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Air conditioning accounts for 14 percent of America's home electricity use, and most of that electricity comes from coal. Can we keep our home climates comfortable without screwing up the global climate?

We're making progress. A team of engineers at NREL recently developed a potentially revolutionary new air conditioning system. Unlike standard air conditioners, which compress a circulating liquid refrigerant such as Freon, this new system draws warm air through a cooling unit that contains a water-absorbing dessicants compound that cools the air by evaporation. The payoff? It uses up to 90 percent less energy.


How long until this new system shows up in homes? Two to three years, apparently. But the principal program manager on the project says they've already "gotten calls from a lot of major players out there."

Image: NREL/Pat Corkery