A Midsummer Night's Dream: 7 high-tech cooling systems

Summer’s here, but we're not complaining. That’s because we’ve found seven ways anyone can buy to help defeat the heat. Come along with us while we show you how it's done, introducing you to some big ideas as well as small solutions — all designed to help you deal with fact that our primate bodies are comfortable only within an inconveniently narrow range of temperatures. Some of the coolnesses we have here are cheap, some are expensive, some are green, and some are portable, but they all have the same mission: keeping you blissfully chilled while the sun burns down its wrath.

SolCool Milennia
SolCool’s DC-powered air-conditioning units are perfect for hooking up to a solar array or wind turbine. This efficient (with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio — SEER — of about 18) but expensive (about twice the cost of typical cooling systems) 1.5-ton unit can run on solar power with battery backup during the day, tapping the conventional grid at night. Or, if you want to load it up with a lot more of the expensive batteries, it could keep you cool 24/7 using just solar or wind power. Available in either a self-contained unit you mount in a wall, or a two-piece unit where the fan unit is outside and the duct is inside, either of the 1.5-ton coolers are $4,995, plus solar panels and batteries.


Kuchofuku Air-Conditioned Bed
Never mind cooling your whole house, or even the room where you sleep — just chill down the bed with this $399 Kuchfuku ventilated air mattress. It’s not really air conditioned, but pulls air through vents near your head and circulates it underneath you, blowing the air out through a vent below your feet. At least it’ll keep your bed at room temperature, so the whole surface will feel like that refreshing cool side of the pillow.


Geothermal Heat Pump
Ground temperature stays at a constant 45 to 75 degrees F, depending on where you live. You can tap into that chilly earth with a geothermal heat pump. The tech has been around for years, but it's getting newfound attention as energy costs rise. Run some pipes into the ground in your choice of configurations (we kinda like the Slinky shape), and you can cool off your house on the hottest days or warm it up when it’s freezing outside. Sure, you’ll spend more installing this thing, but it’ll pay for itself in energy saving in a few years.


Air Conditioned USB shirt
The $169 Air Conditioned USB shirt blows air all through your top, potentially bestowing your body odors onto all within olfactory range. The manufacturer also offers a pair of cargo pants that'll assure your coworkers that you’ve indeed gone stark-raving mad. But when it's 110°F out, who cares if you look like a tool?


This looks like a crazy idea, but if you get desperate to be cool, you can spray on a few puffs of this portable air conditioning in a can, cooling off your clothes pronto. Of course, you might just deep-freeze your skin with its –40°F ethanol, but maybe that’s better than dripping sweat. Just don’t light a match. Risk life and frostbitten limb for $5.37 per can.


Rotartica Absorption Cooling
First, this device exposes water to direct sunlight, warming it up with a series of tubes. Then it puts that heated water into a rotary absorption system that uses lithium bromide to separate the heat from the cold, and you get chilled water, which is used to cool air. The best part: it uses just a tenth of the energy to cool a building compared to conventional methods. Normally effective only for industrial applications, Rotartica says its solar unit is ideal for individual houses. Sadly there’s no word on when this tech will be ready for the marketplace.


Carrier Infinity System
You can save energy with an automated thermostat, and here’s the granddaddy of them all, the Carrier Infinity system. The only drawback is that you can use it only with Carrier’s Infinity Heating and Cooling system, named that because its fan has a near-infinite range of speeds. After using it for a few years, we can say the system works like a dream, letting you precisely control temperature and humidity at an extraordinary efficiency of 21 SEER. We’re especially fond of the system’s Remote Access, letting you change the system’s settings for all zones over the Internet — especially fun while traveling to play temperature tricks on those still at home. Not that we’d do that, but we could.