Out of all the modern comforts afforded to me by technology, my favorite has to be air conditioning. Take away my phone, my computer, the internet…hell, take away lights and plumbing…just don’t make me sleep in a hot room.

My love of air conditioning probably started when I was a baby. I was born in Houston, Texas and lived there for the first 4-5 years of my life. Houston gets unbearably hot and humid. In Death Valley, they say you can fry an egg on the pavement. Well in Houston, you can steam broccoli by putting it in the mailbox. This might also explain my hatred for steamed broccoli.

During the next ~20 years of my life, my appreciation for air conditioning only grew stronger. I found myself living with people who either didn’t have it or didn’t use it, due to the high electricity cost. When I was 16, I used to jump in the pool and then go to bed with wet clothes on because otherwise it was too hot to fall asleep. When I was 17, I stayed in an old house in Northern California where the inside temperature exceeded 90°F on some days. At 19, I was putting in 12-hour days of physical labor in the triple-digit heat of Arizona. Throughout most of my early 20’s, I battled forest fires by day and smelted titanium ore by night. By 30, I was living in a copper houseboat on a lake of molten quartz.

Point is, I have a deep-seated desire to control the temperature of my environment…and to set that temperature to about 68°F. Seeing as how my future may include things like sleeping in my car and building a tiny home, the problem of needing reliable, energy-efficient air conditioning has recently grabbed my attention. I’ve spent the past week researching everything from thermodynamics to electricity and magnetism to solar and wind energy to passive cooling architecture to the current state of the art of HVAC systems.

And after trying to compress several centuries of science into a one-week self-paced crash course, I have concluded that the best solution for my particular needs would be a free-piston Stirling cooler, mechanically-driven by a wind turbine (i.e., a propeller) and/or coupled with a Stirling engine that uses concentrated solar thermal energy. As far as I can tell, such a device could operate without electricity and could run for many years without maintenance.

The bad news is, of course, I spent a whole day learning electricity and magnetism for no apparent reason.