Coolerado won the Western Cooling Challenge sponsored by UC Davis with a unit shipping later this year that could, if deployed properly, cut the power consumed by air conditioners on top of big box retailers by way over 50 percent.

The company's H-80, which has been shown off at a number of trade shows, is designed for the arid, hot environments in the western U.S. Most air conditioners are actually designed for the muggy climes of the East Coast. The system uses a form of indirect evaporative cooling that relies on the Maisotsenko Cycle (no relation to Sammy "The Squirrel" Maisotsenko). In a nutshell, outside air is humidified and then de-humidified through a series of plastic plates. The diagram shows more.

You may scoff, but air conditioning is one big energy hog. It comprises 50 percent of the demand for power during peak periods in California, according to various estimates, and the figure is around 30 percent nationwide. In all, Air conditioners gobble up around 5.2 percent of the total energy in the U.S. and about 10 percent of the electricity. (Building operations account for around 39 percent of U.S. power according to the Department of Energy and 13 percent of that power in residential and commercial buildings goes to air conditioners.)

In fact, you're probably reading this in an office that might be cool enough if you just could open a window.

"We are extremely pleased to announce that Coolerado's product exceeded our expectations. While our target was a 40 percent reduction in energy use and peak electricity demand compared to conventional cooling units, the Coolerado H-80 tests indicate almost 80 percent energy-use savings and over 60 percent peak-demand reduction," said Mark Modera, director of the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center in a prepared statement. 

The H-80 was designed principally for light commercial buildings. One H-80 is able to cool 1,500 to 3,000 square feet of commercial floor area. The company is taking orders for delivery later in the year.