March 20, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
Using solar energy to keep homes cool
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Another low-power option for cooling that Little uses is an evaporative cooler, which is a water basin and fan that blows evaporated water vapor. These systems, which have been installed in the Middle East, generally work well in lower humidity areas, but the SolCool system could work "just about anywhere," he said.
Other companies and some researchers also tout a system in which ice is created at night and stored in an underground tank. The vapor then wafts off in the daytime to cool a building.
The company is looking to sign on distributors who are either experts in air conditioning or are renewable energy installers looking to distribute new products.
The back-up power feature is compelling for off-grid applications or when people need to keep cool in their home during a power outage for health reasons, Little said.
"You don't (worry about) a return on investment, if you have to have oxygen," he said.
The price of the units will be between $2,600 and $3,000 before installation, which could run another $500, Pruitt estimated.
That's substantially more than a standard air conditioner, but Pruitt said the energy savings can help pay for the unit, particularly in areas like California with high heat and steep electricity fees. The product is also eligible for state-run rebate programs that promote energy-efficient products, he added.
"This is our fifth year doing it. When we started, it was hard because nobody wanted to be the first to try it," Pruitt said. "But in the last year, I think consumers are coming around to it."
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