Aeris Water Technologies: A New Spin on Energy-Efficient Clean Air
With their tightly sealed high-tech windows and impenetrable doors, today’s buildings are more energy efficient than ever before. But in exchange for savings on utility bills, we pay a different price. Airtight buildings lead to stagnant indoor air, poor air quality, and in some cases, poor health conditions. Considering that most people spend an estimated 90 percent of their time inside, high-quality indoor air is important.
To address this need, Aeris Water Technologies of Mount Joy, PA, has come up with an energy-saving, air-cleansing solution to help us all breathe easier.
“Because we live in such tight buildings, we need to bring air in from the outside-and we can do that with the Aeris Water Technologies device,” says Dustin Eplee, president and CEO. “Fresh air helps flush the buildings and keep indoor air quality high, while at the same time keeping energy bills lower.”
Exchanging Indoor and Outdoor Air
Aeris has created a water-absorbing, or “desiccant” wheel that Eplee describes as a “one-design-fits-all technology” for industrial, commercial and residential buildings. All desiccants behave in a similar way-they attract moisture until they reach equilibrium with the surrounding air. The wheel is used for the exchange of indoor and outdoor air and can also be used to dehumidify a building using low temperature heat, or what Eplee refers to as waste heat.
To exchange air, the Aeris wheel slowly rotates between two sections. In one section, the stale, conditioned air from a building is passed through the wheel and is exhausted into the atmosphere. During this process, the wheel absorbs energy from the conditioned air, which is used to heat or cool the incoming fresh air in the other section during the second half of its rotation cycle.
“Put simply, we can dehumidify a building without the need for electricity or high-grade fossil fuels,” Eplee says. “You can have more fresh air at lower energy costs.” The desiccant wheel can also be used with traditional refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, helping reduce energy consumption and lower humidity in a space.
Although other desiccant wheels are on the market, Eplee says the Aeris wheel is unique for several reasons.
“The wheel is very powerful. It will spontaneously absorb over seven times its weight in water from the air and thus will more efficiently recover energy or dehumidify using a lower temperature heat source,” Eplee says. “In addition, it’s frost-proof, resists dirt buildup and kills 98.6 percent of bacteria that comes in contact with it.” The wheel is made from environmentally friendly recyclable materials and is relatively inexpensive compared to the existing technology.
An Early Head Start with Funding
Aeris, which was formed in 2006, received funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners for its first endeavor, which was a device that generates potable water from air. “We have since refocused our efforts more to energy conservation, but water generation is still part of the company and will continue to be in the future. One thing we are striving for is an autonomous way to produce water from the air using solar heat,” Eplee says.
Ben Franklin’s pre-seed investment in Aeris was $10,000, and they followed up with a $50,000 investment earlier this year. Beyond the funding, Ben Franklin has remained involved in an advising role for Aeris. “As an inventor and an engineer, I have been trained in technical fields, so Ben Franklin has been helpful in pointing me and my teammates in the right direction regarding the business planning aspects of the company,” Eplee says. Aeris currently employs three people, and the company has one patent pending and two others in the works.
Reducing Energy Consumption
Aeris could contribute to the Governor’s Energy Independence Fund Initiative in a number of ways. “Our product deals with both energy and indoor air quality,” Eplee says. “It reduces energy consumption and goes the next step in reducing the peak demand on our electrical grid by tapping into more renewable energy types.”
The energy saved by the energy recovery wheel speaks for itself. “For commercial buildings, the energy recovery wheel will improve HVAC system efficiency up to 40 percent, improving dehumidification capacity up to 75 percent and reduce a building’s electrical grid demand by over 15 percent,” Eplee says. “If you use the product as a hybrid air conditioner, the Department of Energy Laboratory tests show that it will reduce the space humidity level by 15 percent while reducing energy by over 16 percent.”
Keynotes June, 2007
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