Zero Energy Air Cooling System

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THE DIY AIR COOLER

Summer is in full swing and many of us are complaining about the heat. But few places reach the scorching temperatures residents of Bangladesh experience, and air conditioning is simply not an option for most people living in rural areas. Ashis Paul developed a clever DIY cooling system that doesn’t need any electricity and is built from a common waste item: empty plastic soda bottles. In just three months, Paul’s company has helped install its smart powerless air conditioners, called Eco Coolers, in 25,000 households, with many more still ahead.

The Eco Cooler is reportedly the world’s first-ever ‘zero electricity’ air conditioner, and its inventor wanted to get the concept out there to help as many people as possible. The Grey Group stepped in to help, using its position as a multinational advertising firm to put the plans online, at no cost, so that anyone can build their own Eco Cooler system. Volunteers from Grameen Intel Social Business helped build and install the units, as well as teach locals how to make them, so the wisdom can be passed on.

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THE COMMERCIAL COOLING SYSTEM

Air conditioning, or cooling, is more complicated than heating. Instead of using energy to create heat, air conditioners use energy to take heat away. The most common air conditioning system uses a compressor cycle (similar to the one used by your refrigerator) to transfer heat from your house to the outdoors.

Central air conditioners and heat pumps are designed to cool the entire house. In each system, a large compressor unit located outside drives the process; an indoor coil filled with refrigerant cools air that is then distributed throughout the house via ducts. Heat pumps are like central air conditioners, except that the cycle can be reversed and used for heating during the winter months. (Heat pumps are described in more detail in the heating section.) With a central air conditioner, the same duct system is used with a furnace for forced warm-air heating. In fact, the central air conditioner typically uses the furnace fan to distribute air to the ducts.

Whereas room air conditioners are available for mounting in windows or through walls, but in each case they work the same way, with the compressor located outside. Room air conditioners are sized to cool just one room, so a number of them may be required for a whole house. Individual units cost less to buy than central systems.

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HOW DO WE BUILD IT?

The Eco Cooler method is fairly simple, from a construction standpoint. A board is cut to fit the desired window, and bottleneck-sized holes are cut out in a grid pattern. The bottoms of empty plastic bottles are cut off and discarded, leaving funnel-shaped bottlenecks that are placed on the grid. That’s all there is to the Eco Cooler, except for the task of installing it in place of the regular window. When mounted, the wider part of the bottles faces outward and catches the passing wind, literally funneling cool air into the building’s interior.

The efficacy of the Eco Cooler varies widely based on conditions, but Grey Group reports it has the ability to reduce indoor temperatures as much as 5 degrees Celsius, which is on par with what an electric centrally installed air conditioning system can do. In some instances the Eco Cooler can reduce indoor temperatures from a sweltering 86F (30C) to a comfortable 77F (25C). For the 70 percent of residents who live in tin-roofed huts that amplify the sun’s heat, the Eco Cooler could be a breath of fresh air just in time for summer.

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