Recently there has been some really hot weather in Melbourne that made me search for alternate methods of cooling.

The first and easiest method I discovered is to keep a 2L bottle of water in my car. After it’s been parked in the sun on a hot day I pour the water over the windows. The energy required to evaporate water is 2500 Joules per gram, this means that the 500ml that probably evaporates from my car (I guess that 1.5L is split on the ground) would remove 1.25MJ of energy.from my car – this makes a significant difference to the effectiveness of the air-conditioning (the glass windows being the largest hot mass that can easily conduct heat into the cabin).

It would be good if car designers could incorporate this feature. Every car has a system to spray water on the wind-screen to wash it, if that could be activated without the wipers then it would cool the car significantly. Hatch-back cars have the same on the rear window, and it would not be difficult at the design stage to implement the same for the side windows too.

The next thing I have experimented with is storing some ice in a room that can’t be reached by my home air-conditioning system. Melting ice absorbes 333 Joules per gram. An adult who is not doing any physical activity will produce about 100W of heat, that is 360KJ per hour. Melting a kilo of ice will abrorb 333KJ per hour, if the amount of energy absorbed when the melt-water approaches room temperature is factored in then a kilo of ice comes close to absorbing the heat energy of an adult at rest. Therefore 10Kg of ice stored in your bedroom will prevent you from heating it by your body heat during the course of a night.

In some quick testing I found that 10Kg of ice in three medium sized containers would make a small room up to two degrees cooler than the rest of the house. The ice buckets also have water condense on them. In a future experiement I will measure the amount of condensation and try and estimate the decrease in the humidity. Lower humidity makes a room feel cooler as sweat will evaporate more easily. Ice costs me $3 per 5Kg bag, so for $6 I can make a hot night significantly more bearable. In a typical year there are about 20 unbearably hot nights in Melbourne. So for $120 I can make one room cooler on the worst days of summer
without the annoying noise of an air-conditioner (the choice of not sleeping due to heat or not sleeping due to noise sucks).

The density of dry air at 0C and a pressure of 101.325 kPa is 1.293 g/L.

A small bedroom might have an area of 3M*3M and be 2.5M high giving a volume of 22.5M^3 == 22,500L. 22,500 * 1.293 = 29092.500g of air.

One Joule can raise the temperature of one gram of cool dry air by 1C.

Therefore when a kilo of ice melts it would be able to cool the air in such a room by more than 10 degrees C! The results I observe are much smaller than that, obviously the walls, floor, ceiling, and furnishings in the room also have some thermal energy, and as the insulation is not perfect some heat will get in from other rooms and from outside the house.

If you have something important to do the next day then spending $6 or $12 on ice the night before is probably a good investment. It might even be possible to get your employer to pay for it, I’m sure that paying for ice would provide better benefits in employee productivity than many things that companies spend money on.

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