Monday, July 16, 2007

Easy on the Frion: System Cools Buildings With Ice

Ice may be disappearing from the arctic, but it’s showing up in 800 gallon tanks beneath about 3,000 buildings worldwide. Why? To cool them off, of course.

According to a BusinessWeek report, an “ice-cooling system” is being used to keep workers comfortable in buildings like New York City’s Met Life tower. The building has 64 tanks (800-gallons each) that it uses in tandem with traditional AC (when it’s exceptionally warm out).

Annual energy savings for the Met Life tower, with its hybrid cooling system, is about 2.15 million kilowatt-hours. That’s enough energy to power 200 homes or the equivalent of pulling 223 cars off the road. It’s not much, but imagine if the technology were implemented in more structures.

A good dream, but don’t hold your breath.

Widespread adoption of ice cooling probably won’t happen anytime soon. It’s expensive. The Met Life tower’s system cost about $3 million to install. That may sound like a lot, but consider how much a building could save on maintenance fees. One expert told BusinessWeek, “when you make something mechanical, it can break, but a big block of ice four floors below grade level isn't going to do anything but melt."

For ice cooling to be spread, building owners need to think beyond the next fiscal year (which is very, very hard for Americans to do).

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.