every air conditioner on the market today in good volumes of around 1.5L per hour (4L per hour in Queensland).”

The solution was to repurpose the cold condensate water to pre-chill the air, before it passes the condenser.

IP Kinetik uses a two-stage air cooling process before it passes across the condenser. The air then sub-cools the gas in a heat exchange tank on top of the air conditioner.

“We fit a grill to the back of the outdoor air conditioning box that pre-cools the air. It draws the air across the condenser coil and IP Kinetik unit, which is full of cold condensate water.

“The second stage is where the sub-cooling tank absorbs the heat out of the refrigerant gas.”

Return on investment is, on average, five years for residential applications.

Steven says installation is simple. The IP Kinetik unit arrives in a single box with all the equipment required to set it up.

“It’s as easy as pulling it out of the box, sliding off the back of the outdoor condensing unit and affixing the IP Kinetik using a clamp or a screw.

“Next, you connect it to the condensate pipe that is exiting the building by directing it into the base of the IP Kinetik unit. Then just top it up with tap water to start and turn it on. That’s it; it takes 90 minutes to install.”

IP Kinetik is scalable from the smallest system to the biggest air cooled chiller. It also retofittable – it can connect to any brand on the market today.

“Ultimately, I wanted my design to include no moving parts and no electronics, which is what we have achieved with IP Kinetik.

It’s a simple solution to a complex problem.”

About Paul Skelton

Paul Skelton

Multiple award seeking journalist and magazine editor Paul Skelton has been involved with the electrical industry for the best part of a decade. Email him at paulskelton@build.com.au.

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