Is There a Low-Tech Alternative to Air Conditioning?

Scientists have created an ultra-white paint that reflects up to 98% of sunlight and could reduce air conditioning costs by 80%.
Scientists have created an ultra-white paint that reflects up to 98% of sunlight and could reduce air conditioning costs by 80%.

In the sweltering summer months, air conditioning always feels like a blessing ... until the bill comes. Americans spend more than $22 billion USD a year to stay cool. But what if you could beat the heat without wiping out your wallet? A Purdue University professor might have found a way.

Xiulin Ruan and his research team have developed an ultra-white paint that can reflect more than 98 percent of the sunlight that strikes it. The researchers made the paint with barium sulfate rather than the usual titanium dioxide; barium sulfate is employed in plastic manufacturing and X-ray imaging.

"We went out to look for other materials that do not absorb the UV at all," Ruan says. "We found that a single particle size wouldn’t do a good job because it turns out that each particle size can only reflect one wavelength." Homeowners will need to wait about two years before getting their hands on Ruan's cool creation, but it is not expected to cost any more than current house paint.

Cool facts about air conditioning:

  • Approximately 88 percent of new homes in the United States have air conditioning, compared with about 55 percent in Canada.

  • President Herbert Hoover spent more than $30,000 to have the first air conditioner installed in the Oval Office.

  • Room air conditioners were first offered in 1931 at a price of more than $400; hourly wages at the time averaged 64 cents.

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Discussion Comments

Oxo

A way to cool off for free is easy. Get a tee shirt dip it in cold water, under tap or whatever, squeeze it out and put in on. It will be damn cold at first but in a few seconds you'll just feel relief from the heat. When the tee shirt dries out, repeat method.

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    • Scientists have created an ultra-white paint that reflects up to 98% of sunlight and could reduce air conditioning costs by 80%.
      Scientists have created an ultra-white paint that reflects up to 98% of sunlight and could reduce air conditioning costs by 80%.