What a waste: Time for new thinking on air conditioning condensate water

As we mark World Water Week, Paul Singh, principal of Chillair Training Academy, highlights a serious case for water conservation hiding in plain sight.

Water is a natural resource that is vital to us and to sustaining life on planet earth. Water, in most parts of the world is taken for granted. However, we have only to look at deprived areas of the world where water is very scarce; to see how important it is to life, health and sanitation.

Here, in the UK, we are very fortunate to have an excellent supply of water- always there –it is available literally ‘on tap.’

My personal experiences, particularly in India, have made me  more aware of  the importance of water. I have experienced what happens when the water supply is interrupted – particularly annoying midway through a shower!

On a recent holiday to Portugal, I came across a very thought-provoking scenario. Outside a shop, I noticed an air conditioning installation, where the condensate drain line was being fed into a two-litre plastic bottle – they were literally bottling AC condensate water!

A moment of inspiration led me to compile a LinkedIn post about this, which has had nearly 7000 views.

It got me to wondering: If there are millions of AC units  installed around the world, how much condensate water is generated and what happens to it all? Most of the waste condensate water is left to drain away. But those in the know are beginning to find ways to re-use or recycle it.

To my thinking, we must be doing more and not wasting this precious commodity.

I conducted an experiment with one of our air conditioning systems to see for myself how much condensate water is generated and goes to waste. Remember, this condensate water is free water.

We had a small single-split AC unit installed in a small office (one person and one computer). The AC unit was set to run on cooling with a temperature of 21 deg C and at the highest fan speed. The results were staggering. In six hours of running, 3.3 litres of condensate water was produced. That’s half a litre of waste condensate water each hour. Our students were amazed.

That was on low-load conditions. There would be a lot more condensate water produced in  hotter climates or with higher occupancy. So, if every unit around the world is producing half a litre of condensate water every hour, that is a tremendous amount of free water that we could benefit from.

If this water could be collected, filtered and re-used that would impact and save our existing water supply.

It is definitely reassuring to hear that there is already some new thinking  and refreshing ideas being implemented about re-usage.

Condensate water is considered to be grey water and non-potable. Surely, there must be technology out there that can collect and convert this grey water to potable drinking  water? As we consider World Water Week, think of the positive impact that would have around the world.