I enjoy designing vapor compression machines. It all started with a refrigerator. I have thought long and hard on how these mainstays of modern living could be improved and someday I will make some of them a reality. In the meantime, I daydream, I read, I study, observe, ponder and write. Opportunities abound to use, re-use and then use again, the energy that keeps us warm, heats our water and even the energy we reject to keep ourselves cool, freeze perishables or the unwanted humidity in drying clothes on a rainy day. We have machines to perform these tasks (at least the wealthy on Earth do), but the energy they consume to operate and the resources to replace them when they become defunct and unrepairable is certainly unsustainable and a testament to the waste of a capitalist system obsessed with unbounded expansion and addiction to overproduction and the artificial scarcity to drive it all. It could be argued that these technologies were developed within the very same system so some good things have come from it. I suppose so, but the implementation of climate control and labor saving devices is done in such an manner as to never solve these ago old problems, but instead, make us more comfortable for a while as the resources of the planet are pissed away like beer at a frat party, leaving the population vulnerable as we try to learn the harsh lessons of living within the natural laws of the planet.
We do not have to take cold showers or sweat in our homes on a hot day. We live on a planet of abundance, bathed in sunlight energy, probably capable of supporting several times the current human population sustainably, but we must control ourselves and our planet. By understanding and respecting the natural world, we will exploit it in the way a gardener exploits a tomato plant for food while the tomato plant exploits the gardener to care for it and drive off pests and weeds. We will garden our planet and garden our society. Our technology is not separate from evolution, but a continuation of it. We can build our machines in the image of the biological with technical nutrients capable of being re-processed in a technological metabolic cycle and by obeying the same laws that have made life so resilient for billions of years, farm the planet into a geologically/climatologically stable home for an increasingly complex organism called “carbon based life”.
I suppose I got a little bit off topic, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can do better and we will. Why not start now? An economic/social system that provides for so few people’s needs will not stop until we have gone extinct or enough of the population wakes up and says “No more”. I believe I will see a transition out of capitalism within my lifetime and through human cooperation, human development will become a positive force on this planet.
KillCap is a game that, as far as I know, was developed by the authors of the bi-monthly publication “Adbusters”. It is a game of civil disobedience. “Corporate disobedience” is probably a better term. This is a game anyone can play where you boycott large corporations, maybe deface public advertising, shop locally, share and conserve rather than buy new. There aren’t really any rules other than to do things that generally disrupt capitalism’s advance, wake people up to new ideas, new ways of living, of sharing. I figure, do things that will have a positive effect on the world; things for which you have passions for. I have a passion for appropriate technology and in particular, vapor compression systems. I see a lot of room for improvement. Some technologies that have been retired, but shouldn’t have; some hybrid ideas that might work and some new twists that I’d like to try. Building inexpensive, low tech, modular, long lasting, recyclable, efficient machines that best support the ideals of the world I want to live in. Well, thats my contribution to my self and to the world and a big old “Fuck You” to capitalism.
If you don’t agree with my “Pinko Commie” position then look at it this way: I want to make good quality machines that provide for people’s needs, don’t waste energy or need replaced often, and don’t pollute. Everybody, I think, can agree with that. It’s just that capitalism is unable to get it done.
So anyway, the KillCap catalogue is a number of machines that try to fit into this description of corporate disobedience in that the attempt is to conserve rather than consume. I may modify the list as ideas change, improve and/or are constructed.
I’ve written a good bit about some features of a refrigerator I’d like to improve upon, from the compressor, evaporator, condenser, cabinet construction, insulating materials, door construction and adding Phase Change Materials for improving performance. A lot of that is in Refrigerator Cabinet Design Part I and Part II. Also, there is A Better Refrigerator.
There are a variety of different ways people heat domestic water and not one of them are the best. Discussed in more detail here. Some environments are very sunny and are well suited towards solar hot water. Evacuated tube heat pipes are getting cheaper and will supposedly produce high temperatures even on cloudy days. Combined Heat and Power systems sometimes “burn” biomass in low oxygen environments producing biochar, an amazing soil amendment, with the by product of electricity when coupled to organic rankine engines or stirling engines with the byproduct of heat for domestic heating or domestic hot water. Burning fossil fuels for hot water is not a long term solution and neither is electric resistive heating. Air to water heat pumps are effective in certain environments, especially when coupled with some basic heat recovery heat exchanger on a homes effluent. I would like to build a simple system that would recover high quality heat directly from a homes main greywater line or, at least as a prototype, a small system that operates beneath a kitchen sink to recycle heat for doing dishes. I have a lot of interest in using phase change materials and a flooded evaporator in this endeavor.
Vapor compression dehumidifiers consume a lot of energy and leave a great deal of room for improvement. It’s probably one of the first machines I’ll have a go at. I have an idea for an elegantly simple design that I describe somewhat in Discourse on Dehumidifiers, so I won’t go into it much here.
An air conditioner is little more than a dehumidifier that discharges heat outside the room it services. If I’m successful with the dehumidifier, then it should translate well to air conditioning.
Many people use dehumidifiers and fans to dry their clothes in a laundry room or closet as opposed to an energy intensive natural gas or electric resistive tumble dryer. I’d like to apply the dehumidifier technology toward developing an effective clothes dryer that can be useful to many people’s needs.
Air/Ground Source Heat Pump
I live in an area with a greater need for heating than cooling. The local climate is rather wet and mild in the winter, making it a good place for an air source heat pump. I am not opposed to a ground source system other than the expense of installation usually associated with them. A properly designed ground source heat pump is going to typically have higher suction pressures and lower discharge pressures (when coupled with radiant floor heat). If I focus on air source, I may find that the work with dehumidifiers and air conditioning may very well apply to this application as well. I’ll keep pondering over this one.
Feel free to comment or shoot me an E-mail if you have an idea or you’re interested in exploring some of these topics.