Berkeley Lab Reveals A/C Efficiency Shortfall

Deploying super-efficient air conditioners across 17 countries and political blocs could avoid the need for more than 120 medium-sized power plants each generating around 500 MW of power, according to research by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Navigant Consulting Inc. Europe.

Cooling the Planet: Opportunities for Deployment of Superefficient Room Air Conditioners was conducted in support of the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment, or SEAD, initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial. The report found that air conditioning efficiency can be cost-effectively improved by 20 to 40 percent in most major economies. The report studied Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Various options to improve air conditioner efficiency exist, including “classic options” such as increasing heat exchanger size/efficiency, variable speed and efficient compressors, efficient fans, and thermostatic and electronic expansion devices, the report says. By using an inverter or variable speed technology air conditioners would see between a 20-to24.8 percent improvement in energy efficiency (see chart). By installing all of the “classic options” an air conditioner’s efficiency would improve by 60-to-72 percent, the report says.

The estimated future electricity footprint of air conditioners is on par with or surpasses the electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar according to Berkeley Labs. This implies that policies to promote more efficient air conditioning equipment should be pursued with a “similar seriousness and concern” as those applied to renewable resources, the report says.

The study is the basis for a new strategy in development by the SEAD initiative to address the rapidly growing electricity demand from air conditioners. In India, China, and Brazil alone, electricity demand to power room air conditioners is expected to equal the output of five Three Gorges Dams by 2020, this equates to more than 500 TWh a year. The adoption of cost-effective efficiency levels would save more than 140 TWh per year by 2020, the report says.

Earlier this month, Coolerado, a Denver-based manufacturer of efficient air conditioners, released details of two data center projects that cut their emissions significantly through the use of the company’s products.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado cut its overall data center power consumption by 70 percent utilizing Coolerado products last year. That equates to an absolute reduction of 491 MWh over the year. Green House Data, a Coolerado customer located in Cheyenne, Wyo., has been able to achieve 40 percent more efficiency than traditional data centers while achieving 100 percent uptime while using Coolerado products, the company said.

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