Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Make your own air conditioner

It's been hot the last few days. In St. Louis severe storms knocked out power over most of the city. In general the U.S. has had a real serious heat wave, and in England they've set another all time high temperature record. In the SF Bay Area it's been very hot for this area.

Since my interest is to see how I can live comfortably while keeping my power use minimized ... I don't have an air conditioner in my house, and instead rely on fans and one window-sized air conditioner. Okay, it's more accurate to say the house doesn't have central air conditioning. For the most part I'm uncomfortable but it's not unbearable. But I think I'm being more accomodating to the weather than my neighbors, many of whom have central air conditioning cranked to the max.

Cranking the air conditioning to the max may seem like it's helping you, but in the big picture it's only making the heat worse. The higher power draw required by having the AC maxed means the power plants are running at maximum capacity. Indeed there have been day after day where the power producers have been at emergency production levels, barely able to meet the demand with the generating capacity. That high power production use directly turns into higher levels of pollution, because most of the power plants are burning fossil fuels. Higher pollution levels mean higher degrees of global warming and heating.

Make Your Own Air Conditioner and PETE'S HOMEMADE AIR CONDITIONER and How to build a $30 air conditioner and GEOFF'S ORIGINAL HOMEMADE AIR CONDITIONING cover a low-cost low-energy-required alternative.

The idea is ultra simple. You get a cooler of ice water, and a submersible pump. Attach the pump to a hose arrangement where the hose is woven through a fan, and then direct the hose back into the cooler. Turn on the pump and the fan. The result will be to pump cold water through piping over which you're blowing air. The air should cool down while going over the piping.

It's simple enough, and inexpensive to put together. One of the pages claimed a cost of $30.

I've acquired the required parts and will be putting it together later to see how well it works. To make ice water, I've bought some of those freezable blue blocks. The plan is to freeze them, and put them in a cooler with some water. I have a submersible pump I bought to make a water fountain several years ago. For tubing I bought some plastic tubing at the pet store, and intend to, if this works out, buy some brass tubing for the heat exchanger.

The first experiment was to hook the pump to the tubing. Unfortunately the pump is not powerful enough to make water go up very high above itself. The tubing is three feet long, and the pump is unable to get the water to go the full length of the tubing if it is stretched straight up. But if you have the tubing coiled just above the pump, then water goes through just fine.