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NREL Tests Advanced Air Conditioner Designed for Western Climates

October 1, 2009

Recent performance testing at NREL found that a new hybrid air conditioning unit—the Coolerado H-80—uses less than half the energy of a conventional cooling unit. Denver-based Coolerado Corporation, the first certified winner of the Western Cooling Challenge, developed the innovative H-80, which combines indirect evaporative technology with a traditional compressor and refrigerant system.

NREL provides technical support for the Western Cooling Challenge, which was launched last year by the University of California at Davis to help cooling-unit manufacturers build more efficient air conditioners for the Western United States.

Many western states are hot and dry, but use cooling systems designed for warm and humid climates. The challenge is based on the premise that western-oriented technologies should be able to cool using far less energy.

The Coolerado H-80 easily surpassed the challenge's objective of exceeding DOE 2010 efficiency standards by 40%. NREL testing indicated that the unit beat the 2010 standards by 60% at peak demand, and uses 80% less energy overall. The unit also met the challenge's water conservation requirements, which limited water use for technologies that use evaporation as part of the cooling process.

"In western climates, the Coolerado H-80 provides cooling and ventilation for buildings at efficiencies far above the standard equipment available today," said NREL's Eric Kozubal, who conducted the testing. "Laboratory testing shows that the system provides consistent cooling performance, even when temperatures rise above 95 degrees."

Coolerado CEO Mike Luby said his company's five-ton H-80 rooftop unit is designed principally for light commercial buildings. One H-80 is able to cool 1,500 to 3,000 square feet of commercial floor space.

The unit initially tested at NREL is now in use at a college in Sacramento, California. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District will monitor the energy savings of the unit during the next several years.

At least five other manufacturers are expected to submit equipment for efficiency testing.

—Theresa von Kuegelgen