SolCool is so cool

The world's first solar-powered air conditioner offers a green solution for staying cool. In many ways, air conditioning is the bane of our summer existence. We know it's a white elephant in terms of our annual energy consumption, but that falls on deaf ears when it's 38 degrees in the shade by 8 a.m. Besides, not all A/C is for comfort. Hospitals, seniors' residences and nurseries must stay cool. The bottom line is A/C is not going anywhere soon. But guilt-free A/C is now on the market. SolCool is a new solar and ultra-efficient way to stay cool and reduce your environmental footprint at the same time. The SolCool Millennia 4.0 is a revolutionary low-power unit that runs on direct current (DC) power. It plugs into a standard 110-volt wall socket (or even a 220-volt socket in Europe) but also uses a combination of 12-volt solar/back-up batteries that are recharged by solar panels. Its modular units fit any type of residence, from a single-family home to a condo tower. Running at a maximum of 400 watts, it uses 80% less electricity to produce either 18,000 BTUs of air conditioning or 11,000 BTUs of heat. After five years of testing and design improvements, SolCool went on sale in March. "Over the past three years we've taken our advancements and put them into the next version," says SolCool president Mark Walsh. "Version 4 is night and day from the other versions. It's now a solar AC that has grid backup." One great benefit is the solar panels actually create a 12- to 24-hour battery bank. This means that the A/C keeps on chugging long after the sun has gone down and you want to sleep in comfort. Even better: because the batteries are fuelled by solar energy, SolCool keeps working even in a blackout or brownout. You can use it as an alternative energy source, plugging in either lights or a ceiling fan so you can be fully equipped if the lights go out. As if this weren't exciting enough, the SolCool has an optional companion product that is certain to raise a few eyebrows. The Aquacell may look like an old five-gallon office water cooler but the similarities end there. Tested and registered with the EPA, this bacteriostatic UV system has several built-in filters, including an impressive eight-layer filter. Even "cooler" is the fact that it hooks up to the SolCool Millennia and uses A/C condensation drips for its water source. It is literally pulling the water out of the air to filter it, so you never have fill up the 22-litre container on top of the cooler! So whether you are replacing an existing unit or installing your first because you can't face another summer heat wave, the SolCool may be for you. The price is slightly higher than a regular HVAC unit, but the savings in both energy and operating costs will soon offset the initial cost. So save money, save the environment, and stay cool all summer long!