Updated at 5 pm on 12/8/08
Bill Thomas of Always Build Green in Norwalk, Connecticut has been helping residential and commercial customers save money on their central air conditioning systems -- and it's never too early to start planning for the next cooling season.
Thomas says his secret is an exciting synthetic catalyst, branded "Get Cold," that can be added to a central HVAC system's refrigerant. Thomas says he tells customers they can easily expect to see energy savings of 10% on cooling costs as a result, but that he's seen as high as 45%, with an average of 25%.
What does Get Cold do? According to the manufacturer, it reduces the oil fouling that decreases air conditioner efficiency. Oil fouling occurs as the system's necessary lubricating oil coats interior surfaces over time, since a small amount of the oil travels with the refrigerant. The catalyst breaks the Vanderwaals (surface tension) forces between the oil globules and the walls of the refrigeration tubing. The capillary tubes, expansion valves and heat pump valves are cleaned of oil. Get Cold is also said to boost the "lubricity" (fun word for the day!) of the compressor oil by 18%.
By reducing oil fouling Get Cold is said to improve heat coil transfer by up to 73%, and to produce cold air faster. (For details on how air conditioning works, go here.) Vent air is said to be lowered by three degrees or more. Thomas points to a 2002 pilot study in Mexico that verified the results.
With Get Cold, Thomas says air conditioners last longer, require less maintenance and run quieter. It costs about $150 per ton of cooling capacity to install (should be done by an experienced HVAC technician), and works for residential, commercial, industrial and even automotive systems. Building a/c is sized in tons, with one ton cooling 12,000 BTUs per hour. As a general rule of thumb, you need one ton of cooling for each 500 square feet of living space, though cooling loads vary depending on many factors.
According to Thomas, in older homes with an average HVAC system you're looking at about 3 tons of cooling, so for about $450 in Get Cold you could see savings over time.
We'd like to see more hard evidence that this really works, and hear more from the HVAC industry. Calls seeking comment have not yet been returned. In an article for The News (Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration), the trade warns, "Many other additives are available that have not been approved by OEMs and claim to provide benefits which are, at best, questionable." There may be some risk of damaging your equipment or voiding your warranty, so proceed carefully.
Want to Get Cold and try for yourself? You can call your HVAC installer or service provider and ask for it. Find out more from Always Build Green.
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