A cleaner, greener air conditioner might just be found at the bottom of a snow pile. Researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan have analyzed three air conditioning models that use snow as a coolant to discover which one is the most sustainable alternative to the air conditioning units found in most Canadian buildings today.
In snow-based cooling systems, snow is stored in the winter and meltwater is pumped from the stockpile to a building’s circulation system. It’s how snow gets stored in the system that determines how sustainable the model really is, according to the study published in Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy.
A conventional snow storage system keeps snow in an underground pit on coarse grain. Space requirements make this method least sustainable. A watertight snow storage system uses asphalt or plastic to waterproof the pit, but this system loses points because the materials aren’t green. A high-density snow storage system, which compacts the snow before it gets stored in a waterproof pit, proved most sustainable of all.
“The potential of this system to be used for large buildings and institutions looks promising,” Rehan Sadiq, a study co-author, told Popular Science. “This type of system could eventually help large organizations recoup some of the considerable costs associated with snow removal.”