If you work anywhere near the air-conditioning industry, you probably couldn’t miss the blog post from Sir Richard Branson from 2 January 2019, in which he says that AC efficiencies are pathetic and leading manufacturers are an obstacle to change: https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/next-industry-ripe-change
This is a topic close to my heart as I spent a good part of my career developing or selling higher efficiency AC systems.
Without going into a long dissertation, my view on this blog is:
- Yes, there has not been an AC energy breakthrough to date, and actually, the issue has bigger implications than presented in the article since refrigeration and heating (heat pumps) share the same fundamental technology as AC.
- Yes, it is good to draw attention to this issue so that new eyes have a look at it.
- No, the AC industry is not neglecting the topic. Hundreds of engineers all over the world work full time at finding incremental and breakthrough technologies for higher efficiency.
- No, 3 million prize money is probably not going to have much effect if you compare it with the hundreds of millions of dollars from the industry R&D budget and the subsidies for AC technologies which can be found virtually in all developed countries.
In nearly 15 years working with the leading AC manufacturers, I never had the chance to come across a technology breakthrough, some awesome incremental improvements for sure but nothing anywhere near the LED lighting breakthrough Branson mentioned as an example. While obviously, we should keep looking for it and the provocative article from Sir Branson is positive in that sense, I am of the opinion that we should also work at making improvements over what we have today such as eliminating the 30% waste of building energy and making the energy demand more flexible to help renewable energy production grow.
Interested in reading some of my previous blogs about that topic:
4 artificial intelligence technologies which will save billions to businesses in HVAC bills
The trade-off between clean gas and energy efficiency in the cooling industry