Addressing Rising Electricity Costs thru Close Comfort [transcript][audio]

Guest: James Trevelyan

Presenter: Tabetha Moreto

Guest Bio: James Trevelyan, an engineer by trade and he is the founder and inventor of Close Comfort. He spends a lot of time traveling to India and Pakistan. James Trevelyan is Emeritus Professor in the School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering at The University of Western Australia: he retired from UWA in 2016 after serving there since 1975.  His main area of research is on engineering practice and he has recently published a major book: “The Making of an Expert Engineer”. He teaches mechanical design, sustainability, engineering practice and project management. He is well known internationally for pioneering research that resulted in sheep shearing robots (1975-1993). He and his students produced the first industrial robot that could be remotely operated via the internet in 1994.

Segment Overview: In today’s segment, Trevelyan discusses about how more than half of Australians are worried about the rising cost of electricity and how Close Comfort air conditioners he invented has help fixed that problem. He also talks about the surprising health benefits the air conditioners can offer.

TRANSCRIPT – Close Comfort

Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone. Welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is James Trevelyan an Australian Engineer and the Founder and Inventor of Close Comfort. Today’s topic is going to be a different kind. With summer nearing and the pressure on electricity grids set to rise, 55% of households are expecting their bill to be more than 20% higher compared to last year. But with a little help from Close Comfort air conditioners that problem can be solved. We’re going to talk about his company’s products especially their air conditioners. Without further ado welcome to the show James. I’m so happy you can join us today.

James Trevelyan: Thank you very much. It’s wonderful to be with you.

T: Yes, my pleasure. So James, please tell the audience more about yourself and your company.

J: Well I found myself in Pakistan many years ago and I love Pakistan mangos, but to enjoy them you have to be there when it’s really, really hot and I found in the bedroom at typically at night time, the temperature’s about 40 degrees centigrade. So you need an air conditioner to sleep and they started load-shedding. And I realized as I was laying in bed, sweating, mosquitoes coming for me that there had to be a better way to keep cool and it had to run on a battery. So the power consumption had to be no more than about 300 watts. And here a few years later down the line, I have the answer and a new product which I think many, many people will find very useful.

T: That sounds excellent. I’m glad you took that trip to Pakistan, because of that trip to Pakistan you were able to come up with Close Comfort. So that was probably divine inspiration for you or something.

J: Well certainly I’ve been back many times since. And now whenever I go back we use our air conditioners.

T: Yes, that’s wonderful. Speaking of your air conditioners, tell us more about your company’s products.

J: Well it’s a very low powered air conditioner, as I said it runs on 300 watts which is around a quarter of the power of the smallest conventional air conditioners you’ll find on the market. And many of them are much more powerful still. So it represents a huge saving and energy. We achieved that by instead of air conditioning the whole room and using most of the energy to cool the walls and furniture, we created a microclimate around the person using it. Two or three people together can be, in that way that you feel comfortable but with using so much less energy.

T: I see. That sounds very interesting I should buy myself one. I’m going to purchase one as soon as possible.

J: Thank you.

T: And speaking of that, aside from the air-conditioner being battery-operated, what makes your air conditioner better than others out there?

J: There are so many things. We’ve only just really, we’ve just discovered as we started using them. One of the things is that normal air conditioners recirculate the room air and with a split air conditioner for example there’s no air exchange with the outside. So as time goes on and if you have the room filled, you get a buildup of carbon dioxide and people naturally sort of feel sleepy and tired, it’s not very good for your health. Our air conditioner works with the windows and doors open. So you get fresh air all the time. Another thing is that we find many people who use it, don’t wake up with that dry itchy eye feeling. When you sleep in an air-conditioned environment, you wake up, some people wake up with a very irritated dry eyes and that doesn’t happen because we’re circulating fresh air through all the time. I’m sure there’s going to be many other benefits we’ll discover as time goes on, not the least of which of course is people no longer have to worry about paying electricity bills.

T: Yes, that’s true because as we know air conditioners are very strong when it comes to electricity. Not only that you are correct when it comes to the health problems associated with that. And there’s one I like to mention to you James. Like in my case since I work in an air-conditioned office and we can’t open the window, I noticed sometimes that my skin gets dry and I have to put lotion all the time and thank you for explaining those health concerns to us. And there’s also another thing I want to ask you James, aside from dry skin or eye problems, what are the other health problems associated with air conditioners?

J: Well I don’t know whether you call this a health problem but one that’s been drawn to our attention is of course people have different preferences and this is particularly acute with multiple sclerosis sufferers who actually require additional cooling. Apparently compared with everybody else. So if a friend of mine, his wife unfortunately has multiple sclerosis, he has to have the air conditioner on at its lowest possible setting and right through the summer he’s sitting there with a beanie and a jacket on. While she is just cold enough. So with our technology, we can provide that extra cooling to people who need it. So the rest of the people can enjoy a more natural temperature and don’t suffer from the kind of dryness problems that you’re describing. You see when the air doesn’t get recirculated, a normal air conditioner is extracting water vapor from the air all the time and that’s why it does get dry. And certainly in some countries, you’re quite right people actually have to install humidifiers to compensate.

T: Yes, that’s true. I agree with you on that. So despite rising electricity costs, why do people still need air conditioners?

J: Good question. One of the things is that with air conditioning, people don’t become acclimatized to the higher temperatures that we naturally get in summer. So for example, in a country like Australia without air conditioning, people will feel comfortable with the temperature of about 26-27 degrees in summer, because their bodies naturally acclimatized to the higher temperatures and of course equally to lower temperatures during winter. But for people who live in an air-conditioned environment all the time, that acclimatization mechanism no longer works. So they actually require more air conditioning just because they don’t get acclimatized to the heat. Now with our air conditioner, it keeps you comfortable but of course when you get up and move around, you move into parts of the environment which are not necessarily cooled. So you’re being constantly exposed to the hotter conditions and therefore, we find people don’t lose that natural acclimatization, which I think is extremely valuable. And of course once you get dependent on an air conditioner, it’s very hard to operate without its help and so therefore, your energy demands keep on going up and that’s what we’re seeing around the world.

T: Very interesting. I agree with you because I can relate to that. Like I mentioned to you earlier, I work in an air-conditioned office, so sometimes when I feel like where the air conditioning is not working I feel very hot and I can’t function properly. So it feels like that my body has become somewhat dependent on an air conditioner or for example when my shift is done and it’s so hot outside the first thing I’m looking for is an air conditioner.

J: Yes, you’re quite right. So we’re losing this natural adaptation that our bodies can actually do, which makes us all the more dependent on man-made devices of energy. And it is very expensive energy in the case of air conditioning especially when it’s used in buildings they are not designed for it.

T: Yes that’s right. And I want to ask you something, what are the misconceptions about your products that you want to clear up on the show today?

J: That’s a good one. The first thing is the people say, “How could you have a portable air conditioner without a pipe?” Conventional portable air conditioner has those big pipe, at least one big pipe that goes to the window which greatly restricts its use. You have to use a near a window or a doorway. And the answer to that of course is, that we are so much more energy efficient than these older style appliances. So we simply put the excess, the heat that is extracted from the microclimate, we just simply put that up on the ceiling where it’s out of harm’s way that’s not going to affect you. And we find this is one of the biggest, the first question that many people ask us, why is there no pipe and surely if there’s no pipe it’s going to heat the room. And so as I’ve explained, we put the the small amount of excess heat that appears, we put it up where you can’t feel it.

T: That sounds great. I’m happy that you came up with this product especially like you mentioned earlier with traditional air conditioners you have to keep the doors and the windows closed. But luckily with your products, we can now keep them open in order to have natural air as well.

J: Definitely.

T: Yes. This is a very unusual topic for Health Professional Radio because this is more about air conditioners, but I like what you mentioned earlier. You mentioned all about the health benefits and you also associated some health problems related to traditional air conditioner. So I want to ask you now James, why is this particular topic relevant to health professionals?

J: So I think the important thing here is to realize, there are so many indirect health impacts of conventional air conditioning. Quite apart from the dependency, let’s take multiple sclerosis sufferers for example. So as I understand it, multiple sclerosis sufferers need extra cooling and there are government schemes to provide them with some financial assistance to install air conditioners. But then they become dependent on the air conditioners and they can only effectively operate in one room. Part of the beauty of our device is that it’s lightweight and portable, you can take it anywhere that you can even use it outside. So we think that there’s tremendous advantages from having air conditioning that you can use anywhere or be it in sheltered spaces but then if the wind is blowing it’s much more comfortable anyway. So I think in other areas where people need extra cooling for therapeutic reasons. I’m sure that many of your audience would know that under some conditions, you need extra cooling and we can provide that in a microclimate which doesn’t affect other people in the environment.

T: That’s very excellent James. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Now before we go, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there?

J: Well I’d definitely like people to go out and try one. We have an online shop at www.closecomfort.com.au. You can find us on Google and why don’t you go and try one out this summer?

T: Absolutely, I’m going to get one myself. Thank you so much James.

J: Thank you very much. Pleasure to talk to you.

T: And that was James Trevelyan, Founder and Inventor of Close Comfort. We’ve just been talking about the air conditioner his company offers and the amazing health benefits they can provide. If you like this interview transcript and archives are available at www.hpr.fm. We’re on all social media platforms, so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.

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