New AC Technologies for Your Home (2024)

As someone whose expertise lies in safeguarding homes and businesses from unwanted guests, I’ve witnessed firsthand the consequences of inefficient climate control systems. Excess moisture and poor ventilation create an inviting playground for pests, compromising the integrity of structures and posing health risks to occupants.

The staggering statistics speak volumes: heating and cooling systems account for a whopping 20% of global electricity consumption in buildings, with a projected tripling in demand for air conditioning by 2050 as the world grapples with the escalating effects of global warming. The urgency to address this looming crisis cannot be overstated.

Conventional HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, with their outdated and inefficient technologies, strain financial resources and burden local electrical grids. However, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon as many forward-thinking companies are developing cutting-edge solutions to weather this superheated storm.

In the following pages, we’ll explore some of these innovative heating and cooling systems, delving into the game-changers that may hit the market throughout the year. By embracing these advancements, we not only combat the impending air conditioning crisis but also create environments that are inhospitable to the pests that threaten our homes and businesses.

Read also: Tips to Prolonging Heating System’s Lifespan.

Why Is New Heating and Cooling Technology Necessary?

The importance of better air conditioning technology comes from two major factors: efficiency and environmental impact.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), HVAC systems are the second-largest consumers of residential electricity, only outpaced by appliances and electronics.

Modern cooling systems pump hot air through coils filled with liquid refrigerant; as the air heats the refrigerant inside the coils, the air becomes cold, and the refrigerant converts into a gas.

The cold air is pumped back into the home, and the now gaseous refrigerant is pumped outside into a compressor unit, pressurized back into a liquid, then sent back into the coils.

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As you can imagine, pumping, heating, and cooling take up an extraordinary amount of energy and, therefore, electricity.

The efficiency of an HVAC system is determined by its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER.

An AC’s SEER rating represents its efficiency in turning raw electricity into cold air— the higher the number, the more efficient the system.

But even with modern high-efficiency systems, air conditioning systems are still inefficient at converting electricity into cold air.

Did You Know

Today, the average SEER rating of air conditioners ranges from 13 to 26, significantly higher than older systems from the 1970s – back then, systems had ratings as low as six.

The Environmental Impact of HVAC Systems

The second major reason driving heating and cooling innovation is an AC unit’s serious environmental impact. The problem is twofold: One, since AC units are not very efficient at what they do, they consume inordinate amounts of energy to cool homes.

This waste of energy represents more greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels to produce said electricity. Second, the refrigerants used in most AC units are themselves greenhouse gases.

Back in the day, refrigerators used chemicals like sulfur dioxide, ammonia, and methyl chloride as refrigerants. These chemicals were highly toxic and phased out after a series of fatal accidents caused by leaks.

In 1928, a scientist working for General Motors named Thomas Midgley, Jr. synthesized chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. CFCs were highly effective as refrigerants and aerosol propellants. These chemicals saw widespread use in everything from AC systems to bug spray, hairspray, and much more, with over one million metric tons being produced at peak usage.

In 1974, professors from the University of California discovered that CFCs were creating a hole in the Earth’s ozone layer. CFCs were mostly phased out by 1987 with the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to curb ozone depletion.

Since then, different chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have replaced CFCs.

While HFCs are much safer and, ultimately, less harmful than CFCs, they’re dangerous greenhouse gasses that are hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Ultimately, as the effects of climate change continue, the need for more AC systems across the globe will further rise.

But implementing these much-needed cooling systems will only produce more greenhouse gasses, furthering the problem.

Related: What is Absorption Air Conditioning?

Did You Know

According to the IEA, by 2050, over 4.5 billion units will be installed, eventually accounting for 13% of global energy consumption. As such, new technology has become necessary to break this cycle.

What New Heating and Cooling Technology Could Be Coming in 2024?

Thankfully, while there are still major hurdles to overcome, the future of HVAC technology looks bright. Numerous companies and think tanks are working on technology to solve society’s heating and cooling problem.

While many of these projects are still far off, we’ve compiled some of the most promising hopefuls that could see implementation relatively soon.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump is a heating and cooling system that already exists and is a more efficient alternative to conventional air conditioners. A heat pump pulls heat from the inside of your home and expels it to another location.

This system can also heat a home by drawing in hot air from outside sources (even in the winter) and directing it indoors. A traditional AC system must be paired with a furnace to heat a home, which burns fossil fuels (typically natural gas).

A heat pump can fulfill both roles, using less energy and producing fewer greenhouse gasses. Due to its higher efficiency and lower electricity usage, you can save anywhere from 30% to 60% on energy bills by switching to a heat pump.

There are three primary types of heat pumps you can buy:

These heat pumps can be placed in windows and draw heat from the outside air. These systems are the most common and least expensive but don’t function well in locations with harsh, subfreezing winters.

These heat pumps use nearby water sources as their source of heat energy. While more efficient than air-source systems, they require the homeowner’s house to be located above or nearby a body of water.

These heat pumps exchange heat energy with the ground. These pumps have a low long-term operating cost and can function in locations with colder weather conditions, but they also have a high upfront cost.

Evaporative-Cooling-Based Systems

Evaporative cooling is, by all accounts, an old technology. It uses the evaporation process by having hot air in contact with water, which evaporates into colder air. This technology is used in swamp coolers and window AC units.

These are much more efficient than compression AC systems, only using 15% to 30% of the electricity. But evaporative air cooling systems come with one major drawback: they inherently add humidity to the air they produce.

This humidifying is no problem for arid climates like Arizona or Utah, but it’s not an appealing option for anyone along the coast. However, an impressive new dehumidifier technology called cold-SNAP could change all that.

Did You Know

The cold-SNAP system was developed by scientists at Wyss Institute, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), and the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (HCGBC).

This sci-fi-like technology uses a ceramic coated with a hydrophobic material. This system prevents the air from becoming humid as it’s processed.

As a result, the unit doesn’t need a vapor compression system, drastically increasing cooling efficiency and lowering energy costs.

Even better, this system doesn’t use refrigerant, so it has a much lower environmental impact. Wyss Institute is currently planning on production and release within the next five years.

Absorption Refrigeration System

The technology behind solar absorption refrigeration systems has technically been around for a while but is now becoming a practical option for residential markets. These systems use solar panels combined with an absorption chiller refrigeration system.

Absorption chillers function similarly to compression AC systems but use a heat source combined with a refrigerant mix of water, ammonia, or lithium bromide instead of a compressor. Since these systems run on solar energy, they have no carbon footprint and have the potential to provide clean, renewable central air.

Previously, these systems were not applicable to most homeowners, as older, less efficient solar panels put too much of a burden on buyers. Originally, a homeowner would need over 86 square feet for one of these systems to produce enough energy to create the output of a window air conditioner.

However, recent improvements and upgrades in renewable energy and energy storage technology have made these systems more practical. Installations like those at Santa Clara University are an example of their wider applications.

Are Smart Air Conditioners Worth It?

Another emerging technology in the HVAC world is smart air conditioners. These are AC units that can be controlled remotely via a smartphone app or voice commands. Many models also include advanced sensors that can detect occupancy, temperature, and humidity levels and adjust them automatically.

The main benefits of smart ACs are convenience and potential energy savings. Being able to remotely control your AC means you can optimize temperatures for when you’re home versus away. The smart sensors can reduce energy waste from cooling empty rooms.

However, smart ACs do come with a higher upfront cost than conventional units. The long-term energy savings may or may not offset the premium price, depending on factors like your home size and climate. User reviews are also mixed on the reliability and usefulness of some smart features.

For tech-savvy homeowners able to take full advantage of advanced controls, a smart AC could be a worthwhile investment. But for basic needs, a standard energy-efficient unit may make more sense. As technology matures, smart ACs are expected to become more affordable and robust.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the newest air conditioning method?

One of the most promising new AC technologies is the cold-SNAP system developed at Harvard. It uses a hydrophobic ceramic material to provide cooling via evaporation, without the added humidity of traditional evaporative coolers. It also doesn’t require a vapor compression system or refrigerant.

What is a good SEER rating for an AC unit?

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rates how efficient an AC unit is at converting energy into cooling. A higher SEER rating means more efficiency. For new systems today, an SEER rating of 16, or above is considered highly efficient.

What is the newest technology from HVAC systems?

In addition to cold-SNAP, other emerging HVAC technologies include advanced heat pump systems, solar absorption chillers for cooling, smart/connected AC units with remote controls and sensors, and ultra-high-efficiency ACs from the Global Cooling Prize competition.

What is the average lifespan of a new AC unit?

A new, well-maintained AC unit can be expected to last 15-20 years on average. Variables like climate, usage levels, and proper professional installation/maintenance can cause lifespans to vary.

Final Thoughts on New AC Technologies and the Future of Cooling

The old phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” has rung true throughout my career time and again. When backed into a corner by daunting challenges, the human spirit displays a boundless cleverness, able to devise truly innovative ideas and solutions.

This has certainly been the case in the history of air conditioning development, as evidenced by the remarkable new technologies highlighted in this article. From humble terra-cotta plates fashioned into hydrophobic, moisture-proof swamp coolers, to cutting-edge solar-powered lithium-based cooling systems, we’ve continually risen to meet dire needs for innovation head-on, rarely disappointing.

My experience tells me the fight for sustainable, efficient air conditioning is only just beginning. I vividly recall in 2018 when the Rocky Mountain Institute sparked the Global Cooling Prize – a worldwide competition challenging teams to create new AC systems at least five times more effective than current models.

Ultimately, the competition came down to two finalists: Gree Electric Appliances and Daikin Industries. And while their pioneering designs remain in the embryonic stage, they represent beacons of hope, indicating possible solutions are indeed on the horizon to address this crucial challenge.

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