By Riley Kaminer
The environmental cost of air conditioning is staggering. AC is the fastest growing use of electricity globally. Air conditioning is mostly consumed a discrete period of time – the afternoon – that inconveniently coincides with the exact time when renewables start to wane. The fluorocarbons used as refrigerants deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.
Can a Boca Raton-based startup save the day? Blue Frontier CEO Daniel Betts is fighting to keep us cool without taking such a severe environmental toll. Their mission: Reduce gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonizing building cooling.
Betts and team plan to achieve this goal through the development of a proprietary air conditioning system. One of the key differences between Blue Frontier’s AC and its legacy counterparts is that the new system enables users to separately control temperature and humidity. That’s important because humidity is what often makes us uncomfortable. But in current systems, the only way to reduce humidity is to crank up the AC – resulting in chilly environments.
Early testing has already shown Blue Frontier’s system to be a significant improvement. Betts told Refresh Miami that the system Blue Frontier has set up in their own lab, the first of its kind, has reduced energy consumption between 65 to 78% of conventional AC.
“These are really, really high efficiency gains,” asserted Betts. “And that mostly comes from our capacity to deal with the humidity that we get at this time of the year when the temperature drops.”
In the heat of last summer, Blue Frontier raised a $20 million Series A led by Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures, 2150 Urban Tech Sustainability Fund and VoLo Earth Ventures. Modern Niagara, Blue Frontier’s commercialization partner, also participated in this round.
This year, Blue Frontier will put these funds to use in prototyping their AC system – with a view to be able to manufacture at scale in 2024 and release their product in 2025. The team has already partnered with various organizations, including the Department of Energy and Southern California Gas, to help them make their dream of sustainable AC a reality.
Also unique to Blue Frontier is its business model. The company plans to have an HVAC-as-a-service model. Why? To correct for misplaced incentives in the commercial real estate environment. Currently, building owners determine which AC systems to use, while tenants end up footing the bill for actually using those systems. Blue Frontier will give both stakeholders what they want by installing their own units for a similar, or even lower, cost – and then charging a subscription to the tenant as part of the lease.
All but three of Blue Frontier’s 19 employees (and growing!) are based in South Florida. While Betts admitted that while South Florida is not a major cleantech hub, he said that our region is a “huge magnet for hiring” top talent.
This is just the beginning for Blue Frontier, asserted Betts: “This is just the beginning of our technical journey. Every day we are disrupting our own technology.” He already has a Series B in mind, likely beginning for the end of this year or early next – with a view to close the round in the first quarter of 2025.
Looking for a job? Blue Frontier is hiring! Learn more and apply here.
READ MORE IN REFRESH MIAMI:
- Blue Frontier raises $20M Series A for climate-friendly air conditioning tech
- Are smart cities the key to sustainability? At local conference, global leaders weigh in
- South Florida is a hotbed for climate tech innovation. Here are 5 reasons why
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