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Posted on Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Ann Arbor entrepreneur shows off ice-powered air conditioning at Plymouth Ice Festival

By Lisa Carolin

VIsitors to the Plymouth Ice Festival this weekend are unlikely to be thinking about air conditioning, unless they visit Reyn Hendrickson's display. The Ann Arbor entrepreneur, who owns StarPak Group in Ann Arbor, is working on a system that would use huge blocks of ice to cool buildings.

Hendrickson first attempted using at his home in Ann Arbor last winter, and has since been working on ways to perfect the air-conditioning process. Once the ice is made, Hendrickson passes the runoff from the melting ice through an air system to create the cooling effect. Hendrickson is answering some questions about how the system works for visitors to his display, but is keeping some secrets while he seeks a patent for his system.


Visitors to the Plymouth Ice Festival can view dozens of ice sculptures.

Facebook photo

"This idea is an ancient one," said Hendrickson, who is also very involved with solar thermal installations. "I realized the festival might be a wonderful way to introduce our "ice as work" alongside the festival's "ice as art."

StarPak Group is a collaborative of affiliated firms that implement integrated smart energy systems in everything from single-family residences to large commercial and industrial facilities. In 2008, Hendrickson joined forces with Damian Farrell Design Group, PLLC, an architecture firm committed to eco-friendly design, which is helping with Hendrickson's ice festival display.

"Reyn's idea was to get people's attention about the energy cycle," said Damian Farrell. "It's an ice house. It's how the Amish have lived for many years. You have a big block of ice and cover it with straw, and that's where you keep meat and milk."

Hendrickson, who said he started his business while a student at the University of Michigan Law School, said has contracts pending with a number of large businesses in the area including Domino's Farms and Eastern Michigan University.

"This has the potential of cooling buildings with zero energy costs," said Farrell. "The idea is to store ice in the winter to use for cooling in the upcoming summer. It's something you can do at your own home."

Hendrickson said his objective is to promote the advance of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and that festival visitors can watch him pursue those goals this weekend.

The Plymouth Ice Festival runs until 9 tonight and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. It includes carving competitions, a chainsaw speed carving show and product displays. Admission is free. Ice sculptures can be viewed any time, weather permitting.


Winston Smith

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

As always, I am bemused by those who (willfully?) chose to make things decidedly more complicated then they are. This is simple folks. I know this because: a) I have scraped the ice off my windshield b) Watched my neighbor made an ice skating rink in his backyard using a garden hose c) Went on a tour of an Amish farm when I was a kid and saw how they refrigerated their food d) listened to my grandfather relate how, when he was a kid, the man who sold blocks of ice in the summer from his ice house was making a fortune. Folks, I'm going to say this as simply as possible. You make ice in the winter. You insulated the ice and use it in the summer for cooling. The larger the block of ice the longer it lasts in the summer. Low tech. Easy to build and use. I only wish the insulation some readers use to protect themselves from reality could be used to insulate blocks of ice. If if could, the ice would last a decade.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Folks, this is nothing new. A century ago, ice was harvested from frozen lakes during the winter, and stored in ice houses. (Insulated buildings, not houses made of ice. :-) ) In the summer, the ice was delivered to commercial customers for air conditioning and refrigeration, and to houses to use in their ice boxes (refrigerators that used ice to do the cooling). That's why you'll sometimes hear older folks call refrigerators "ice boxes". Seems more energy-efficient to me to let nature do the cooling during the winter. However, energy efficiency is no replacement for reducing our energy hunger. We need to take many more lessons from those who have gone before us.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

Hendrickson first attempted using at his home in Ann Arbor.... Attempted _______?


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

Next year, steam powered sewing machines. Still on the drawing board, horse-drawn high speed trains.

Jacob Samers

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Have none of the prior commentors saying things about "Making ice" noticed the part of the article that stated ""The idea is to store ice in the winter to use for cooling in the upcoming summer." Think about old style ice houses, or perhaps some sub basements of a building. If you created ice IN THE WINTER from the naturally falling snow perhaps, and stuck it into an ice house, it will stay there and still be ice in mid-summer. It's proven as this was done prior to the development of refrigeration. And yes, it's true that if you did need to make ice, or run a cooling cycle, you can run it when the grid is at a low point, but I don't think this was the intention of the maker. 0 costs means not even using energy to create ice. Because nature already created and froze the ice.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

A significant amount of energy is need to either a) maintain a refrigeration system to keep the ice cool, or b) build a container with a huge amount of thermal insulation. Bottom line is this: there is a reason we no longer use iceboxes - they simply don't work as well as refrigerators.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

If it is done right, it does not save energy, but it does shift the time the energy is used to a time period when more is available for a lower cost. Unfortunately time of use pricing is not available as an option to most Michigan customers. Making ice actually takes about 5 to 12 percent more overall energy than current A/C units. However if you run the A/C at the hottest part of the afternoon you are putting more strain on the electric system and causing the dirtiest generation units to have to run. On the other hand if you make ice at say 3AM, when demand is down, you can do it with much cleaner sources of energy in the midwest. So from an environmental standpoint it makes sense.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Do not forget the added cost of maintaining the ice at 0 C, or below, from the time it is made until the time it is needed. As other have pointed out, this is a losing idea.

Shlobodon Dobodon

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

This is the most unimpressive thing I have ever heard. Do you realize that you need another form of cooling technology to make ice? Ice doesn't just show up out of nowhere in the middle of the summer. You're not using ice for air conditioning. You're using the refridgerator that made the ice. It's like cooling your house by leaving your freezer open. Stupidest thing I've ever heard.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Really cool stuff here, and I recommend you go and see this cool stuff.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

If I'm not mistaken, when AC was added to Pioneer High School years ago, this is the method that was used. As far as energy savings go tho, not too sure in the PHS case since they had to make the ice at night and then used it during the day as needed.