That's Cool!... And Cheap, Too
As Aero-News reported earlier this
week, Cirrus has unveiled its new air-conditioning
system for its SR22. Cirrus rightfully calls this a "COOL" idea,
guaranteed to keep all onboard much cooler whether taxing on the
ramp, or flying at lower altitudes.
However, not all of us fly a Cirrus... or can afford the $19,950
pricetag for the A/C.
"I'm pretty tight, and I didn't want to pay that," says Greg
Turton, president of ArcticAir (and who, incidentally, also flies a
Cirrus.) He has come up with a novel approach to keeping airplane
cockpits cool... or, at least, cooler. And the pricetag is a
relative pittance -- less than $600 for the top-of-the-line
Turton's innovation consists of a Rubbermaid cooler, modified
with a two-speed brushless fan (so as not to interfere with the
aircraft's electronics), pump, condenser coil, and power cord
mounted to the cooler's lid. Tubing leads from that assembly, down
into the cooler tub. To use the system, fill up the cooler with ice
and just a little water, replace the lid, plug the unit into the
aircraft's 12-volt power supply (or a battery pack) and turn the
two-speed fan to the higher of two settings.
The fan draws the heated outside air into the cooler, which
melts the ice. That cool water is then pumped through the condenser
coil, and the cooled air -- 190 cubic feet per minute -- is blown
out by the fan.
And voila, air conditioning -- with no STC required. The system
only draws approximately 4.5 amps from the aircraft's power supply,
with no engine power penalty. The cooling power is limited only by
the amount of ice in the cooler -- with the smallest 24-quart
system offering about an hour of cooling on the higher fan setting,
or up to four hours on low cool.
"This is NOT a 'swamp cooler," said Turton (above), referring to
systems popular in homes in the southern US that also use
water-cooled air to facilitate "evaporative" cooling. Unlike a
swamp cooler, however, Arctic Air's system removes humidity from
the air, instead of adding to it -- just like a home or automotive
The fan can also be used without ice, to move air throughout the
cabin or a similar enclosure.
Turton got the idea several years ago, when he went in for
shoulder surgery and noticed the system the hospital used to keep
ice-cold water circulating through a therapy pack over the
shoulder. After cobbling together prototype test systems, he
enlisted the help of an engineer in southern California to refine
Arctic Air offers five different units, in two model
configurations -- a package system as described earlier, or as a
"split" model that features a dedicated cooler to hold ice, and a
smaller cooler containing the fan and pump assembly. Water is drawn
from the larger cooler through flexible hose connected by
quick-release couplers -- allowing the ice reservoir to be placed
in a rear baggage compartment, with the fan mounted closer to where
cool air is desired.
The systems, which range in weight from 39 to 63 pounds when
full, retail for between $475 and $585 -- and their uses are not
limited to aircraft applications.
Campers could also use an ArcticAir system in their tent or RV,
for example... or, Turton points out, generator-powered ArcticAir
coolers could also be used in areas hit by natural disasters.
That's, quite simply, very cool.