March 31, 2022 –
“Innovation” and “growth” aren’t two words you’d expect to be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. But while much of the working world either scaled back or went remote, New Castle, Delaware-based AirGreen was ramping up.
AirGreen, which manufactures an innovative twist on the concept of air conditioning, had just completed its Series A round of financing in January 2019, pitching its cheaper and more efficient process to businesses, hospitals, schools and indoor growers.
Since then, the HVAC manufacturing company has blossomed, finalizing the commercialization of its third-generation technology after demonstrating its benefits in two-year, 24/7 operations across a variety of applications. The company also earned Intertek/UL safety certifications and expanded its team with a full-time sales professional with deep expertise in the HVAC industry, an additional project engineer, and a full-time skilled fabricator/shop manager.
During the same time, AirGreen saw the installation of its new technology at a large indoor cannabis growing facility and exhibited at the AHR conference, the largest HVAC conference in North America, ranking among the top 2% in exhibitor engagement by participants.
“Our system eliminates humidity at an energy-use footprint that is a fraction of traditional mechanical cooling systems,” said CEO John Hammond.
Anyone who’s ever sweltered through a long July day with only open windows to cool them can attest to the value of modern air conditioning.
But energy experts and building managers will tell you the cost of those comfortably cool businesses and homes is significant. Air conditioners – most of which are based on the mechanical refrigeration concept developed by Willis Carrier in the early 1900s – use about 6% of all energy produced in the United States at a cost to homeowners of about $29 billion.
Billions more are spent by businesses to cool office spaces and by the U.S. military to cool military housing in desert climates. Meanwhile, the electricity used to power the world’s air conditioning results in the production of tons of greenhouse gases.
But AirGreen has been working diligently since 2013 to turn the A/C business on its head, leveraging new technology that’s cheaper and cleaner than traditional mechanical refrigeration.
AirGreen’s technology uses a closed-loop liquid desiccant system to remove moisture from the air in multiple stages while simultaneously cooling the air. The result is conditioned air that averages around 60 or 65 degrees and 40% to 50% humidity. In addition, the AirGreen system cleans the air along with cooling it, capturing and neutralizing airborne pathogens like molds, bacteria, and viruses, including COVID-19, creating an environment that’s both comfortable and healthy.
“The thing with dehumidifying using traditional systems is that it’s inefficient,” Hammond said. “In order to get the moisture out of the air, you have to cool it down to the dew point. Then, in a lot of cases you have to reheat the air before it goes back into the building.”
With the AirGreen system, Hammond estimates energy savings of 50% to 60% over traditional systems because it strips out humidity chemically and doesn’t require such significant cooling.
Hammond notes that it’s those factors that make the AirGreen system perfect for high-humidity conditions like indoor growing.
“If you’re growing things indoors, you water the plants, the plants transpire moisture into the atmosphere. And if you want your plants to grow, then you’ve got to strip moisture out of the air,” he said. “Because if the air becomes saturated, the plants’ growth slows considerably.”
Indoor growing is also a huge source of energy consumption, he notes, with the U.S. Department of Energy projecting that by 2030, the amount of energy used by indoor growing operations just for legalized cannabis will be equivalent to that of data centers or electric car charging.
“So, the ability to dehumidify in an efficient way with a low energy footprint that improves indoor air quality, we think that’s really where it’s at,” Hammond said. “And we’ve been working very hard to mature the technology and get it into the market.”
Other markets include data centers, indoor recreation facilities, indoor pools, chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, and cold storage, as well as warmer-climate countries with growing middle classes where as many as 3.4 billion new AC units could be installed, he said. With traditional air conditioning, the increased energy use could cancel out any prior attempts at limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
A Productive Pandemic Perfects Innovative Tech
Hammond said when the U.S. went into COVID protocols in March of 2020, he sent his team home for three weeks. “But we couldn’t do what we do with everyone sitting at home. We have to build equipment. We have to test it. We have to do the design work together,” he said. “So, we did all the right things in terms of social distancing and masking and didn’t lay anyone off. We just went to work.”
Because many other businesses shut down for longer, AirGreen had a chance to perfect its technology and catch up, he said. The support of organizations like Delaware Prosperity Partnership, whose collaborative work typify how business is conducted throughout Delaware, definitely helped.
“I think they’re much more entrepreneurial, and in turn, that makes it fit a lot more with entrepreneurial companies and industries that are trying to grow in this area,” Hammond said. “And if you need to call someone and say, ‘Hey I’ve got this issue. I’m wondering if you might know someone who might have some advice,’ it really is small, business-friendly, and you can get people to answer.”